: published with the permission of Indiana University Press: Bloomington & Indianapolis
: 1993

"Women's Works in Stalin's Time on Lidiia Chukovskaia and Nadezhda Mandelstam" by Beth Holmgren (excerpt from the book)


I think that every religion arises out of the certainty that the dead have not left us. Is this belief in God? No, rather it is a belief in the miraculousness of human meetings, words, connections. And every history of a people begins with the resurrection of an image of the dead.
Notes on Anna Akhmatova1

Just as Lidia Chukovskaia could not "not write" the novels of "Sofia Petrovna" and "Going Under", so her keeping of "Notes on Anna Akhmatova" originated as an automatic, unreflecting impulse. Indeed, it would seem that her family training had groomed her most specifically for this task. In "To the Memory of Childhood" she recalls her father's explicit endorsement:

"A few decades later, when I was no longer seven, but thirty, I remember telling him that I was seeing Anna Akhmatova regularly (at one point he had introduced me to her briefly). His response was to demand anxiously:

"I hope you understand that you ought to record every word she says?"

I understood . . ."(73)

The exchange marks a critical rite of passage in which the daughter depicts herself acknowledging and taking up her paternal legacy. Her father has raised her to pay proper homage to the artist; here she proves her ability to practice his "religion" on her own terms. With Anna Akhmatova - a woman eighteen yea her senior and one of the great artists who visited her childhood home-Chukovskaia is almost inevitably (but, as it turns out, not finally) cast in her a complished role as dutiful daughter.

Although Chukovskaia consciously did not adhere to any models in writing "Notes", the form of her tribute reflects her father's influence as well.2 Through his literary portraits of the great and his careful record of visits and associations with various artists (in particular, an album of drawings, inscriptions, and autographs entitled "Chukokkala"), Chukovskii manifested an awareness of which his daughter clearly sensed and appropriated. Her "Notes", as one reviewer remarks, "reveal[s] a mind of great sensitivity which is quick to apprehend the essence of place and moment."3 Relating immediate impressions with a sense of their historic meaning, "Notes on Anna Akhmatova" can be characterized not as an extension of Chukovskii's example, but as a new addition to the corpus of recorded cultural memoirs -a twentieth-century Russian counterpart to Johann Eckermann's journals of Goethe or James Boswell's "Life of Samuel Johnson".4

In fact, this larger literary context better highlights the main features of her work. Chukovskaia, like Eckermann and Boswell, exhibits a devotion different in - range, intensity, and significance from that of her father. Her "Notes", conducted for almost three decades (1938-41, 1952-62) and dedicated mainly to a single artist, holds a more urgent, essential status of her creative self-perception and oeuvre. Her father wrote himself as the contemporary of many, a knowledgeable connoisseur of artistic personalities, yet Chukovskaia establishes herself as a memoirist of one great artist who seems to bear a singular resonance for her life and times.5 Her subject proves to be utterly imposing: Chukovskaia simply replaces her ongoing diary with the record of "Notes" and construes these two very different modes of autobiographical writing- with their different positioning of the author's self-as the same project6. In the introduction to the first volume, she explains such drastic self-effacement as an inevitable consequence of her situation:

"Every day, every month my fragmented notes became less and less the reproduction of my own life, turning into episodes from the life of Anna Akhmatova. Within the spectral, fantastic, sad world surrounding me, she alone seemed real and not a dream, although at that time she was also writing about phantoms. She was indubitable, authentic among all those wavering uncertainties. Muffled in a spiritually deadened existence during those years, I seemed to myself ever less truly alive and my non-life (nedozhizji) less deserving of description. ... By 1940 I almost never kept notes about myself and was writing more and more frequently about Anna Andreevna". (I, 12)7

As Chukovskaia indicates, "Notes on Anna Akhmatova" was born of the same emotional crisis and moral imperative to record the truth that generated all her creative work during the Stalinist period. The person of Akhmatova proves to be as potent and necessary to her as her self-reflecting fictions. Written under the same perilous circumstances, "Notes"also performs a heroic feat, "a personal act of witness": that is, a laudatory inscription of the life of an officially slandered persecuted artist.8 In this case, however, the heroism is implicitly shared. By keeping such a journal, Chukovskaia exposed both herself and Akhmatova to considerable risk without the poet's permission. Yet she justifies this risk by inferring her duty, writing to carry out Akhmatova's mandate of naming and remembering the torture chamber (I, 10-11).

Her choice of Akhmatova as subject further links "Notes" with the "scripts" of her novels. Once again, Chukovskaia has elected to focus on a female protagonist in this horrific era, a woman who - in addition to being a great poet she cannot help but admire - has endured the same terrible experience of the prison lines. Chukovskaia's first entry, dated 10 November 1938, founds their relationship on that basis: "Yesterday I visited Anna Andreevna on business" (I, 14, 15). As she explains in the added footnote, she went to Akhmatova for advice because she heard that the poet had persuaded the authorities to release her son, Lev Gumilev, and her second husband, Nikolai Punin, from prison; Chukovskaia hoped to work the same sort of miracle for her husband. Although Akhmatova's information could not prove useful (by this time Chukovskaia's husband had probably been executed), their meeting and Chukovskaia's record of it demonstrates that Akhmatova is as representative in her family tragedy as the characters of Sofia Petrovna and Nina Sergeevna. Akhmatova even refers openly to her threshold experience in this first entry, remarking that another woman in the lines began to cry when she heard the poet's name (I, 16). Chukovskaia has thus discovered in Akhmatova the living symbol, the realized ideal which her novels explore through fictional examples: a woman who suffers the unhinging persecution of the Stalinist regime and manages to expose and resist it through written testimony. Her "Notes", therefore, results from this miraculous coincidence of predisposition, ability, and fate. Chukovskaia was not Akhmatova's closest friend, but - inspired by the poet's greatness and capable of transcribing her aphoristic speech - she was the one associate who could and die undertake such an extensive, monumental record.9

Accomplished in large part by her skill and devotion, Chukovskaia's text is also shaped by the poet's compelling presence and self-creative strategy. Indeed, the poet and her memoirist enter into a remarkable artistic collaboration for just as Chukovskaia is sensitive to the significance of her subject, so her subject seems acutely aware of the impressions she creates. By the time Chukovskaia visited her "on business" in 1938, Akhmatova had already established her self as a major Russian poet and had evolved -through an interesting relationship with her readers and admirers - into a richly symbolic figure. Although she made her poetic debut in distinction from the then dominant Symbolist movement, her personal relationship with her work - both in and beyond: the text - continued and revised the Symbolists' deliberate neo-Romantic conflation of their life and art. In her early verse, Akhmatova differed from the Symbolists chiefly in her precise, contained self-projection; rejecting a cosmic symbolic function for her poetic personae, she nevertheless informed them I certain autobiographical attitudes and details.10 Yet with the ravages of Soviet history - the execution of her first husband, the poet Nikolai Gumilev, for counterterrevolutionary activity in 1921, the multiple arrests and incarcerations of her son Lev Gumilev (1935, 1938, 1949) and third husband Nikolai Punin (1949), her defamation and censorship by the authorities as an "anachronic aristocratic poetess," and her state-induced poverty- Akhmatova's fate and etic expression of that fate achieve a grandly symbolic significance in the perceptions of her friends and readers.11 Along with Osip Mandelstam, Boris Pasternak, and Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova has come to be recent persecuted poet and human martyr, a great artist who lived, divined, and articulated the history of her nation. In choosing Akhmatova for her subject, therefore, Chukovskaia has tapped into a core narrative of her time and place12.

By almost all accounts, Akhmatova never lost sight of her significance and managed, subconsciously or voluntarily, a most remarkable synthesis of work and life. This synthesis took various forms, depending on the perceiver. The critic and essayist Lidiia Ginzburg, meeting the poet about ten years before the first entry of "Notes", characterized her movement and intonations as ritualistic and theatrical and concluded, in a surprising equation, that Anna Andreevna resembled her "poetic method" rather than her created heroines.13 More frequently, however, observers were struck by similarities in physical image and character type. Impressed by her queenly manners and majesty (Kornei Chukovskii, in fact, identified the latter as her most dominant feature), her visitors resorted to picturesque equivalents in their descriptions.14 As one critic notes, they regularly compared her to religious figures - a mother superior, a novice, an anchorite (Rosslyn, 19-20).15 From the very moment of her debut, Akhmatova's audience generally seemed obsessed with her image.16 Her face, with its striking hook-nosed profile and deep-set eyes, and her tall slender figure as a young woman, often posed in pensive or mournful attitudes, generated a stunning array of Akhmatova artifacts and memorabilia, including portraits, photographs, sculptures, and other artwork. Even wit17h her enforced public effacement after 1921, her portrait continued to be painted, and devotees of her poetry privately assumed the task of collecting and preserving the bits and pieces of her outlawed image.18

The peculiar nature of the poet's reception invests Chukovskaia's "Notes" with a vitally important function. Akhmatova was one of the first Russian women to be acknowledged a great poet; she assumed the role of creator in a modernist age when many male poets, stylizing their own artistic personae, tended to encode and objectify women as icons of spiritual and/or demonic "otherness."19 The power of these icons depended on their mystery and detachment - indeed, their silence. Akhmatova herself indicates this in a wry comment on Liubov' Blok, the wife of the Symbolist poet Aleksandr Blok and the flesh-and-blood model for the figure of "The Beautiful Lady" in his early work. Disgusted by Liubov's self-revealing memoirs, she snaps to an acquaintance: "There was only one thing she needed to do to remain the Beautiful Lady- be quiet!" (Il'ina, 112).20 It is predictable, then, that Akhmatova - a striking female presence and a poet often equated with her female personae- was objectified early on; what is remarkable is how she managed to exploit this objectifieation artistically without strictly keeping silent.21 As so many have testified, Akhmatova cultivated a consonance with her art, speaking as she wrote her poetry, punctuating her thoughts with meaningful silences.22 But to exercise the power of her person, Akhmatova had to locate obliging mirrors and so control her pictorial and biographical reflections. It seems that she actively participated in her own image-making. Akhmatova "allowed" certain artists to paint her; for instance, when A. Lubimova, a young artist, begged to sketch her in 1944, Akhmatova informed her that she was the twenty-second painter to do her portrait and, during their sessions, occasionally advised the novice on pose and placement23 In much the same way, Akhmatova obliquely directed a written portrait. She, unlike the diminished Liubov' Blok, never managed to complete her autobiography.24 Instead, she came to rely on others to help articulate her version of her life and generation. This dependency was especially apparent in her later years when, among an ever-growing coterie of admirers, she dispensed exceptional favor to Amanda Haight, a young British doctoral student who could fulfill the poet's wish for a published, authorized biography.25 Nevertheless, as one observer concludes, Akhmatova's desire for a truthful, accessible record of herself and her contemporaries worried her most of her life: "She was not afraid that she would be forgotten, but that she would be slandered. She was afraid not only for herself, but for her friends and, above all, for the Ac-meist poets Gumilev and Mandelstara, whose definitive literary fate she did not distinguish from her own. . . . Thus, throughout her life, from her early years on, she kept returning to detailed memories of events, relationships, and people - to all that which made up the character of the epoch as she saw it. ... Conscious of her own place in the epoch, she wanted others to talk about it and not she herself". (Italics mine)26

Akhmatova succeeded in persuading (most often indirectly) quite a few men and women to tell her story, to write down both their impressions of her and her impressions of others.27 Although it is not clear if Akhmatova knew of Chukovskaia's project, the resulting text to a great extent reflects the female poet's oblique self-creative strategy.28 Like Akhmatova's other scribes and portrait painters, Chukovskaia was responding to her extraordinary (and not infrequently staged) presence; recording this presence, she thus authorizes the poet's image and significance. Her "Notes", moreover, offers perhaps the most comprehensive and affective authorization of the poet because of the extensive, important period it carefully documents (for the most part, the period of Akhmatova's greatest crises and most painful oblivion) and the complex relationship it portays between the female poet and her skillful female helper.


