Monday, March 11, 2019

QUOTES part four: Anna Akhmatova "My Half Century"

Anna Akhmatova was the preeminent Russian poet of the first half of the 20th Century.  She was censored and her works banned from publication, through a party resolution by the Russian government, twice, from 1925-1939 and 1946-1956.  Short-listed for the Novel Prize, she may be the best poet you've never heard of.  
I recently read a selection of her prose, from letters and diaries primarily, in "My Half Century" and wanted to share occasional quotes, here, from that book.  

I love these two longer quotes discussing memory and nostalgia and how we can be constrained or hampered by looking back through glasses that are too rose-colored.  Of course, Akhmatova puts it in a far more beautiful, as well as severe, manner.  

. . .the reader of this book should get used to the idea that nothing was the way he thinks it was, or when, or where.  It's awful to say, but people see only what they want to see, and hear only what they want to hear.  They speak to themselves "in general" and almost always answer themselves, without listening to the person with whom they are speaking.  This characteristic of human nature explains ninety percent of the monstrous rumors, false reputations, and sacredly-guarded gossip. . .I ask those who disagree with me only to remember what they have heard about themselves. 

My generation is not threatened with a melancholy return, because there is nowhere for us to return to....Sometimes (when it's so deserted and fragrant in the parks) it seems to me that you could get in the car and drive to the days of the opening of Pavlovsk Station, to those places where a shadow inconsolably searches for me, but then I begin to realize that this is not possible, that one shouldn't bury oneself (never mind in a gasoline tin can) in memory's mansions, that I would not see anything and that I would only blot out what I see so clearly now. 

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