The Guest from the Future by Gyorgy Dalos
Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin

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In 1945 Isaiah Berlin, working in Russia for the British Foreign Office, met Anna Akhmatova almost by chance in what was then Leningrad. The brief time they spent together one long November evening was a transformng experience for both, and has become a cardinal moment in modern literary history.

For Akhmatova, Berlin was a "guest from the future," her ideal reader outside the nightmare of Soviet life and a link with a lost Russian world; he became a figure in her cryptic masterpiece "Poem without a Hero." For Berlin, this "most memorable" meeting with the beautiful poet of genius was a spur to his ideas on liberty and on history. But there were tragic consequences: the Soviet authorities thought Berlin was a British spy, Akhmatova became a suspected enemy, and until her death in 1966 the KGB persecuted her family. Though Akhmatova was convinced that she and Berlin had inadvertently started the Cold War, she remembered him gratefully and he inspired some of her finest poems.
György Dalos--who inteviewed Berlin and many others who knew Akhmatova well, and who examined hitherto-secret KGB and Poliburo files--tells the inside story of how Stalin and other Soviet leaders dealt with Akhmatova. He ends with the touching story of her posthumous rehabilitation, when Russians astronomers discovered a new star and name it after her.

About Gyorgy Dalos

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GyArgy Dalos was born in Budapest in 1943. Arrested in 1968 for 'activities against the state', he was under a publication ban for the next 19 years. From 1995 to 1999 he was the head of the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Berlin and was the curator for Hungarian literature at the 1999 Frankfurt Book Fair. He now lives in Germany.
Published September 29, 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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According to Dalos, Akhmatova became romantically obsessed with Berlin and placed him as the central figure in a famously cryptic masterpiece, ""Poem Without a Hero."" The encounter also left Akhmatova under the surveillance of the KGB, who denounced Berlin as a British spy.

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London Review of Books

Describing an exchange between Berlin and the old mandarin George Kennan, he writes that ‘it was a fixed principle of his that so-called élites – intellectual or otherwise – had no business presuming that they knew better than the man or woman in the street.’ A recently unearthed interview betwee...

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Austin Chronicle

In Gyogy Dalos' study of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova's literary fall and redemption, The Guest From the Future, brief encounters contain lifetimes.

Dec 24 1999 | Read Full Review of The Guest from the Future: An...

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