In fact, Chukovskaia's journal commences in 1938 at a point of terrible danger, high tension, and, as it turns out, great artistic potential in the poet's biography. Akhmatova, who (according to one astute witness) lived in "a pathos of renunciation," was ennobled by the stark deprivations of the Stalinist era.29 The authorities, intending to diminish her in the public eye as an outmoded artist: aristocratic lady-poet, achieved the opposite effect: They cast her literally as bereaved wife and mother.30 Suffering the loss of both Sofia Petrovna and Nina Sergeevna, Akhmatova immediately identifies with and creates from her symbolically tragic position. As I noted above, the poems of her powerful cycle "Requiem"dismiss the capricious erotic personae of her earlier work and probe instead the psychological experience and various cultural resonances of grieving wife and mother. Chukovskaia, then, confirms this identification at a further and more authoritative remove. In the introduction to the first volume of "Notes", she unveils this figure as Akhmatova's essential image:

"The fate of Akhmatova- something bigger than even her own personality - took shape then before my eyes, fashioned from this famous and abandoned, strong and helpless woman - a statue of sorrow, orphanhood, pride, courage. I knew Akhmatova's early poems by heart since childhood, and her new verse, together with the movement of hands burning paper over an ashtray, together with a hooknosed profile clearly etched in dark-blue shadow on the white wall of the transit prison, entered into my life with the same immutable ease as entered, long ago, the bridge, St. Isaac's, the Summer Garden, and the embankment". (I, 12)

Chukovskaia christens the entire project of "Notes" with this composite portrait of physical image and artistic text placed carefully against the signifying background of the prison. Her record aims to establish the poet as redemptive touchstone; throughout "Notes", she re-contextualizes (and so revalues) the symbolic figure of Akhmatova, documenting her beauty as it is besieged by and then triumphs over her persecutors. Their first visit initiates this pattern. Prefacing her account with earlier enchanted recollections of the poet (Akhmatova at a poetry reading, Akhmatova strolling down a lovely pathway to the sea), Chukovskaia relates an unexpectedly grim approach as she rediscovers her subject in a shabby room of a communal apartment- beyond a foyer with torn wallpaper and a kitchen hung with wet laundry. She is admitted by a woman with soapy hands; laundress and laundry forecast the poet's lowly estate.
Akhmatova's private room shows little improvement:

"The general look of the room is one of neglect, mess. By the stove is 1 chair without a leg, stripped, with springs sticking up out of it. The floor is not swept. The lovely things - a carved table, a mirror in a smooth bronze frame, folk paintings on the walls - do not beautify, but, on the contrary, emphasize the shabbiness even more. The one thing that is really lovely is the window onto the garden and a tree looking straight through the window. Black branches. And she herself of course". (I, 16)

The interior is striking in its unintentional allegory: Random "lovely things"- including the poet herself - are strewn carelessly about a dirty, desolate space. Given their function and beauty, the artifacts within might all be totems of Akhmatova's life and work; the room can be read as her present situation under the regime. The lone tree in the window portends a more hopeful connection, the presence of nature still visible in her decimated private world.

Akhmatova's words, recorded verbatim by Chukovskaia, intensify this tragic first impression. The poet acknowledges her state of abandonment and resignation, wondering if she should bother to hang pictures on the walls, explaining her recent separation from Punin (she is still living in a room of their once shared apartment), claiming her serious, possibly terminal illness as the "one good thing" in her life. She explicitly compares her situation with the more dramatic fates of other Stalinist victims; she dares to announce (and Chukovskaia dares to record) that the poet Kniazev is dead and the critic Sviatopolk-Mirskii has gone begging. (Both men were arrested in 1937 and perished in labor camps.) By image and word Akhmatova is framed here as a tragic figure - a beautiful woman, a creative genius - who is outcast, persecuted, and despairing within the context of Stalinism. Chukovskaia's first entry maps the extent of her persecution, the violation of her body and private domain.31

Chukovskaia primarily contextualizes Akhmatova within their domestic spheres and modes of interaction. The poet is portrayed in her own poor room, Chukovskaia's apartment, or, once Chukovskaia has moved to Moscow, at the homes of other obliging friends. At home her presence is almost always juxtaposed with her shabby surroundings, which are sometimes worsened by the evident hostility of her neighbors (including Punin and his family), and sometimes ameliorated by friendly visitors (including, in the 1938-41 period, her companion Vladimir Garshin). In the second volume of "Notes", she lives a nomadic existence, coping with the cramped quarters her Moscow hosts can spare her.32 When Chukovskaia does depict Akhmatova in transit between these private residences, she reveals the poet at her weakest. Not only does Akhmatova go unrecognized among her people, but she proves almost incapable of functioning there on her own; as it turns out, she "is afraid of the streets" (I, 29) and depends on an escort to help her cross them.33

Over the course of "Notes", then, Akhmatova emerges as a forceful presence, a real-life heroine, within the milder purgatory of domestic interiors and among the sustaining company of friends. Her actual battles, however, seem to be waged on the even smaller scale of her own person. These derive from a variety of specific causes - from poverty and poor physical and mental health - but, as Chukovskaia tends to diagnose them, they are all symptomatic of the poet's one overwhelming battle with Stalinism. Chukovskaia generally begins her visit-entries with a quick imprint of the poet's image, what amounts to a kind of report from the front. She pays scrupulous attention to Akhmatova's person, dress, and pose. Here she identifies the signs of attack - shabby clothes, recumbent posture (a frequent symptom of illness), poor coloring, an aged look, or, most interesting, an indistinctness of feature. An early entry, for example, contrasts Akhmatova's stately beauty with "an old coat, a faded, flattened hat, and coarse stockings" (I, 18); subsequent entries note her "yellowed, dry face" and her figure lying on the couch beneath a rough blanket (I, 27, 28, 44, 45). Through these regular reports, Chukovskaia documents the poet's daily, homely martyrdom.

At other points, she testifies to Akhmatova's voluntary triumph over her persecution. She cites the poet's claim that she can always "look as [she] wishes -like a beauty or a hag" (I, 39). As if in support, she subsequently witnesses Akhmatova's astonishing metamorphosis from "indistinctness" into an elegant, majestic figure (I, 121-26). She is alert to any efforts on Akhmatova's part to maintain her beauty, welcoming a new dress, a string of pearls, a touch of lipstick or rouge as if these were small victories, a partial restoration of her idol to rightful glory. And Chukovskaia marvels, over and over again, at the constancy of Akhmatova's icon, the relief of her features on the threatening, dehumanizing backgrounds of the prison lines (I, 40) or the dirty wall of a hospital room (II, 121). Thus, after a ten-year hiatus (to Chukovskaia an inexplicable break in their relationship) she still discerns the former Akhmatova in the heavy, graying woman before her:

"It's a strange thing: listening to her speech, I recognized her again. Her former appearance. Not only the intonations or the angry turn of the shoulders, or words. 1 did not even notice at what instant her whole former familiar look came back to me. It was as if ten years had not elapsed and she, it turns out, had not changed at all. The hook nose, the stateliness, the bangs, the silence". (II, 2)

For Chukovskaia, this immutable image becomes fixed, in its fashion, as an historical landmark. Like other chroniclers of the poet, she indulges in pictorial comparisons, discovering Akhmatova's reflection in Russian portraits of legendary Russian women. For instance, as the poet expounds on Stalin's evil (this in the spring of 1956), she is said to resemble Repin's painting of Peter the Great's thwarted half-sister, Tsaritsa Sofia - an angry, indignant, imposing figure (II,136). Donning a black kerchief, Akhmatova is instantly transformed into a humble piligrim or, recreating Surikov's fiery portrait, the Old Believer Boiarina Morozova: "It was as if [her] vague bulkiness were no more and immediately form (that is, essence) shone through: race, Russianness" (II, 448). On the infrequent occasions when Chukovskaia persuades her to venture beyond the interior - to stroll along the streets of Leningrad or to make a day trip to the old Moscovite town of Zagorsk - she apprehends the poet's special affinity with her surroundings, her almost physical bond to place and history. Remembering the trip to Zagorsk, Chukovskaia declares that Akhmatova herself "was better than all the architectural wonders" and remarks on her sure, solemn framed within one of the local churches (II, 17). Through these sorts of comparisons and settings, filtered through Chukovskaia's constant awe, Akhmatova` s figure achieves a kind of "monumentality"; in contrast to her official public reputation during those years, the privately kept "Notes" asserts her status as national poet, even national emblem. Chukovskaia's method is perhaps most impasssioned in her wartime entries, when the outside threat to the Soviet union seems to materialize Akhmatova's deep connections with nation and peole. Hearing of Akhmatova's evacuation from a besieged Leningrad to Central Asia, Chukovskaia automatically links poet and native landscape: "Akhmatova in Chistopol! That is just as inconceivable as the Admiralty Spire or the Arch of the General Staff in Chistopol!" (I, 210). When the poet is en route to Tashkent, Chukovskaia observes in her a mirror image of her suffering compatriots:

"At the stations, on the platforms, side by side, women, children, bundles. Eyes, eyes. . . . When Anna Andreevna looks at these children and women, her face begins in some way to resemble their faces. A peasant woman, a refugee. . . Watching them, she falls silent". (I, 216)

In this way, Chukovskaia's description of the poet builds an intricate synthesis of private experience and public significance, frail humanity and enduring cultural value. By contextualizing her image in the everyday, Chukovskaia both validates Akhmatova's position as victim and proves her national status. Her testimony refutes the official representation of the poet's narrow upper-class orientation and any mistaking of Akhmatova's "privilege" as a writer. Akhmatova visibly, tangibly suffers the fate of many Stalinist victims and qualifies, in this sense, as a truly (and not officially) representative figure for her time. Yet Akhmatova, in Chukovskaia's awed account, is never cast as a mere everywoman; her image is informed and empowered by what Cbukovskaia deems to be the transcendent qualities of her work and being. Her icon not only remains intact through persecution, ill health, and old age, but increasingly manifests a national essence, assumes a national importance. The "Notes", then, registers the immense power of her symbolic duality- her position as both victimized woman and great Russian female poet. At the same time it is interesting that this "nationalization" of her image and role conveniently releases Aldimatova from the social and cultural confines of her gender. Rather than question assumptions about women's "second-rate" artistry, Chukovskaia projects Akhmatova as a magnificent anomaly, a female poet who achieves the position of national martyr and national bard and so transcends the demeaning reputation of being a "poet for women" or, worse, a "poetess."34


The transcription of Akhmatova's words, as we have already seen, complements her description. Chukovskaia indicates repeatedly that for her the poet is inseparable from her voice and speech, and she receives the whole person of Akhmatova as living symbol and (almost) divine oracle. Writing down their dialogue, she tends to paraphrase or summarize her own comments, and to yield place of importance to the poet's quoted remarks. The topics of their conversations are most often set by Akhmatova; these range from reminiscences of her past (generally her early years as a poet) to a discussion of current events (mainly after Stalin's death). But most of all, the two women focus in some way on literature. Typically they begin from a present reference - a literary work they happen to be reading or a book they rediscover in their rooms. A volume of Pushkin lying on Chukovskaia's table, for example, elicits Akhmatova's spontaneous commentary on his short story, "The Queen of Spades"; their discussion of Pushkin's prose then leads them to Tolstoi and Akhmatova's irritated outburst on "Anna Karenina" (I, 22-23). Their first meeting after a ten-year absence is filled with the poet's "lectures" on Gogol'. Tolstoi, and Dostoevski! (II, 3-5), and although Akhmatova promises not to repeat this performance, "Notes" continues to feature her comments and speeches on other writers and to underscore both women's preoccupation with the history, conduct, and meaning of literature.

