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“I taught women to talk”

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“I taught women to talk”

June 23 marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of Anna Akhmatova. Philosopher and philologist Marina Mikhailova talks about what is most important in the work of Anna Andreevna.

Explosion of feminist discourse

Akhmatova has such a quatrain:

Could Beach, like Dant, create?
Or does Laura glorify the heat of love?
I taught women to talk
But, God, how to silence them to make?

This is a joke, but in every joke there is some truth. Akhmatova puts here the problem of the female voice in literature and culture in general. Women, starting from very ancient times, were supposed to have two basic qualities: the first of them, like Beatrice or Laura, was intended as a silent object of worship or a source of inspiration. In New Life, Dante tells the story of his relationship with Donna Beatrice during her life and after her death. Her phrases can be counted on the fingers of one hand – she is silent, and this is her strength. As for Laura Petrarch – we don’t know anything about her at all.

The second role – enthusiastic listeners and commentators of the male word. Eloise from The Story of My Disasters Abelard is a student of a philosopher who listens to him and tries to learn something. Of course, there have always been exceptions, but there are really very few “talking women” in world culture.

When the 19th century comes with its impassioned call for the emancipation of women, and then the 20th century comes, the woman’s place in literature is completely different. If earlier there were few poets – for example, Karolina Pavlova, Mirra Lokhvitskaya – and their poems did not stand in the front row of Russian poetry, then in poetry of the mid-20th century we see four bright figures, half of which are women. This is Pasternak with Mandelstam and Akhmatova with Tsvetaeva, just like that!

The pendulum swung from one side to the other, and the centuries-old female silence had the opposite effect. Today we live in an age of an incredible explosion of feminist discourse: there is feminist theology, feminist gender studies – and since feminism does not go out of style, then there is some kind of strong demand for women's speech, especially among women themselves.

Anna Andreevna was a beautiful and harmonious person: on the one hand, she taught women to speak, and on the other, she was not talkative. She knew how to be silent, to speak shortly, and this is also her great dignity.

Why Akhmatova is read today

I read to Akhmatova in the 70–80s, in the middle of the Soviet era, and therefore I considered all kinds of “oysters in ice” and “pilots in Paris” as a symbol of a bygone era – in general, it was very romantic. It is clear that for us reading Akhmatova was a challenge to the Soviet view of life, because Requiem was only published in 1989 in several magazines at once. And when the collection of her writings was issued for the anniversary of Akhmatova in 1988, Requiem had not yet entered it. I remember very well the story of how, 30 years ago, we did a jubilee city tour called “Akhmatova in Leningrad”: we wanted to make a stop at the “Crosses” prison, and we were told that it’s better not to do this, because “not you need to pay attention to everyday troubles ", but it is better to stay at the cabaret" Stray Dog "or anywhere else. We made a fuss and howl, called some journalists, and we were allowed to make a stop at the prison. I mean that for my generation the image of Akhmatova was also politicized, and for us the reading of Akhmatova’s poems became a kind of – childish, perhaps – an act of resistance.

But why is it being read today? I think the love theme plays a big role here, which sounds very bright and diverse in Akhmatov's poetry. Not only twenty years old, but also sixty Akhmatova writes love poems with incredible vital energy. I don't know where it came from in it, but it is very attractive.

The image of love that Akhmatova offers us is complex and rich. She surprisingly relates love and friendship: when Anna Andreevna broke up with Gumilyov, they continued to be close friends. She speaks of love in very discreet words, and this asceticism of her vocabulary is what connects her with the acmeistic workshop. Acmeists, after a hazy symbolist vision, offered to look at the world anew, as if for the first time, and forget about countless symbols and their interpretations. This is the world in its gravity and reality, which opens to the gaze of the child or Adam in the heavenly bushes. Akhmatova says concise, heavy and very simple words.

Squeezed her hands under a dark veil …
“Why are you pale today?”
– Because I'm tart sorrow
Drink him drunk.

How will I forget? He came out staggering
painfully mouth …
I ran off without touching the railing
I ran after him to the gate.

