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Anna Akhmatova, 1889 - 1966 Poet Anna Akhmatova was born in 1889 in Bolshoy Fontan near Odessa, Ukraine and was the daughter of a naval engineer. She attended a girls' gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo, Smolnyi Institute in St. Petersburg, Fundukleevskaia gymnasium (1906), law school (1907), and then moved to St. Petersburg to study literature. When she was 21, she became a member of the Acmeist group of poets, led by Nikolai Gumilev, who she married in 1910 and had one son with, Lev Gumilev. They were divorced in 1918 and that same year she married Vladimir Shileiko. This marriage also failed and she was later married to Nikolai Punin until his death in 1958. Her first husband was executed in 1921 for antirevolutionary activities; afterwards, she entered a period of almost complete poetic silence that lasted until 1940. Akhmatova's first collection of poetry was "Vecher" ("Evening"), which appeared in 1912. Two years later, she gained fame with "Chyotki" ("Rosary" 1914). Her next collections were "Belaya Staya" ("The White Flock" 1917), "Podorozhnik" ("Plantain" 1921) and "Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922). For a brief time during World War II in 1940, several of her poems were published in the literary monthly Zvezda. In 1942, her poem "Courage" appeared on a front page of Pravda. In 1941, following the German invasion, Akhmatova delivered an inspiring radio address to the women of Leningrad. She was evacuated to Tashkent where she read her poems to hospitalized soldiers. In an effort to gain freedom for her son who had been exiled to Siberia, Akhmatova's poems eulogizing Stalin appeared in several issues of the weekly magazine Ogonyok. "Poema Bez Geroya" (Poem Without a Hero, 1963) was begun in Leningrad in 1940 and was revised for over 20 years. It is divided into three parts and has no consistent plot or conventional hero. This poem wasn't published in the Soviet Union until 1976. "Rekviem" (Requiem, 1963) is a poem-cycle that was a literary monument to the victims of Stalin's Terror. The earliest poems were dated 1935 and the remainders were written from 1938-40. Requiem is ten short, numbered poems that deal with her personal experiences following the arrests of her husband, friends and son. The last poem reflects the grief of others who suffered loss during that time of terror. Akhmatova was awarded the Etna-Taormina Price, an international poetry prize awarded in Italy in 1964, and received an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University in 1965. Anna Akhmatova died in 1966.
Writer and translator D. M. Thomas was born in Cornwall, England on January 27, 1935. He graduated with First Class Honours in English from New College, Oxford and became a teacher. In 1979, he became a full-time author and his best-known work is The White Hotel. His works also include memoirs, poetry and translations of Pushkin and Anna Akhmatova.