In part, the emphasis on literature in "Notes" is pragmatically motivated. As Chukovskaia explains in her preface, their "literary conversations moved into the foreground" because she dared not transcribe their talk about the torture chamber - their naming of its architects and actions (I, 11). Yet this emphasis, unbalanced by a stated concern for families and friends, seems neither false nor simply compensatory.35 After all, both women were writers by profession and vocation; as an editor and a critic, Chukovskaia was especially involved in a great many aspects of literary production. Moreover, on the evidence of "Note" (and given our knowledge of Chukovskaia's training), literature afforded both women an unfailing source of emotional and spiritual sustenance. From Chukovskaia's perspective, their exchange of literary likes and dislikes served as the most effective way of getting acquainted, of appreciating the personality of another (particularly that of a great artist). In the early years, she refuses to debate with Akhmatova's provocative opinions because she is more interested in listening; she is delighted, in turn, when their literary tastes coincide (I, 25). To a somewhat less exuberant degree, Akhmatova finds the same use for literature, remarking at the end of one visit: "What a good talk we had today - heart-to-heart. And it is all literature and literature" (II, 25). Although Akhmatova is not as absolute as Chukovskaia in her demands on the person and work of the artist36, she does presume a certain ethical {if not explicitly stated) connection between the two and observes this connection in her reading and writing.37 Thus, women's engagement with literature is shown to be deeply rooted in their of morality and concern for the lives and values of others.38

Indeed, within the censored context of Stalinism, discussing and quoting literature becomes for them the one possible way of telling the truth and affirming n fundamental cultural and moral values. Their conversations restore a crucial historical continuum on an intimate scale. Encouraged by her audience of one, Akhmatova is offering up secret treasure- those early decades of twentieth-century Russian culture severely censored under Stalin.39 Juxtaposed with Stalinist cultural establishment- which dictated a uniform evaluation of literature according to political criteria - the record of "Notes" assesses literature trough the private dialogue of two women who subscribe to a modernist aestetics joined with the ethics of the pre-revolutionary (and non-terrorist) Russian intelligentsia. While for them literature is surely bound to external reality committed to preserving the truth, both Akhmatova and Chukovskaia insist on and cherish its aesthetic achievement, its success as art, as an equal value.

Instead of rendering their literary conversations a poor substitute, then, Chukovskaia`s self-censorship actually shapes an appropriate reading of her text. Both volumes, edited and issued after Akhmatova's death, preserve a structure that instates the double value of these conversations - as a revelation in themselves and (especially in the first volume) a cryptic response to an inexpressible reality.40 The body of the text appears as it was kept; even with the relaxed censorship of the post-1953 entries, Chukovskaia saves certain information for appended footnotes and endnotes. Perhaps because of the harsh circumstances under which it was written, her principles of organization in the first volume are more clear-cut. She includes "only the most essential information" in the asterisked footnotes, adds a section on specific unnamed victims of the torture chamber - Akhmatova's son and her husband - and offers more copious background information in detailed inotes. In comparison, the second volume seems less urgent and furtive, outfit ted with more extensive footnotes and endnotes. In comparison, the second volume seems less urgent and furtive, outfitted with more extensive footnotes and omitting any separate biographical section.41 Yet in both volumes the reader is, in a sense, signaled to read the text two or three times. In fact, the structure of the text not only mirrors the layers of existence and expression in which Akhmatova and Chukovskaia were forced to abide, but exposes the double texture of the work itself - the art of the journal and the scholarship of its presentation. Even without its explanatory apparatus, the journal can be savored as a marvelous re-creative literary achievement. The additional "notes" fulfill Chukovskaia's self-imposed obligations as historian and conscientious editor.

Above all, the transcription and presentation of these literary conversations highlight the most important story and central value in Chukovskaia's text: the making, receiving, and maintenance of Akhmatova's poetry. From their very first meeting, Chukovskaia emphasizes the power of these texts. Recounting her. first journey home, she demonstrates just how much she has been moved by Akhmatova's recitation:

"I left her home late. I was walking in the dark, remembering verses. I had to remember them right away, from beginning to end, because already I could not be parted from them for an instant. In those places where my memory slipped, I put in my own words to preserve the rhythm - and in response somewhere in the depths of my memory these unsuitable words lured out her real ones. I remembered everything; word for word. But on the other hand, as I was washing up and undressing for bed, I could not remember one step of my walk home. How did I get through the Zanimatefnaia nauka building? How did I cross Nevskii?

I was walking like a sleepwalker, led by verses instead of the moon, and the world did not exist". (I, 17) Here, in lieu of the forest of "Going Under" or her sublime childhood synthesis of poetry, father, and nature, Chukovskaia finds herself displaced from a grim reality into the world of the text. Yet, as subsequent episodes show, her poetic journey comprises more catharsis than escape. Akhmatova's verses from the nightmare years of the 1930s and 1940s transport Chukovskaia with their art even as they express her pain. Many years later, when Chukovskaia asks the poet to recite these verses, she fears that she will burst out sobbing because once more she stands "face to face with all that [she] has lived through" (II, 77). She confesses the most telling instance of this effect in December 1939, when she finally learns that her husband has been executed. She records in the "Notes" the experience of those first dreadful days - her confusion, numbness, and physical pain; the futile efforts of her friends to console her; her visits with Akhmatova. On 14 December she responds to one of Akhmatova's summons and reveals her news only at the end of her visit; on 15 December Akhmatova herself visits Chukovskaia and there, at the grieving woman's request, recites her poetry and brings about a first powerful sensation of release: "And again out of this infusion of grief I felt such happiness that I did not have strength to bear it. I understand Boris Leonidovich [Pasternak]: if this exists, then one can die" (I, 59).

Chukovskaia's journal narrative thus bears witness to the incredible therapeutic power of Akhmatova's poetry. The structure of "Notes", in turn, puts the poetry itself on display. Both volumes contain, in the first place after the journal, an appendix of "those [poems] without which it would be difficult to understand my notes". Having read through the story of its making, of its life and effect in context, we are enjoined to experience the art itself- to receive the key revelation of Chukovskaia's experience and historical moment. Chukovskaia's inclusion of the poetry might well have been an editorial (and of course personal) decision, a conscientious attempt to provide the reader with all the materials relevant to her text. But it is significant that this structuring of "Note", like that of "Going Unde"r, corresponds to the artistic and ontological strategies of "The Master and Margarita" and "Doctor Zhivago". Here, too, the author elects to relate the story of the artist and his or her text and also reproduces that text in full, thereby ensuring its survival and suggesting its transcendent value.

Yet "Notes" delineates, entry by entry, an important difference in the story of the text's creation. In "The Master and Margarita" and "Doctor Zhivago", the female helpers care for the person of the artist and prove incapable of saving the manuscript; the text survives only through a kind of miraculous intervention. Recording the daily intercourse between creator and helper, "Notes on Anna Akhmatova" focuses chiefly on the present life of these texts and chronicles thehuman maintenance of this life. Furthermore, Chukovskaia's text shows that this maintenance is, from beginning to end, a truly collective effort, a task performed by poet and helper alike.


The different story of the text in "Notes", therefore, stems in part from the worldly limitations of nonfiction (supernatural aid is precluded), but mainly from the different relationship that obtains between the two protagonists. I have already remarked on Chukovskaia's characteristic veneration for Akhmatova as a great poet and symbolic figure. In comparison with her subject, she readily demotes herself to "a nothing, a zero" (II, 468). Yet Chukovskaia admits and ministers to another incarnation of the poet. She regularly discerns in Akhmatova a "strange combination of helplessness and haughtiness" ("strannaia smes' bespomotchnosti i nadmennosti"), a paradox that Vladimir Garshin, the poet's one-time companion, claimed as her distinguishing characteristic (II, 81). Persecuted by the regime, Akhmatova necessarily survives by depending on others; embracing a "pathos of renunciation," she at times seems to choose this dependency. In the early days of their acquaintance, Chukovskaia takes special note of self-neglect. On their first stroll (and for several weeks thereafter), she discovers that Akhmatova is limping because of a broken heel (I, 21, 24). She remarrks on the woman's torn, threadbare clothing (I, 30), and she learns that she needs to bring her food because the poet rarely cares to fend for herself (I, 27). The final impressions of her 29 July 1939 entry are representative: "Then everything followed the usual pattern: I escort her home, there are drunks on the street, at the intersection she grabs me by the sleeve and is afraid to take a step. The entryway and infernal darkness on the stairs.

"I only eat now when Ol'ga Nikolaevna [Vysotskaia] feeds me," said Anna An-dreevna. "She forces me somehow." (I, 34) Chukovskaia soon learns to anticipate her helplessness and to accommodate Akhmatova's invariably urgent calls - buying her food, visiting her sickbed, listening to her frustrated accounts of tangling with the bureaucracy over money, housing, or publication. Even when she is overwhelmed with responsibilities and herself seriously ill, Chukovskaia does not hesitate to serve.42 She rarely exhibits any irritation over Akhmatova's presumption and the consequent inconvenience for her own life and work; the poet's demands and crises are primary.43 When Chukovskaia once admits Akhmatova's rude behavior, she does not complain on her own behalf (except for the unpleasant duty she has assumed in recording it), but faults the poet for sinning against her own image: "The great woman did not conduct herself in a great manner. . . . If you are Akhmatova, then be great every minute, in everything, everywhere" (II, 420). She interprets the break in their friendship {beginning in autumn 1942 and extending to the summer of 1952) in a similar way. When Akhmatova begins to insult her openly and forces her to retreat, Chukovskaia is most pained by her own absence of guilt; it is much harder for her to accept that Akhmatova believes in false rumors about her: "I was vitally concerned that I, not she, turn out to be the guilty one: after all, my complete faith in her absolute nobility was my best feature" (II, xvii).44

Given Chukovskaia's veneration for the poet (as artist and exemplar), their relationship might be classified as that of disciple and "master," yet in its exchange of demands and services, its display of emotional and even physical dependency, it also bears a strong familial resonance. It would be tempting to cast Akhmatova and Chukovskaia as mother and daughter; certainly Chukovskaia has proved herself in the latter role. But their parts are not so clearly drawn. In age and attitude, Chukovskaia might seem to play the poet's surrogate daughter, yet Akhmatova's often childlike helplessness (even before she has reached a childish old age), compels Chukovskaia and others to play mother as well - for example, to agonize over her welfare and to make sure that she is housed and fed.45 Once Chukovskaia has moved to Moscow, she has the opportunity to observe this relationship from the outside: Akhmatova, visiting from Leningrad, is the frequent guest of the actress Nina Antonovna Ol'shanskaia, and she clearly thrives under her hostess's mothering care.46

Throughout their relationship Akhmatova reciprocates these maternal gestures.47 I have already mentioned her "chance" visit to Chukovskaia the day after she learns of her widowhood. Akhmatova shows great solicitude for her admirer-friend (particularly during Chukovskaia's ordeal in the purges), and Chukovskaia, never one to ask outright for help, is moved by the poet's capacity to understand and console: "I still don't know: is she simply good by nature, or is it her noble mind, her highly developed aesthetic taste which forces her to do good deeds?" (I, 33) Akhmatova remembers Chukovskaia's birthday when she herself forgets it (II, xvi); she visits and cares for Chukovskaia when the latter is ill. Indeed, the poet announces her scorn for those who refuse sickbed duties, insisting that "if a person wants to help another, wants to strongly and unselfishly, then he can always manage" (I, 131). Akhmatova, in short, can do for others what she neglects to do for herself: She can nourish, nurse, comfort (I, 46). At certain points in the first volume she even appears in the role of surrogate Mother to the two boys of her neighbor, Tania Smirnova. Compared with this uneducated and sometimes abusive woman, Akhmatova functions as a model parent, a realized Nina Sergeevna who buys sweets for the boys, reads to them, and attempts to intervene when their mother beats them. Impressed by her tenderness, Chukovskaia predictably casts Akhmatova as the epitome of motherhood, transforming her, as she holds the younger boy in her arms, into a statue of the Madonna (I, 150-51).