Gasping, I shouted: “Joke
All that has gone before. Leave, I die. "
Smiled calmly and terribly
And he said to me: "Do not stand in the wind."

This is a very early poem, and already look, what a skill! The words are chosen the simplest, and they relate to the description of the external situation – this is an actor's sketch, you can play these twelve lines with great ease. But what tension and power of experience! Precisely because Akhmatova does not speak a lot of abstract words. She calls only what the reader can see, and the folding picture is reminiscent of graphics.

Another surprising property of Akhmatova is that she knew how to build her own destiny and her own image. A person is only 24 years old, and she is sure that children will read her name in textbooks, and descendants will not remain indifferent to the love vicissitudes of her youth:

Too sweet ground drink,
Too dense love networks.
May my name ever come
Read in the textbook children.

That royal majesty, about which her contemporaries wrote, is not a natural gift at all, but what she herself created. For her, her own life was also a work of art, which she performed with incredible skill. One aspect of her image is fragility and inability to live, staying out, homelessness. At the same time, they recall how once Gumilev answered the question of how his wife feels: “Anya? Yes, she swims like a fish, and sleeps like a woodchuck, you can not worry about her health! ”. To be able to build your own image as smart and beautiful as a chess game is also incredibly interesting and incredibly attractive.

Why Akhmatova did not forgive Chukovsky

A completely new voice Akhmatova opens after the revolution. She becomes a man of history. Earlier, the most interesting thing to her was the private life and the life of the heart, but now Anna Andreevna is beginning to worry about the fate of the country, the people and the Russian word. Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam told me that, being in a quarrel with Korney Chukovsky, she already wanted to forgive him, but once he asked Akhmatova: “Anna Andreevna, and do you remember how beautiful the 20s were? What was the flowering of Russian culture? ”And she changed her mind to forgive him. Because the fairy tales about how beautiful these years were were not to be told to Akhmatova – she lost her first husband and great friend Nikolai Gumilyov in 1921. Gumilyov was shot. After that, it was rather naive to talk about the flourishing of Russian culture, because for Akhmatova, Christian and human were in the first place, and then cultural. Indeed, beautiful songs are sung at the feast during the plague, but if you can do something and stop the plague, you can do without songs. That is exactly what Akhmatova thought.

I had a voice. He called for comfort.
He said: "Come here,
Leave your land deaf and sinful.
Leave Russia forever.

I will wash the blood from your hands,
From my heart I take out black shame,
I will cover the new name
The pain of defeat and offense.

But indifferent and calm
I closed the ears with my hands
used this unworthy speech
The mournful spirit was not defiled.

This is not about how "fresh and sharply smelled the sea on the dish oysters in the ice." Akhmatova said that these oysters came back to her once: she received herring in a writer's ration and went to sell it to buy bread. And here she stands on the market, the herring lies on a newspaper, a man passes by, and she hears from him: “Fresh and hot!”.

Akhmatova had a choice – to leave or not to leave. Many left – and her beloved friend Olga Sudeikina, and Arthur Lurye, but Anna Andreevna decided to stay for reasons that we can understand only from her poems. They are connected with some kind of honesty and love for the people – she herself did not say such words, but we can pronounce them, because it was really important for her to share the fate of those who can’t leave anywhere, she loved the stones and graves of her beloved .

Petersburg: solemn and difficult

Another Akhmatov theme is Petersburg. Akhmatova was born near Odessa and died in Moscow, but Petersburg became her hometown, where she came as an adult girl. Petersburg corresponds to the spirit of her poetry, and she gave him her heart. There is an early poem dedicated to Petersburg:

After all, somewhere there is a simple life and light,
Transparent, warm and cheerful …
There with a girl over the fence neighbor
In the evening he speaks and only bees hear
Tender of all conversations.

And we live solemnly and hard
And honor the rites of our bitter encounters,
When the wind raids reckless
Slightly begun breaks off speech.

But no matter what we do not exchange lush
Granite city of glory and misfortune,
Wide rivers shining ice
Sunless, gloomy gardens
And the voice of Muses is barely audible.

