In The Economist, a review of Elaine Feinstein’s biography of Anna Akhmatova.
“THE extraordinary misery of her life and the extraordinary merits of her poems make Anna Akhmatova one of the great literary figures of modern times. Elaine Feinstein’s comprehensive and accessible biography evokes contradictory pity and gratitude in the reader. The pity makes one wish that Akhmatova’s life had been easier. If only she had had one nice man in her life (her friendship with Isaiah Berlin aside), instead of many horrible ones. If only she had emigrated before the revolution. If only she had enjoyed better health. If only Soviet Russia had not been run by monsters who persecuted genius.
But then gratitude kicks in. It is through Akhmatova’s eyes, queuing at the prison gate in the hope of handing in a food parcel to her imprisoned son, that we read the finest poetic depiction of the horrors of Stalinism.”