In contrast to the protagonists in "The Master and Margarita" and "DoctorZhivago", therefore, the poet and her disciple in "Notes" share the roles of helpless victim and facilitating helper; in familial terms they combine the responses of mother and daughter. However unconventional their upbringing and experience may have been, these two women are shown to rely on certain traditional female gestures in their relationship - acts of domestic service, expressions of maternal solicitude. In this sense, although Akhmatova at times reincarnates the helpless passivity of the "Master" and "Zhivago" she manifests a consistent capacity for emotional and domestic support, for pragmatic good deeds. And Chukovskaia, despite her voluntary self-effacement, emerges as a powerful (if not artistically equal) partner, a helper whose mentality and behavior are reciprocated and specifically authorized by the creator herself.48

Their relationship achieves a greater equality, too, because it revises another traditional family bond - that of husband and wife. Akhmatova's and Chukovskaia friendship was platonic; we find no repetition here of the love affairs in Bulgakov's and Pasternak's novels. Akhmatova entered other liaisons after her break with Punin, but for much of this period she lived alone and clearly depended on the ministrations of women to survive. While Chukovskaia most frequently characterizes the poet's dependency as childlike, Akhmatova, as transcribed, indicates that her helplessness may also be a subversive strategy, a voluntary rejection of the duties a good "wife" is supposed to perform. Reviewing her past marriage to Punin, she implies that it foundered because she could not accommodate that traditional role:
"Nikolai Nikolaevich [Punin] has now found a new reason to be offended with me why, when we lived together, did I not write, and now write a great deal? For six years I could not write. The whole situation oppressed me - more than any grief. Now I finally understand why: for Nikolai Nikolaevich the ideal wife was Anna Evgen'ievna: she works, receives 400 rubles a month salary, and is an excellent housekeeper. And he persistently laid me on that Procrustean bed, and I am neither a housekeeper nor a breadwinner. . . ." (I, 80)

For Akhmatova, it seems, the attempt to be Punin's "ideal wife" directly threatens her ability to write poetry. It is no accident that her conclusion echoes the attitude of Nina Sergeevna, Chukovskaia's alter ego in "Going Under"; both women assert the cultural devaluation, even the corruption, in the concept of the grasping wife. Akhmatova's sharp judgments reveal not only her traditional prejudice, but also her precarious hold as a "great" female poet. She can manipulate some traditional gender constructs to her advantage (the objectification of the female image, the behavior of the great lady), but there are other roles she must vehemently resist. She is fierce about the hazard of being or having a wife for artists in general. In the heat of reading about one writer's family life (Dostoevski's), she even professes that she "always hated the wives of great people" (II, 284). Her generalization implies some astounding assumptions: that all great people are men and that their wives are all grasping and destructive.49

Akhmatova detects one specific instance of this danger close at hand - in the domestic situation of her fellow poet and survivor, Boris Pasternak. Despite their mutual admiration, the relationship between these two poets, from Akhmatova's perspective, is fraught with irritation and occasional injury. Pasternak periodically reveals a kind of dismissive ignorance of her work; he suffers little of the material hardship that burdens her existence; at his second wife's bidding - he sometimes avoids receiving her altogether. Chukovskaia, caught between two poetic idols, finds Akhmatova's irritation perhaps the bitterest pill to swallow.50 Akhmatova may well have envied Pasternak's less troubled life, but her anger is fundamentally directed at his domestic arrangements - that is, at the "wives" to whom he had the weakness to submit. Even before he meets his mistress, Ol'ga Ivinskaia, Akhmatova uncovers a pattern of seduction and material entrapment in his marriage to Zinaida Nikolaevna Neigauz. Chukovskaia quotes the poet's long diatribe in her entry for 6 May 1940:

"He is perishing at home. . . . He is no longer writing his own verse because he is translating others' - nothing really destroys your own verse so much as translation. . . . But Boris Leonidovich's main misfortune is something else: his home . . . Zina fools with cards all day, Lenichka (Pasternak's son) is neglected. . . . Everyone saw from the very beginning that she is rude and vulgar, but he did not see, he was blinded by love. Since there was decidedly nothing to adore. He adored the fact that she scrubs her own floors. . . . And can one really work in such a situation? Near such vulgarity? Poverty has never bothered anyone yet. Grief either. Rembrandt painted all of his best things in the last two years of his life after everyone had died: his wife, son, mother. No, grief does not interfere with work. But such a Zina can destroy everything". (I, 92-93)

Akhmatova's attack is defensive in aim. Inverting the practice of so many male modernist poets, she exposes the base (and to her unworthy) source of Pasternak's feminine ideal, deflating his characteristic celebration of a woman at her domestic chores. (From her evidence we see that Pasternak was enthralled by Zina's housekeeping long before he wrote tributes to Lara's laundering and ironing in "Zhivago".) Although she criticizes the poet for his blindness and weakness (he allows the vulgar Zina to make a home for him), she locates the greatest evil in "such a Zina" who, as the epitome of the limited and limiting wife, commits the greatest sin of all: Her presence, her imposition of a materialistic value system on the household, inhibits the making of great art.

Akhmatova's prophecy certainly proved incorrect; Pasternak both suffered and benefited from the presence of his "wives" and, in any event, did not stop writing. But her protest on his behalf discloses an important clue to her own necessary creative environment. The presence of the "wife" naturally holds far more danger for Akhmatova than for Pasternak. As one of the few first-ranked female poets, she needed to distinguish herself from the "lesser" wives of her male artistic peers. Being or being like a wife (a role which in her mind requires, at best, a self-effacing devotion to one's husband and, at worst, an obsession with material welfare) would involve a reduction of her cultural value, a limitation of her artistic resources (her Time and energy and focus), her creative death.51 Therefore, Akhmatova offers the paradigm of the surviving Rembrandt as superior to that of Pasternak's conventional marriage. In lieu of a husband-wife relationship, she herself chooses to improvise a domestic life founded on her own bereavement and abandonment and supported by a circle of friends who are very often themselves bereaved wives and mothers and, at the same time, devoted to the supreme value of art. In effect, as we discover in the example of Chukovskaia, the poet allows other women to perform in tasks for her that a wife might perform, yet they never fully assume (and are never diminished by) that role.

Condemning certain "wives," Akhmatova (with Chukovskaia's help) nevertheless asserts the general worth of women's response and behavior in a different sort of application. The cryptic testimony of "Notes" also shows women to be involved in caring for the absent victims in Stalinist society. It is revealing that Chukovskaia explains this distinction in statistical terms - there are more men than women in prison and so more women in the lines - whereas Akhmatova, the self-professed hater of "great men's wives," implies female superiority: "You know, over the last two years I have started to think badly of men. You have noticed that there are almost no men there"(I, 23-24). As in the case of Pasternak, the poet boldly states deductions about gender roles and capacities which her helper reports but is reluctant to endorse.52 Yet, whatever her interpretation of this phenomenon, Chukovskaia conscientiously records of women's greater effort - particularly when Akhmatova must care for imprisoned son Lev. With the striking exception of Kolia Davidenkov, Lev's friend and peer, the poet's helpers in this endeavor are women - Aleksandra Liubarskaia, Ol'ga Vysotskaia, Vera Anikieva, Chukovskaia herself. They assist n locating and gathering clothes to send to Lev; they accompany her in the lines; they check up on her after her various ordeals. Here, for the first time in her oenvre, Chukovskaia testifies the development of an informal, clandestine, primarily female network of support. Her "Notes" documents its existence and conveys its utter importance. Akhmatova perhaps best expresses its value when, after one joint visit to the prison, she tells Chukovskaia: '"I do not thank you. There are no thanks for this'" (I, 39).

Throughout her "Notes", Chukovskaia regularly reports on the functioning of this network - this banding together of a few individuals in order to withstand or, in some instances, to try to influence the machinations of government bureaucracy. Their causes range from obtaining prison or camp release for relatives and friends to locating jobs and apartments for those who have been politically stigmatized and dispossessed. Both poet and helper equally commit themselves to these actions; their commitment is not explained or analyzed, but represented as a given. In much the same way, but to a far more detailed extent, these women spontaneously form another benevolent, restorative network - as the voluntary caretakers of artistic texts. Focusing on this network, I now return to the central story of "Notes", what comprises - in contrast to the fragmented, revelatory tales of the Master's novel and Zhivago's poems - a kind of biography of an unofficial work of art generated under Stalinist conditions.

Creative relationship

The creative relationship of Akhmatova and Chukovskaia emerges as a natural extension of their daily interaction. In fact, as we shall see, the two women foster the whole creative process - the birth and maintenance of Akhmatova's texts - as a kind of natural life, the creation of another being. The comparison of artistic creation with human birth has long been commonplace in literature, but the record of "Notes" extends and contextualizes this comparison in a unique way. Because the texts "born" in "Notes" are, in many cases, unofficial and unpublishable, they must somehow be "kept alive" privately. Even those poems which are nominally accepted for publication are often subject to officially sanctioned editorial abuse - to rearrangement, censorship, complete erasure. Rather than entrust the existence of the text to the public official-commercial enterprise of Soviet publishing, Akhmatova and Chukovskaia personally undertake its preservation in their homes or, in the rare case of a text that is to be published, they attempt to prepare (to fortify) it as much as possible before they relinquish it to the editorial bureaucracy. In their assumption and interpretation of this responsibility, these women maintain an almost constant involvement with the text in all its stages of development. And this involvement, painstakingly recorded in "Notes", evokes their gender assignments, their social conditioning as female caretakers of the domestic domain. Without insisting on an absolute correspondence, I suggest that their engagement with Akhmatova's poetic texts resembles their respective relationships with human dependents, reflecting much the same immediate and pragmatic caretaking, emotional attachment, and long-term commitment. Even their collaboration reinforces this similarity, because, as I have just shown, Akhmatova's care for Lev often results from a collective effort.53

Indeed, their collaboration is fortunate since Chukovskaia, of the two, proves attentive to detail. She is truly responsible for the "biography" and much of the caretaking of Akhmatova's work. During the 1938-1941 period, when Akhmatova is composing the poems of the "Requiem" cycle, Chukovskaia is frequently present from the near-inception of the text. (In one entry she notes how heir silence together is broken by Akhmatova's whispering: "it seems that this was some line of verse" [I, 159].) Although Chukovskaia is thrilled and moved by each new poem, she observes no such exhilaration in the artist herself. In place of the romantically exalted poet, Chukovskaia most often depicts a woman made exhausted, even ill, by her creative effort. She presumes to connect the poet's human weakness with artistic sacrifice, understanding the cause of Akhmatova's "jaundice, dishevelment and insomnia" when she hears her recite a new work (I, 91). In contrast to the diagnosis of Vladimir Garshin, who treats his lover's symptoms as evidence of "neurasthenia," Chukovskaia transcribes Akhmatova's self-diagnosis - that although she cannot "walk or sleep or eat," she can and must write- and justifies the poet's sacrifice with her own interpretation: "but one can ask: if every night a person performs the most necessary and most difficult task in the world and is afterwards naturally depressed and tormented - why must this condition be described as "unable to fight [her] neurasthenia?"(I, 67)

Discerning a "necessary and difficult task" and a "natural" physical reaction, Chukovskaia transforms Akhmatova's act of creating from neurotic symptom into a normal, positive physical process perhaps most akin (given its necessity, difficulty, and physical stress) to the birth of a child. She implies that she and Akhmatova are driven by the same sort of creative impulse - a sense of compelling emotional, moral, even physical obligation. In this way, both poet and disciple would seem to evince the same creative response to their context; with Akhmatova, however, Chukovskaia feels free to accentuate its nobility.

The art Akhmatova "necessarily" creates out of this period is not only painful to deliver but also terribly dangerous to maintain. If the naming of their context is construed as subversive by the authorities, then each poetic text - amply equipped to inform and affect - enters their world as a full-fledged act of treason, the daring exercise of what Chukovskaia terms "a rival power" ("sopernichaiushchaia vlast'") (II, xi). Akhmatova and Chukovskaia are not foolhardy heroines; the enormous drama of "Notes" obtains in the tension between their admitted fear (mainly for the others who depend on them) and their courage to act. Chukovskaia respectfully conveys Akhmatova's fear, relating what others dismiss as her paranoid delusions. Feeling herself under surveillance during the Terror and long after Stalin's death, the poet periodically detects evidence of police searches among her things - a carefully placed hair taken from her notebook (I, 160) or torn books and missing texts (II, 349). She is wary of unknown callers; at one point she insists (in spite of the assurances of Chukovskaia and Lidiia Ginzburg) that a visiting poet must be an informer (I, 56). Akhmatova's accuracy is less important than the fact of her constant fear, her heightened sensitivity - shared with Chukovskaia - to their dangerous circumstances.