She has Petersburg – it is almost the threshold of the next world. This city became consonant with her, and she was able to say some amazing words about him. In her love poems, she speaks about St. Isaac’s Cathedral and about the arch on Galernaya Street – as if they were accomplices in a love story. Akhmatova is one of the singers of Petersburg, and her Petersburg is as rich and integral as Pushkin, Gogol or Dostoevsky's Petersburg.

“I betrayed you on the forehead”

Note that it was always important for Akhmatova to live her own life: she was never a man of the crowd and did not like mass events in which collective goals are pursued. And just such a person with a measure of healthy individualism turns out to be the voice of a whole generation!

What can a woman say? A woman may cry over the dead. Men carry the coffin, and women cry – this is their contribution to the common cause. And Akhmatova committed this act of mourning the thousands, millions of her contemporaries, who were the victims of terror. She wrote Requiem. And about “Requiem” I would like to say a few words, because I think that this is the best and most precious thing that Akhmatova left us.

When Akhmatova writes “Requiem”, she speaks not her own words, speaks not only about herself — she says what she was asked to say. Anna Andreyevna had a deep faith in the power of the human word. The “royal word” is the real pledge of immortality. The fact is that we can participate in our conversion to immortality, because the human memory of each other is some part of the divine plan. Therefore, it is incredibly important that we call some things by their proper names. Akhmatova – a man who has managed to forgive contemporaries who started up the horror:

I give all forgiveness,
And in the Resurrection of Christ
I betray my forehead, I kiss you
And not betrayed – in the mouth.

She gives a brotherly kiss to everyone – even those who betrayed her. Joseph Brodsky, being a young friend of Akhmatova, said that she alone with her presence testified of Christ. He recalled that it was possible to do anything with Anna Andreevna — talk, drink tea or vodka, but one glance at her was enough to understand that Christianity was true. It was this great gift of forgiveness, which also does not come just like that. As the royal beauty of Akhmatova is the fruit of her labor, so the ability to forgive is the result of her inner work and enormous moral work. To forgive is to name everything by their names and at the same time stop hating.

Usually, we understand forgiveness in two foolish ways: either we say “Oh, let's not remember it all,” or we remember, but with hatred. Therefore, “Requiem” is a great thing, because a person, through his own pain, makes the perception of descendants accessible to the pain of a whole generation. Akhmatova speaks on behalf of the whole country. In “Requiem” there is a huge, deep, black night that does not know the end, ice, but in the last lines – suddenly! – the ice is moving apart, and ships are sailing along the Neva.

A woman, a grain of sand, who can do nothing, is elevated and makes mourning for all the victims, thus gaining royal majesty.

And here, where I stood three hundred hours
And where for me did not open the bolt.
Then, as in the blessed death I'm afraid
Forget the rumble of black marus

Forget how hateful slammed the door
And the old woman howled like a wounded beast.
And let with fixed and bronze eyelids
As the tears flow, melted snow

And let the prison pigeon walk away,
And the ships go quietly along the Neva.

Four immortal things Akhmatova

Finishing this conversation, I want to say that Akhmatova said four things. First: she said about female love, she gave women a dictionary of love poetry, and now, if a young girl is having difficulty, she opens Akhmatova’s poems and it becomes easier for her.

The second thing Akhmatova did, she said about Petersburg, is a multifaceted and complex reality. Akhmatov Petersburg will forever remain the highest and most tragic image of the city.

Third, she created an example of civil lyrics, which can be read by descendants. After reading “Requiem”, young people will understand everything about those times, and they will not need to explain for a long time, because the words of such piercing leave an indelible imprint.

The fourth is Akhmatov Christianity, because it is very difficult to write about God. Direct words about Him do not sound in the XX and XXI century. When we read low-key Akhmatova poems, in which there are no declarations, we feel Christ as the source of life. She did not talk about church entourage, but talked about the life that is imprisoned in Christ. Her bible verses are one of the peaks of her work, because we see how carefully a person can read the Scripture.

Akhmatova helps us to return to Christian evangelism, and for all this we can tell her a big human thanks.

Prepared by Elizaveta Trofimova

Original lecture here

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