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This review is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

TRUTHS AND THRESHOLDS
Anatoly Nayman, Remembering Anna Akhmatova, translated by Wendy Rosslyn (Peter Halban) £18.00
The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, translated by Judith Herschemeyer, edited by Roberta Reeder (Canongate) £17.95 pb
Viktoria Schweitzer, Tsvetaeva (Harvill/Harper Collins) £20.00

In the coda to her 1922 review of Pasternak's My Sister, Life - 'Before me is Life and I haven't the words' - Marina Tsvetaeva left a most poignant proof of how even a poet's powers of expression cannot hope to encompass what must in part remain a mystery. There is a distant echo of this quotient of inadequacy in the prefatory remarks which Joseph Brodsky has contributed to his friend Anatoly Nayman's Remembering Anna Akhmatova:

At every given moment a poet depends less on the limitations imposed upon him by his reality or his personal circumstances than on those of the word he is about to put on paper.


Perhaps too much ambivalence attaches here to whether the limits are intrinsic to the medium of language, or a reflection of a particular practitioner's capacity. But elsewhere in this introduction Brodsky typically insists upon a poet's access to truths and thresholds unavailable to those otherwise disposed, doubtless mindful of how Tsvetaeva was only moved to suspend operations after demonstrating an exceptional and quite dazzling brilliance of insight, in its way 'a downpour of light' commensurate with Pasternak's.

At book length Anatoly Nayman could hardly hope to emulate Tsvetaeva's achievement. If hers was a downpour, his is a kind of glittering ...


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