Acutely aware of this environment, then, Akhmatova and Chukovskaia observe special precautions from the very moment of the text's delivery. In some critical cases, they devise for it a different "life" which they support in a repeated ritual. Chukovskaia poignantly documents their labors in the preface to the first volume:

"Anna Andreevna, visiting me, read me verses from "Requiem" in a whisper, but at her own place in Fontannyi Dom she could not even bring herself to whisper; suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, she would fall silent and directing me to the ceiling and walls with her eyes, she took a piece of paper and pencil; then she loudly said something very mundane: "Would you like some tea?" or "You're very tan," then quickly scribbled over the paper and handed it to me. I would read the verses and, having memorized them, would return them silently to her. "Autumn came so early this year," Anna Andreevna would say loudly and, striking a match, she burned the paper over an ashtray.

This was a ritual: hands, match, ashtray - a beautiful and mournful ritual". (I, 11-12)

Performed most often in the years of the Terror, this ritual radically alters the very concept of the text, reconstitutes the very act of creating. In her own case (and in the reflective fiction of "Going Under"), Chukovskaia allows for the possibility of a manuscript, a carefully concealed record. But with Akhmatova's work they must resort to even more secretive methods of safekeeping. The inscription of the text represents only the first stage - as a furtive act of silent communication. The text next undergoes the dematerialization I described in the first chapter and is reincarnated in oral form. The first volume of "Notes" conveys this painstaking subterfuge - marking the fact of Akhmatova's "recitations" and even the "cozy" crackling of the woodstove (I, 68) (with its implication of her burned texts), but naming the actual poems only in the uncensored footnotes and reproducing the texts themselves in the appendix.

Although, as we shall see, not all of Akhmatova's poems are preserved in this way, her most "subversive" texts were long sheltered in individual human memories. As late as May 1962, Akhmatova restricts herself to checking Chukovskaia's recitation while they sit on a secluded park bench; she cannot resolve to write her poems down. In these relatively benign years, Chukovskaia dares to refer openly to their ritual and even analyzes their fear of naming names and writing down all the facts, but she still cannot report the seven other people who have memorized the poems of "Requiem" (II, 411-414).54 By this time their cautiousness has become an indelible habit; their memories, exercised so desperately in that savage period, simply cannot entrust to paper what was so crucial to conceal.55

Thus, for many years these texts have no separate physical existence, no definition as written artifacts. Recited and memorized, they cannot be classified strictly as oral poetry, because their creator and audience are conscious of their written form. Yet, in a sense, their "unwritten" existence grants them the sort of undifferentiated power Chukovskaia ascribed to poetry in early childhood; like the "unseen" poems of Nekrasov, these spoken texts regain the status of natural phenomenon. Moreover, existing in human memory, they are virtually incorporated into the psyche of their "readers." By reembodying the text, Chukovskaia enters into an intimate, immediate relationship with it; it functions as an essenttial resource in her conscious and subconscious thought - very much like a memorized prayer. And naturally enough, as Akhmatova and Chukovskaia become accustomed to performing this ritual, the resulting text seems more and more a collective creation, a work of art truly born of two "parents." Akhmatova marvels at their intuitive collaboration, exclaiming to Chukovskaia that "I have the impression that you know my poems by heart five minutes before I write them. Perhaps not ten minutes before, but certainly five minutes." (I, 77).

This documented ritual of "hands, match, ashtray" (what Chukovskaia, with her unerring sense of the historic, establishes as the frontispiece to "Notes") wields special power because it evokes, in part, an archetypal female role drawn from classical antiquity - one which both Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam figure in their own poetic response to the time. The classical image of women performing a mourning ritual in Greek and Roman societies resurfaces in both poets' verses. I have already identifed the role of the "blessed wife" in Mandelstam's poetry; both Mandelstams, in turn, envisioned Akhmatova as a "mourner" {"plakalshchitsa"), a woman who weeps for the fallen martyr and warrior.56 Yet the "beautiful and mournful ritual described in "Notes" at once evokes and revises this powerful image. As mourner, Akhmatova and Chukovskaia assume a culturally assigned female duty, but by transforming their own bodies into living "archives" of the text, they improvise for themselves a new productive role which is founded on their symbolic capacity as mothers. Together Akhmatova and Chukovskaia project a striking new archetype of women in positive opposition to their harsh context: In their example, women not only mourn the dead, but (in a necessary inversion of the birthing process) volunteer to bear the living for as long as necessary. The scene of "hands, match, ashtray" depicts them at once giving birth, destroying, mourning, and secretly re-conceiving.

This ritual represents the most dramatic and innovative aspect of Akhmatova's and Chukovskaia's creative relationship. For the most part, however, Chukovskaia's "Notes" testifies to a much more mundane, though no less important col-.iboration of writer and helper in which their roles tend to be differentiated according to the family patterns I have described above. In those instances where Akhmatova is actually requested to write or publish her work, she often succumbs to a kind of indifference or helplessness. In part this indifference sterns from a distaste for compromise: She does not believe that her poetry will be published according to her wishes.57 She also claims to be ashamed of her completed work. As she confesses to Chukovskaia, her printed verses seem to her indecent, as if she "had left [her] stockings or brassiere lying on the table"(I, 76). In any case, she appears to treat her work as an extension of herself, her artistic body or offspring; it is interesting, therefore, that she inevitably relinquishes the care of her accepted, publishable poetry to others.58

In her artistic dependency, Akhmatova discovers Chukovskaia to be the ideal helper-caretaker. Raised to revere the text, professionally trained to be an editor, Chukovksaia eagerly, conscientiously takes up the obligations which the poet avoids. In a sense, Chukovskaia is simply extenidn the practice of her "Notes". As ediot of Akhammotva's poetry, she is transcribing a more formal level of the poet's verbal art, moreoveer, she is performing a literary act which the poet seems both unwilling and unable to complete. Early in their relationship when Chukovskaia is laboring over Akhmatova's galleys for a proposed collection of verse, the poet makes an extraordinary confession:
"Anna Andreevna roamed around the room and, looking over my shoulder, marveled again and again at the proof symbols. In vain I swore to her that this was as simple as could be and that I would teach her these symbols in an hour. "I not only cannot remember the symbols you insert so easily", she replied, "but I cannot even write down one of my poems because I do not understand how" (I, 146-147).

Frequently, enlisted to transcribe and prepare her poems, Chukovskaia soon guesses that Akhmatova never does this work herself (I, 139). By offer her professional skills, Chukovskaia has already assumed the position of Akhmatova's intermediate unofficial editor, bun in view of Akhmatova's incapacity, their collaboration becomes even more amorphous and essential.59 As it turns out, the quality which makes Akhmatova's poetry so memorable and portable, enabling it to exist for decades in oral form, also seems to derive from her creative method. Although Akhmatova is influenced by specifically written poetry, she creates this "written" effect I nher own verse orally. For her the line between recited and written verse seems indistinct, she even professes at one point that she "has dreamed all [her] life of writing without stanzas, without a break" (I, 27). Like an ethnographer recording oral songs and tales, Chukovskaia is charged with transferring these spoken verse correctly into another medium, with fixing Akhmaotva's speech in an undistorted, permanent script. For the most part she must manage this delicate operation on her own; in one session with a helpless Akhmatova, she eventually asks the poet to recite her verse so that she can study and transcribe her intonation (I, 98). In place of the normal collaboration between writer and editor, their relationship evolves in to that of artice and translator, or, perhaps more accurately, oracle and recording priestess. 60

Over the course of this collaboration, Akhmatova's dependency, Chukovskaia's ability, and their extenuating circumstances naturally result in a redistribution of creative control. Chukovskaia never presumes to take the credit for Akhmatova's work, but in her role as conscientious caretaker and "recorder" she assumes more and more responsibility for the correctness and even the artistic value of her "text-charges". When, for example, her memory yields up slightly different version of the "Requiem" poems than those Akhmatova remembers, she notes, with uncharacteristic doubt, that she is not sure if she or Akhmatova has forgotten the original texts (II, 414). The "Requim" cycle remains more or less uncontested; these texts do not undergo the trials of transcription and editing.

But the biography of Akhmatova's other major work - "Poema bez gerola" ("Poem without a Hero") - reflects the extreme intricacies of co-production. The creation of the "Poem" develops into an all-consuming project. Akhmatova labors longer over this text than any other, composing its first sections in 1940 and continuing to write and rewrite it almost up to her death in 1966. According it primary place in her oeuvre, she shows great anxiety over its interpretation. The richly allusive "Poem" is designed, in large part, to explore and connect her sensation of and position in different moments of Russian history; its misreading would constitute a disastrous misunderstanding of that history and her place in it. 61 Periodically dismayed by her readers' reactions, Akhmatova strives to guarantee her work safe passage into the future by "clarifying" certain sections and asking others to provide commentaries. 62

Kept from 1952 to 1962, the second volume of "Notes" necessarily documents Akhmatova's preoccupation with the "Poem". As one of the poet's chief helpers, Chukovskaia is constantly on call for its transcription and revision and is rented as an important "listener." In fact, when Akhmatova includes an explanatory "Letter to NN" in the manuscript, Chukovskaia instinctively (and correctly) guesses that she is its addressee (II, 79-80). Throughout the complicated genesis of the "Poem" Chukovskaia ventures (and is encouraged by Akhmatova) to accept her involvement literally. In the process she demonstrates a greater, more powerful conception of her helping role. She takes an active part in the making of the "Poem"; she devotes more of her narrative to her own critical analysis of Akhmatova's text. The entry for 11 June 1955 chronicles a typical contribution. Chukovskaia recovers a stanza of the "Poem" which Akhmatova discarded in Tashkent, and Akhmatova instantly agrees to include it:

"Up until this point I never remembered it, but now I remember and I remember that you liked it. Let's put it in right away. . . "

In an instant she had found a place for it. She entered the lines after the rendezvous in the Maltese Chapel. Judging from the rhymes, [these lines] had been right there. Only the introductory phrase was somehow different". (II, 92-93)

In this instance, Akhmatova accepts the piece her helper has kept so faithfully, but at other points she and a much more insistent Chukovskaia debate over the making and re-making of the "Poem". Reading through Akhmatova's revisions (inserted after the poet has "tested" her work for clarity), Chukovskaia actually vents her objections in the "Notes" and even disobeys Akhmatova's orders to destroy earlier variants (II, 72), When Chukovskaia is convinced that Akhmatova's art is endangered, she doubts the oracle herself and dares to launch her defense on absolute terms:

"Leafing through the "Poem", Anna Andreevna said, "I will take this piece out altogether, otherwise it will be misinterpreted."
I looked over my shoulder: she was pointing at the Cameron Gallery. "What will you take out altogether?"

" 'And now to go home, swiftly/Through the Cameron Gallery.' " I did not believe it.
"You are going to throw out the Cameron Gallery?"


What madness! And she still scolds Boris Leonidovich [Pasternak] for correcting his early verses!

"It would be better to throw out the whole "Poem" I said, losing control. "This is my favorite place. The height of heights. Take out everything else, but leave this."

"Ah, yes?" said Anna Andreevna. "And I thought that you loved the "Poem". I was mistaken."

I saw that she was not reaJly angry and I dared to speak. Of course, I said, the entire "Poem" is a "classic of the twentieth century," as she herself recently characterized the poetry of Boris Leonidovich. But there are especially inviolable lines in it. (II, 76, italics mine)."63

What is at issue here, of course, is a matter of different taste and interpretation, but Chukovskaia's sense of "inviolable lines" and her consequent "loss of control" are significant. As expressed, her objections stem not from a higher opinion of herself as critic, but from her seeming conception of a primordial perfect text. Compared with the poet's other work, the "Poem" becomes a most vulnerable "text-charge" at an earlier stage of its life; Chukovskaia is on hand for many of its multiple births and plays both midwife and nurse. It appears that her own critical commentary is included, therefore, in much the same way as her creative work was elicited. She writes not to display or impose herself, but in direct response to certain imperatives - in this case, Akhmatova's request (II, 312) and her own sense of duty before the "classic" "Poem".64

Whatever her specific responses to the objections and suggestions of her helpers, Akhmatova clearly recognizes the "Poem" as a collective effort. Her "Letter to NN" formally acknowledges the enormous role of her readers - the misreadings and "sincere indignation" that inspire her to extensive revision of her work (II, 91-92). Although Akhmatova discards the "Letter" in subsequent versions, she pursues this collaboration throughout her writing. Indeed, when Chukovskaia claims that the introductory lines of the "Poem" were suggested by her friend Tamara Gabbe, a critic who analyzed Akhmatova for Akhmatova one night in 1940, the poet not only seems to admit this debt, but describes the entire genesis of the work in this light: " 'It is a strange thing,' she said. 'Very strange. I have always written my poetry myself. But with the "Poem" it is different. I have written the whole thing in chorus, with others, as if I had been prompted'". (II, 122).

To a remarkable extent, the making of the "Poem" reflects her evolved creative relationship with helpers like Chukovskaia. Akhmatova begins the work after she has become accustomed to entrusting her poetry and life story to the bodily safekeeping of friends. The "Poem" represents particularly precious cargo, because it combines within itself her art and her own reading of her history. In consequence, Akhmatova seeks to preserve it through the joint strategies she has developed as persecuted writer and female cultural object. On the one hand, she depends on her helpers for the material maintenance of the text, and on the other, she works closely with them - directing their reading, soliciting their comments, accepting their contributions- in order to articulate a clear image of her past and self in her work. Producing and distributing fragments of the long, complex "Poem" for twenty-five years and over vast distances (Leningrad, Moscow, Tashkent), Akhmatova relies physically and artistically on her friends to help her restore and fit these scattered pieces into a coherent, meaningful whole. 65 The story of its creation in "Notes" reveals, then, as never before, the ingenious improvisation of unofficial literary production under Stalinism. EXpelled from the official literary establishment, deprived of a broad audience, Akhmatova uses her small circle of qualified helpers as a crucial (and ultimately effective) substitute for a missing artistic community and professional staff- as personally recruited editors, readers, publishers, and kindred creative spirits.

Chukovskaia's role in the production of "Poem without a Hero" definitely indicates her improved status as helper- her more assured, active contribution as editor and critic. It may also reflect her development as creator. Chukovskaia writes her two novels during the long course of her friendship with the poet; her surety about what constitutes great art was very likely deepened by her own literary venture. At THE same time this experience enriched and expanded her relationship with Akhmatova, for Chukovskaia comes to interact with the poet not only as helper but as AN artist in her own right. And just as Akhmatova relies on her helpers as the editors (and even critics) of her unpublishable work, so Chukovskaia enlists Akhmatova as a critical reader - perhaps the primary reader - of her novels.66 Once more Akhmatova serves as touchstone for Chukovskaia's artistic and spiritual values, but this time in the capacity of creative mentor.

In the case of both novels, Chukovskaia avidly records Akhmatova's encounter with her texts, closely reading her idol's expressions and attitude and hanging on her comments. Their first session is permeated by the general atmosphere of the first volume: Chukovskaia does not burn her manuscript, but she dares not name "Sofia Petrovna" in her "Notes", and she invites Akhmatova to her home (presumed to be the safer of the two apartments) in order to read her just completed novel aloud: 67

"I read for a long time and the whole time I felt ashamed of my poor prose. To read it - to her! Why did I start this? But now there was nowhere to retreat, and I read.

It seems to me that she listened to the first part with boredom. She listened to the second part attentively, not tearing herself away, and, as it seemed to me, with great agitation.

In one spot, it seems to me, she even wiped away tears. But I was not sure about this, I read without looking up. It all lasted an eternity. A long story, as it turns out!

When I finished, she said: "This is very good. Every word is true." (I, 69)

Related through her customary qualification and self-deprecation, the scene still yields a powerful endorsement of her work - in Akhmatova's immediate emotional reaction and (for Chukovskaia) her talismanic pronouncement of the "truth" of the manuscript.68 This entry quietly adds a new level of exchange to their collaboration. Here Chukovskaia documents receiving from the revered person of the poet authoritative confirmation of her novel's achievement - its value as moving, truthful testimony. Without intending to elevate herself, Chukovskaia has let Akhmatova establish her as an important and talented writer.

The second reading takes place and is recorded in the relatively freer climate of 1958. In consequence, it emphasizes a more open working relationship between the writer and her mentor. Once again Chukovskaia's effort is approved, and she discreetly celebrates Akhmatova's "not not liking" of "Going Under" with "flags in her soul" (II, 239). Here Akhmatova's response to the manuscript consists of a business-like list of remarks, major and minor comments jumbled together. The inclusion of this list indicates that Chukovskaia can refer to her text more explicitly (although she only provides complete quotations from "Going Under" in her footnotes): it also suggests Chukovskaia's growing skills as a writer. Here, in keeping with the basic patterns of the second volume - the collective preoccupation with the "Poem", the many entries devoted to textual exegesis and debate - Akhmatova herself plays exacting critic for the already established novelist. Although Chukovskaia does not presume equality with the poet, she is treated as a member of the same profession, a woman capable of creating as well as caretaking who is now ready for pragmatic advice from her mentor (II, 241-42).

Chukovskaia's creative achievement, however, does not alter her expressed self-image as helper in "Notes". True to her father's precedent, she seems unable to admit her own importance as a writer. Yet in the end her modesty curiously backfires. Upon receipt of a copy of "Sofia Petrovna" in November 1962, Akhmatova tells her that she has performed a great "feat" ("podvig") in producing this work, that while "we" were engaged in the ritual of memorizing and burning verses, she "wrote under the axe," knowing the consequences (II, 454). Chukovskaia does not argue with the poet in person, but she elaborates an extensive rebuttal in the "Notes", insisting that writing this novel was a "non-feat" ("nepodvig"), an act as necessary and unremarkable as "breathing or washing" (II, 455). She identifies another hero: "Izia Glikin performed the feat, Isidor Moiseevich Glikin, who took my notebook for safekeeping when they began to drag people into the Big House in search of "documents about [19]37," and I decided to go to Moscow with Liusha and have my operation. To preserve [it] - now that was a feat. And at starvation point, with his last strength, to walk from one end of the city to the other in order to hand my notebook over to his sister - that also was a feat". (II, 4S5)69

Deflecting Akhmatova's praise, Chukovskaia intends self-effacement, but inadvertently celebrates her own main role as helper. To add to the irony, she has chosen a most effective display for this "greater" heroism. Set during the purges and the war, her story foregrounds the private act of a civilian who spends his last strength saving her manuscript, helped in this valiant effort by his sister.

Glikin's sacrifice is dramatic in the extreme, and his example inevitably ennobles Chukovskaia's own caretaking efforts.

In fact, against all her intentions, this entry offers a double endorsement of her heroic roles: The oracle Akhmatova proclaims the "feat" of her creation and Chukovskaia, in typically oblique fashion, pays forceful tribute to her other "feat" in preserving Akhmatova's work.

Chukovskaia's formal recognition of the helper beautifully rounds out the pattern of her creative relationship with Akhmatova. As recorded in "Notes", her contribution has always been a substantial one; she serves as scribe, editor, critic, and human archive for a poet who speaks her art and relinquishes it to the care of others. At times the poet-disciple relationship even approximates a kind of collective creation- of a poetry perceived and restored as common property, an intuitively shared articulation of their shared experience. Yet it is only when she has gained the vantagepoint of an unofficial artist that Chukovskaia can acknowledge (albeit obliquely) their complete interdependence their essential collaboration as creator and helper. Aware of her own debts as a proscribed writer, she can at last glorify" what she has been providing all along. Documenting her intricate, evolving, mutually supportive relationship with Akhmatova, Chukovskaia ultimately conveys a complete appreciation of the unofficial literary process, illuminating and valuing all the component functions - the creating, writing, editing, and preserving- that were rendered heroic by her punitive age.

Of all Chukovskaia's unofficial writings, "Notes on Anna Akhmatova" represents the most hopeful, inspiring response to the disruption of Stalinism. This journal delineates a kind of tested blueprint for the successful maintenance of unofficial literature and biography in a totalitarian society. Without the aid of the Devil or a powerful official patron, the female poet and her female disciple manage to preserve manuscripts which they themselves have burned. How, then, did they effect this real-life miracle? To be sure, Akhmatova and Chukovskaia were relatively fortunate. Escaping imprisonment, exile, and execution, they could utilize the shabby domestic refuge still left them. But given this tiny breathing space, they seem equipped to succeed in part because of their specific conditioning as women. The state brings them together by imprisoning their husband and son; they are overwhelmed by the same family tragedy and respond with the same fierce, altruistic spirit. Although they disdain the role of conventional wife (with their reading of its materialistic selfishness), Akhmatova and Chukovskaia both prove capable of and willing to provide for others - to nurse and comfort, nurture and protect. In fact, despite the admitted difference in their talents, Akhmatova and Chukovskaia never fully demarcate their respective functions and roles in the "Notes". To varying degrees, each perceives and interacts with the other through their shared capacities as mothering friend and childlike charge, intelligent critic and creative artist. Together with other women, Akhmatova and Chukovskaia form a comprehensive, flexible, reciprocal network of support which sustains them physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and maintains their dependent creations.

Their success, too, stems from the lucky match of their specific characters.

Akhmatova finds in Chukovskaia perhaps the most obliging, most flattering mirror of all. The poet can depend on this deferential younger woman to be a model attendant at her unofficial court. Diligent, devoted, possessed of a sure instinct for what is artistically effective and historically important, Chukovskaia erects a great verbal monument to Akhmatova's work and person - a monument which both preserves the poet's enigmatic power as symbol and cultural object and proves her credentials (her specific suffering and unlimited artistry) as national bard. For Chukovskaia, on the other hand, Akhmatova serves as ideal subject and mentor. Chukovskaia imbibed certain traditionally female notions of service and self-worth from her father, but she seems to achieve her full potential in her relationship with and related service for Akhmatova. For the first time she is engaging with a female subject who reflects and endorses almost all of her experiences, impulses, and felt obligations - her painful widowhood, domestic cares, and maternal solicitude. Moreover, as evidenced in the combined record of "Sofia Petrovna", "Going Under", and the "Notes", Chukovskaia's experience of the purges forces her to modify her father's creative model, to work out her trauma through a more self-reflective kind of writing. Within her configuration of real and recreated female characters (including herself), Akhmatova exists as the realization of her self-styled ideal - a bereaved, victimized woman who holds fast to her private moral and cultural values, ministers to others, and bears miraculous creative witness. As it turns out, Chukovskaia happens to inscribe her most important role - in a sense, her passage from dutiful daughter to more powerful sister- as the chronicler and literary partner of her idol.

Finally and most paradoxically, the creative success of these two women - the remarkable works they produced "under the axe"- also derives from their horrific context. It is impossible to predict how Akhmatova and Chukovskaia might have developed as artists without this terrible experience; it is absolutely certain true neither woman desired it. But, most clearly in Chukovskaia's case, this experience enables them to grow creatively- in part because it renders their fate tragic and powerfully symbolic and also because it reorders their very perception of the creative act. For both women recording their forbidden experiences, be it in poetry or fiction or biography, becomes a means of psychological survival. To different extent they are psychologically liberated by these conditions: Their writing of the personal is thereby purified from a self-indulgent, self-exposing project into a mission that their sense of obligation before the persecuted and the dead drives and frees them to complete. And Chukovskaia, compelled to be of service, resorts to artistic creation and re-creation as imperative moral action. In "Sofia Petrovna", "Going Under" and "Notes on Anna Akhmatova", she fathoms this course thoroughly, reflectively, artistically. By the onset of various political "thaws" in the 1950s and early 1960 she has virtually written herself to the flash point of public dissidence, of fighting openly for human rights and artistic truth. Yet it is through these first works of creative heroism, I contend, that Chukovskaia wins her most profound victories of salvation and renewal, forever preserving the human lives, works, and meetings her government would obliterate and so truly commencing "the resurrection of an im age of the dead."


1. Lidiia Chukovskaia, "Zapiski oh Anne Akhmatotoi" ("Notes on Anna Akhmatova"), T. 2, 1952-1962 (Paris: YMCA Press), 1980, 448.

2. Chukovskaia disavowed any models in our conversation of 25 September 1989.

3. Henry Gifford, "A Poet for Her People," "The Times Literary Supplement", 18 November 1977, 1352.

4. It is interesting that Chukovskaia herself attributes special importance to Eckermann - not as a great writer, but as an interlocutor who was "in love with literature." See "V lahoratorii redaktora" ("In the editor's workshop"), 218.

5. Chukovskaia has recorded impressions of other great contemporaries - in particular, Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak - but to a much more limited extent (the Pasternak impressions are actually contained in "Notes"), and interestingly enough, only at the point of their greatest crises - i.e. the days before Tsvetaeva's suicide and the last years of Pasternak when he endured the scandal of "Doctor Zhivago". Cf. "Predsmertie" in "Sobesednik", 3 (1988): 41-64 on Tsvetaeva; "Notes on Anna Akhmatova", T. 2, 1952-62 (Paris: YMCA Press, 1980), 245-79, 314-32 on Pasternak.

6. In one of the very few extant analyses of "Notes", Stephanie Sandier perceptively reads this self-effacement as a product of the Stalinist terror, when the very concept of an independent self was undermined. "Reading Loyalty in Chukovskaia's "Zapiski ob Anne Akhmatovoi", in "The Speech of Unknown Eyes: Akhmatova's Readers on Her Poetr"y, vol. 2, edited by Wendy Rosslyn (Nottingham: Astra Press, 1990I, 269. It may have been that Chukovskaia's diary was also other-directed; we cannot compare the two, for the diary no longer exists. Chukovskaia told me that she had kept the diary from age thirteen until 1937 and thereupon entrusted it to a female friend, at the same time giving the friend permission to destroy it if she felt she was in danger. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as Chukovskaia insists), the friend managed to burn the diary about a month before she was arrested. Since the completion of "Notes", Chukovskaia has also ventured to write her own memoirs, but, significantly, she refuses to publish them because she says she doubts their quality and feels that in them she is too exposed. Even this unpublished text was first conceived as an account of another. She had wanted to dedicate a book to her second husband, Matvei Bronshtein, but before she could write about him, she had to about herself in the years preceding their marriage.

7. All quotes from the first volume of "Notes" taken from "Notes on Anna Akhmatova", T. 1, 1938-1941, 2d ed. (Paris: YMCA Press, 1984); all quotes from the second volume taken from "Notes on Anna Akhmatova", T. 2, 1952-1962 (Paris: YMCA Press, 1980); translations mine. In her "Notes", Chukovskaia frequently uses the Russian form of address, referring to Akhmatova by her first name and patronymic - Anna Andreevna.

8. Gifford, "A Poet for Her People."

9. Chukovskaia recalled that after each meeting with Akhmatova she rushed home and wrote down memorized dialogue and impressions, attempting to preserve the accuracy and immediacy of her experience. There exist a large number of memoir-records Akhmatova, although none of them match Chukovskaia's painstaking technique. These include Nataliia Roskina, "Chetyre glavy" (Paris: YMCA Press, 1980); Sophie Kazimirovna Ostrovskaya, "Memoirs of Anna Akhmatova's Years: 1944-1950", with an appendix of memoirs by Margarita Aliger, translated by Jessie Davis (Liverpool: Lincoln Davies 1988); and the collection "Ob Anne Akhmatovoi: Stikhi, esse, vospominaniia, pis'ma", compiled by M. M. Kralin (Leningrad: Lenizdat, 1990).

10. For a discussion of this consonance between personae and person, see chapter 2 in Wendy Rosslyn's "The Prince, the Fool and the Nunnery: Religion and Love in the Early Poetry of Anna Akhmatova" (Amersham, England: Avebury, 1984), 73-81. See also Amanda Haight, "Anna Akhmatova: A Poetic Pilgrimage" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 21.

11. In his book "The Theme of Time in the Poetry of Anna Akhmatova" (The Hague Mouton, 1971), Kees Verheul traces this tendency in Akhmatova's work, begun before her serious persecution, as the development of a "public, historical dimension."

12. Describing his acquaintance with Akhmatova in the late 1950s, the poet Anatolii Naiman claims that "the authenticity of her late" most attracted him. "Rasskazy o Anne Akhmatovoi" (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1989), 10. For a translation of his work, see "Remembering Akhmatova", introduction by Joseph Brodsky, translated Wendy Rosslyn (London: Halban, 1991).

13. Lidiia Ginzburg, "Akhmatova. Neskol'ko stranits vospominanii," in "Literature v poiskakh realnosti. Stat'i, esse, zametki "(Leningrad: Sovetskii pisatel', 1987), 124-25. In our conversation, Chukovskaia made a related observation, remembering a strong resemblance between Akhmatova's spoken word and written verse.

14. Chukovskii's essay, entitled "Anna Akhmatova," is included in his "Sobranie sochinenii v 6 toinakh", vol. 5 (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1967), 725-55. Ostrovskaya composes this description of Akhmatova at their second meeting: "On the platform was Akhmatova - medieval, dark and beautiful, sedate and noble in her bearing, and in her mature years still maintaining her feminine charm and the strange fascination of an old statue and a snake" (3).

15. Cf. Natal'ia Il'ina's record of their first meeting in "Anna Akhmatova v poslednie. gody ee zhizni," Oktiabr', 2 February 1977, 111.

16. See this passage from the letters of one of Akhmatova's early mentors, Nikolai Nedobrovo (quoted in Haight, 29): '"One can't exactly call her beautiful, but she is so interesting to look at that it would be worth while making a Leonardo drawing of her: a Gainsborough portrait in oil; an icon in tempera; or best of all, to place her in the most important position in a mosaic illustrating the world of poetry. . . ."

17. Haight, 130. Vitalii Yilenkin's book, "V sto pervom zerkale", 2d cd. (Moscow Sovetskii pisatel', 1990), includes a marvelous appendix of photographed Akhmatova "artifacts." For another collection of portrait-photographs, see "Anna Akhmatova: Stikhi, perepiska, vospominaniia, ikonografiia", compiled by E. Proffer (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1977).

18. Chukovskaia actually interrupts Akhmatova's sitting for the artist Osmerkin in July_ 1940 (I, 142). Akhmatova has attracted an impressive number of amateur collectors ("akhmatovtsy") - private citizens who, out of a kind of passion for her work, gathered all manner of related materials (books, albums, autographs, pictures, artwork) and established private archives in their own homes. These collectors were attempting a wholly private corrective to the government's legislation and selective preservation of art. For an account of one such Akhmatova collection, see Leonid Vysheslavskii's "Poema nevedomykh drug," "Almanakh bibliofda", vyp. 18 (Moscow: Kniga, 1985), 221-27.

19. See Helena Goscilo's introduction to "Balancing Acts: Contemporary Stories by Russian Women", xv, where she comments on "'the ubiquity of the Feminine Ideal . . . and the immemorial Madonna/Whore dichotomy" in the writings and conceptions of many Russian modernists.

20. Akhmatova's famous "Epigramma" echoes the same attitude in poetic form: "Could Beatrice fashion such a work as Dante's/Or Laura praise love's fever and love's chill?/I showed woman her voice and how to use it/But, God, how can one teach her to be still?" Translation taken from "Modern Russian Poetry: An Anthology in Verse", translated, edited and with an introduction by Vladimir Markov and Merrill Sparks (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967), 280-81. In "Terrible Perfectio"n, Heldt examines how Liubov' Blok attempts to reclaim her image from her husband's mythologizing (93-98).

21. See Heldt's discussion of Akhmatova's early relationship with her audience in "Terrible Perfection": "Anna Akhmatova, early in her career, mastered the public use of a private persona to great popular effect. She dramatized a weak self, a concessive self, a 'female' self. Her readers identified with it, and her appeal both to scholars and to the poetry-reading public was immediate. A guarded strength emerged from Akhmatova's lines, a gathering together of parts of the divided self - the strategies of the lyric heroine who would become in a harsher era a symbol of Russia" (124).

22. Il'ina notes the distinctive aphoristic quality of the poet's speech (123). The critic Emma Gershtein, a close friend of both Akhmatova and Chukovskaia, offers a fascinating observation on the poet's role-playing: "... I often noticed that among women, Anna Andreevna posed, adopted an unapproachable air, uttered chiselled phrases and overwhelmed everyone with important silences. But when I found her in the company of men, especially if they were prominent people, I was always impressed anew by the simple, intelligent, and sad expression of her face. In the company of men she joked gaily and companionably." "Iz vospominanii. Pis'ma Anny Akhmatovoi," "Voprosy literatury", 6, 1989, 249. If we accept Gershtein's generalization, then it would seem that Akhmatova felt most compelled by women to play her own scripted role as poet, to distinguish her self from them through her ability and poetic vocation. We will see that, in other respects, Akhmatova demonstrates an ambiguous (and occasionally misogynist) attitude toward women, struggling to avoid the cultural devaluation of her sex and to assert her place as great artist among the "prominent" men.

23. Liubimova's complete memoir "Dnevnikovye zapisi o vstrechakh s Annoi Andreevnoi Akhmatovoi "(1944-1965)," is held in manuscript form in the Gosudarstvennyi Literaturnyi Muzei, fond 40, opis 1, no. 17. Part of this memoir has been excerpted and published as "Kak ia pisala Akhmatovu," Nauka i zhizn, 2 (1978): 94-96, A fuller version appears as "Zapisi o vstrechakh," in "Ob Anne Akhmatovoi", 231-59.

24. In her article "Iz rukopisnogo naslediia A. A. Akhmatovoi," Neva, 6 (1979): 196- 200, L. A. Mandrykina describes Akhmatova's halting progress on a prose autobiography; by the time of her death, Akhmatova had left laconic factual sketches of her earlyyears, with no coverage of the last three decades of her life.

25. Ii'ina, dismayed by what she considered Akhmatova's excessive attention to Haight, later amends her judgment: "I did not understand then that by helping this young Englishwoman, Akhmatova hoped at last to see the truth about herself in print.
Let it appear in the western press - certainly there was no hope for this in her own country." "Eshehe ob Akhmatovoi," "Ogonek", 38, 19-26 September 1987, 30. For the result of Akhmatova's and Haight's joint effort, see Amanda Plaight, "Anna Akhmatova: A PoeticPilgrimage" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976).

26. Mikhail Polivanov develops these astute observations in his foreword to the Soviet edition of Nadezhda Mandelstam's "Hope Abandoned": N. la. Mandel'shtam, "Vtoraia kniga: vospominaniia", edited and with a foreword by M. K. Polivanov (Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1960), 5.

27. Ostrovskaya makes this telling observation in her diary: "Once again Akhmatova lives her biography - and (quite consciously) transfers her days to the posthumous. She is very concerned (truly and in a business-like way) about what will be written about her 'then' and how this or that will be reflected in the biographies - say, of 2047" (64).

28. In our September 1989 conversation Chukovskaia remarked that Akhmatova generally seemed unaware of her "Notes".

29. Nadezhda Mandelstam coins this phrase in the first version of "Hope Abandoned", parts of which were published as "[Ob Akhmatovoi]," in "Literaturnaia ucheba", 3 (1989) 134-51. It appears on page 148 of the Russian original of "Vtoraia kniga" ("Second book"). 4th ed. (Paris: YMCA Press, 1987); in the English version, "Hope Abandoned" (New York: Atheneum, 1974) this phrase is translated as "a marked tendency to ... self-renunciation" (129).

30. Emma Gershtein recalls how Akhmatova was sometimes misperceived by the people as a "baryshnia" (a woman of gentry family) (254). It is interesting that the authorities committed the same clumsy, sexist mistake when they expelled Akhmatova from the Union of Soviet Writers in 1946, declaring her to be (in an unintentional parody of the Symbolists) "half nun and half whore."

31. This impression is echoed in Roskina's account, among others. She meets the poet in 1945 and is struck by the juxtaposition of her personal grandeur and her physical poverty. "Chetyre glavy", 5-6.

32. Cf. the entry for 21 June 1961: "She is sick and tormented. Homeless old age. And really nothing is so essential in old age as a home. . , . Homelessness is yet another method of fate to drive her from the world" (II, 386).

33. See Chukovskaia's lament in the entry for 14 July 1939: "A tram like any other. People like people. And no one saw that it was her" (1, 29). See also 14 May 1953 (II, 23).

34. See, for example, I, 151 where Chukovskaia complains about the presumptions of Akhmatova's female readers who think Akhmatova "writes about women, about some special female sorrows." The concept of "poetess" in Russian, contrasted with that of "poet," carries a pejorative meaning, implying a female poet of limited thematic range and inferior ability. For a good elaboration on the Russian cultural myth of the "poetess," see Boym, "Death in Quotation Marks", 192-200: "The word 'poetess' is derived from 'poet'; poet plus a feminine suffix, an excess, a mark of bad taste,' a sign of cultural inferiority" (192).

35. In his review of the first volume of the "Notes", Gifford makes a similar claim: "So not hearing about Yezhov, Stalin and Vyshinsky, the presence of whom was so palpable during those days, we might have assumed, but for her warning, that literature absorbed them more than anything else.//In a way this was true" ("A Poet for Her People," 1351). It bears mentioning here, too, that although Chukovskaia enjoyed a much freer hand in transcribing the material for her second volume of "Notes", her text still reflects a preponderant emphasis on literature.

36. At one point Akhmatova remarks that one should be able to like a poet without liking his/her verses; Chukovskaia notes parenthetically that she very often cannot manage this distinction (II, 181). In general, Akhmatova balks at any direct association of a writer's life and work; as she insists, a writer "should not give herself au naturel" in any text (I, 79).

37. Chukovskaia cites a striking example of this connection in her remarks on Akhmatova's Pushkin criticism. Akhmatova insists that in one of the unfinished fragments ofhis masterpiece "Eugene Onegin" Pushkin is referring to the grave of the Decembrists, agroup of officers who rebelled against the tsar in 1825. Chukovskaia insists that Akhmatova is able to spot this intersection of ethics and art "on the strength of her similar biography" and sense of moral responsibility. (II, 8).

38. Sandier outlines the complex moral defense of Chukovskaia's "Notes" - its attempt "to restore to public literary discourse a sense of ethical norms and honest speech" and its function as "a public record of Akhmatova's words, an alternative account of her views about poetry, political allegiances, and, above all, honourable behavior." "Reading Loyalty in Chukovskaia's "Zapiski ob Anne Ahhmatovoi," 267, 272. Akhmatova and Chukovskaia share another common feature in their approach to literature. Both evince a dislike for self-important and/or jargonistic literary scholarship. Writing about her beloved Pushkin, Akhmatova felt a particular hostility for a certain breed of Soviet/Russian scholar - the Pushkin specialist. Both chose, in their own critical efforts, to assume the role of intelligent, sensitive observer of the artist's work.

39. As the critic Henry Gifford asserts: "[i]t was in talking about literature, and about Akhmatova's relation to other poets past and present, that they kept alive a sense of the living culture which had been so rich in the Russia of Akhmatova's early years" ("A Poet for Her People," 1351).

40. I am using the most complete extant version of Notes for my analysis - i.e., the most recent tamizdat publication of the text by YMCA Press in Paris. Chukovskaia is currently in the process of revising and reissuing the text for Russian publication. At the point of this book's publication, only the first volume has appeared in print, issued by the Moscow publishing house "Kniga" in 1989.

41. Hirshon remarks on the substantive change in the second volume, pointing out the greater freedom and detail of the texts and commentary (161-62).

42. See her 13 July 1940 entry where, after just learning that she requires a serious operation, Chukovskaia responds to Akhmatova's peremptory call and tries to check her publication proofs while suffering from a migraine headache (I, 146-48).

43. It is interesting to compare Chukovskaia's reaction with that of Natal'a Il'jna, who perceives Akhmatova's dependence on her admirers and, with a certain amount of self-regard - eventually distances herself from the source, deciding to let others carry out the poet's bidding. "Anna Akhmatova v poslednie gody ee zhizni," 131.

44. Chukovskaia describes this enigmatic break in their friendship in the preface to the second volume. In her words, Akhmatova's rancor came "out of the blue" as she began to criticize everything Chukovskaia said as "incorrect, inappropriate, and irrelevant"("neverno, neumestno, nekstati") (II, xvi). Because she felt no guilt, Chukovskaia, with characteristic moral certitude, refused to ask what she had done wrong or who had slandered her and eventually stopped visiting the poet. She reinitiated their friendship in 1952, when Akhmatova was staying near her home in Moscow (II, xxxi-xxxii).

45. Cf., for example, Chukovskaia's 5 September 1939 meeting with Vysotskaia, who has just brought Akhmatova lunch because the poet "does not prepare anything for herself, and the cleaning woman shows up only on her day off" (I, 43). See also Chukovskaia's expression of solicitude in her 13 January 1940 entry: "1 began to speak about the apartment. I so wanted her to have a human place to live! Without these footsteps and phonograph records next door, without these constant humiliations!" (I, 61).

46. See the entry for 20 October 1957, where Ol'shanskaia admonishes Akhmatova for neglecting her health: "Anna Andreevna was silent, lowering her eyes like a little girl being reprimanded, and I admired Nina's caustic rage" (II, 212). Chukovskaia earlier recognizes the benefit of this arrangement: "It is much more comfortable for [Akhmatova] to live in Moscow as a guest than as her own housekeeper" (II, 32).

47. This behavior perhaps most clearly differentiates Akhmatova from Chukovskaia's father.

48. Cf. the observation of Elizabeth Abe! in her article "(E)merging Identities: The Dynamics of Female Friendship in Contemporary Fiction by Women," Signs, 6, no. 3 (1981): "Friendship becomes a vehicle of self-definition for women, clarifying identity through relation, to an other who embodies and reflects an essential aspect of the self (416). For a more general discussion about female relationships in writing by women, see Judith Kegan Gardiner, "Mind mother: psychoanalysis and feminism," in "Making a Difference", 134-39.

49. Akhmatova makes another general attack on the wife of the famous nineteenth- century essayist and activist, Aleksandr Herzen: "I cannot stand women (here the Russian pejorative term for woman-baba) who get their husbands entangled in their love affairs" (II, 82).

50. Characteristically, Chukovskaia considers Akhmatova's attacks on Pasternak unworthy of her. See, for example, II, 334. Just as she refrains from criticizing a sometimes contrary Akhmatova, so she refuses to find fault with her fellow poet. When she suspects Ol'ga Ivinskaia, Pasternak's mistress, of stealing goods she is sending through her to a friend in a labor camp, Chukovskaia refuses, against Akhmatova's insistence, to inform Pasternak (II, 154, 551-52).

51. As we shall see, Akhmatova "approves" one sort of wife - the "Decembrist wife" she finds exemplified in Nadezhda Mandelstam (II, 438). This noble wife renounces all thought of her own welfare for the sake of her husband and, like the wives of the Decembrists, voluntarily shares his persecution. Despite her approval, however, Akhmatova would never limit herself to that role.

52. In both these cases, Chukovskaia hesitates over what is essentially a question of ranking. She refuses to claim women's superior!ty over men and Akhmatova s superiority (in suffering) over Pasternak.

53. For one pioneering discussion of the customary association of women with the long-term effort of raising children, see Sherry B. Ortner's "Is Female to Male as Nature- Is to Culture?" in "Women, Culture, and Society", edited by Micheie Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974), 67-87. Contemporary biologists and anthropologists are questioning more and more the "naturalness" of this association.

54. In June of 1960, when Akhmatova angrily complains about her torn copy of Gumilev's poetry (what she presumes was the work of the secret police), Chukovskaia remarks. "What could I reply to her? Evidently the preservation of verses, even in our new age is possible only through one long-proven method . . ." (II, 349-50). Chukovskaia notes in June 1961 that Akhmatova carries her manuscript in a makeshift "archive" - a little beat-up suitcase tied with rope (II, 385).

55. Remarking on her fading ability to remember, Chukovskaia nonetheless claims that what she "memorized then [she] remembers firmly up to the present day" (II, 414).

56. N. Ia. Mandel'shtam, "Vtoraia kniga" ("Second book"), 55, 73.

57. See the 18 October 1939 entry where Akhmatova comments: '"Have you ever seen a poet who relates so indifferently to her verses? . . . And all the same nothing will come of this enterprise. . . . No one will publish anything'" (I, 52).

58. Once again, Akhmatova renders herself the helpless child or, speaking symbolically, a temporarily "unfit mother." In drawing these analogies, I do not presume to judge Akhmatova's performance as a mother; I am calling attention to certain similarities which she herself cultivates between her life and art. Her relationship with her son seemed basically loving, but terribly complicated and especially painful after his release from the camps, when he mistakenly held her accountable for his imprisonment. Chuovskaia comments directly on this later misunderstanding; she concludes that Lev is retaliating for the pain of his early childhood, when he sensed that he wasn't primary in his mother's affections (II, 402). But it is interesting that Akhmatova, for complex reasons, left her young son for long intervals in the care of his paternal grandmother and in her poetry of that period, projected a female persona who has abandoned her child (Rosslyn 126). Her treatment of her art seems at least superficially to echo this self-inscribed pattern of giving birth and initially abandoning her child.

59. In her journal, the critic Lidiia Ginzburg also wonders at Akhmatova's incredible lack of professional training. See her "Zapisi 1920- 1930-kh godov," in "Chelovek za pis'mennym stolom. Esse: iz vospominanii: chetyre povestvovaniia "(Leningrad: Sovetskii pisatel, 1989), 166.

6o. When Akhmatova is forced to write her work, as is the case with the translations she must undertake to earn money, she relies more specifically on Chukovskaia's editorial skill. See the entry for 24 May 1955 (II, 78-80).

61. Haight, 148-49; Verheul, 180-81. See also Jeanne van der Eng-Liedmeier, "Poema bez Geroja," Two Poems by Anna Axmatova: Essays by Jeanne van derEng-Liedmeier and Kees Verheul with Unpublished Poems by Anna Axmatova" (The Hague: Mouton, 1973), 63-114.

62. The entry for 29 May 1962 is characteristic. Finding that her readers have misunderstood the latest variant of the Poem, Akhmatova complains: '"But I am an Acmeist, not a Symbolist. I am for clarity. The secret of poetry is in its inspiration and depth, not in the fact that the reader does not understand the action. I redid it again'" (II, 417). Akhmatova commissions Kornei Chukovskii himself to write an historical preface to the "Poem"(II, 427, 445-46).

63. The English version of these two lines of verse (which occur in Part One, Section Three, 440-41 of the "Poem") are taken from Anna Akhmatova, "Requiem and Poem without a Her"o, translated by D. M. Thomas (London: Paul Elek, 1976), 53. The Cameron Gallery is a building in Tsarskoe Selo, now the town of Pushkin outside Leningrad, where Akhmatova lived during the years of her early fame and turbulent romantic life.

64. Akhmatova asks her to write down her thoughts on the "Poem" - a commentary that Chukovskaia relegates to a lengthy footnote (II, 314-15). Presenting these thoughts, Chukovskaia explains that they are unsatisfactory, but she deems it "necessary to include here what I gave to Anna Andreevna."

65. Verheul offers this interesting information: "Moreover, it is significant that a large proportion of the various notes in prose from Axmatova's later years - only a very small number of which has been published so far - is devoted to reflections on "Poema bez geroja". In these notes the author considers her poema and her work on it from varying points of view, and she carefully takes down those remarks of others about it which strike her as significant" (181).

66. It is striking that Chukovskaia also submits her poetry for Akhmatova's perusal - a much riskier business - but she relegates this account to a short passage in the preface of volume two (xvi). She notes that at least one of her poems pleased Akhmatova because the poet bothered to memorize it; Akhmatova responded to the whole collection with a tactfully cryptic comment: "Time is writing your book" ("Vremia pishet vam knigu").

67. In the footnotes to the first volume, Chukovskaia explains that she returned from the sanatorium where she wrote "Sofia Petrovna" in January 1940. Her reading of the novel takes place on 4 February 1940.

68. In fact, at the end of this entry, Akhmatova confirms what Chukovskaia "seemed" to see. When Chukovskaia thanks her for patiently listening, the poet protests: ''You ought to be ashamed of yourself! I wept, but you say - patiently' " (I, 70).

69. Chukovskaia relates the complete story of this preservation to Alla Latynina. She rediscovers the manuscript only after Glikin's sister has died; she finds her notebook hidden in the bottom of a basket among the odds and ends Glikin's sister left with their relatives. See "Pisat'- eto bylo spasenie."

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