Famous Russian poet dies.
Bella Akhmadulina, a poet whose startling images and intensely personal style, couched in classical verse forms, established her as one of the Soviet Unionâ€™s leading literary talents, died on Monday at her home in Peredelkino, outside Moscow. She was 73.
Her death was reported by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, which quoted her husband, Boris Messerer, as saying that she had had a heart attack.
Ms. Akhmadulina came to prominence during the post-Stalin thaw, when a loosening of censorship led to a flowering of the arts. Along with the poets Yevgeny Yevtushenko (her first husband) and Andrei Voznesensky, she became one of the bold new voices in contemporary Russian literature, attracting ecstatic audiences of thousands to readings at concert halls and stadiums.
Her poetry was resolutely apolitical, making her a target of official criticism. Her early poems, usually in rhymed quatrains, offered random observations on everyday life â€” buying soda from a vending machine, coming down with the flu â€” in dense, allusive language enriched by coined words and archaisms. A sprightly sense of humor and an audacious way with images marked her from the outset as a distinctive talent.
â€œMore and more severely the shivering/Lashed me, drove sharp, small nails into my skin,â€ she wrote in one of her most famous poems, â€œA Chillâ€ (sometimes translated as â€œFeverâ€). â€œIt was like a hard rain pelting/An aspen and scourging all its leaves.â€
Later, she turned to longer forms in works like â€œMy Genealogyâ€ and â€œTale About the Rain,â€ both published in the collection â€œMusic Lessonsâ€ (1969), or short poems laced into a sequence, notably in the collections â€œThe Secretâ€ (1983) and â€œThe Gardenâ€ (1987).
Her themes, as she matured, became more philosophical, even religious, or they dwelled on the nature of poetic language. â€œO magic theater of a poem,/spoil yourself, wrap up in sleepy velvet./I donâ€™t matter,â€ she wrote in one characteristic verse.
Although apolitical as a poet, she openly supported persecuted writers like Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and political dissidents like Andrei D. Sakharov. In 1979, she fell out of favor by contributing a short story to Vasily Aksyonovâ€™s unofficial collection Metropol, a transgression that froze her already chilly relations with the government.
Despite her shaky official reputation, she was always recognized as one of the Soviet Unionâ€™s literary treasures and a classic poet in the long line extending from Lermontov and Pushkin.
â€œShe was one of the great poets of the 20th century,â€ said Sonia I. Ketchian, the author of â€œThe Poetic Craft of Bella Akhmadulinaâ€ (1993). â€œThereâ€™s Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandelstam and Pasternak â€” and sheâ€™s the fifth.â€
Izabella Akhatovna Akhmadulina was born in Moscow on April 10, 1937. Her father was a Tatar, and her mother claimed a mixed Russian-Italian ancestry. During World War II, the family was evacuated to Kazan.
Bella, as she was always known, gravitated to the poetic circle around Yevgeny Vinokurov, and by the mid-1950s she had begun publishing her own work.
She enrolled in the Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow, but her nonpolitical stance as a writer made life difficult for her. Nevertheless, she managed to gain membership in the Writers Union, and her first volume of poetry, â€œThe String,â€ was published in 1962. Thereafter she was published sporadically, although her poetry circulated widely in manuscript form. Her second volume of verse, â€œA Chill,â€ was published in Germany in 1968.
Early on, the Ã©migrÃ© critic Marc Slonim predicted a brilliant future for her. â€œHer voice has such a purity of tone, such richness of timbre, such individuality of diction, that if her growth continues she will be able some day to succeed Akhmatova,â€ he wrote in â€œSoviet Russian Literatureâ€ (1964), a feat that would make her â€œthe greatest living woman poet in Russia.â€
Beautiful and charismatic, she married a series of prominent artists, starting with Mr. Yevtushenko, whom she met at a student gathering in 1954. She made an indelible first impression, with her â€œround, childish face,â€ thick red hair tied in a braid and â€œslanting Tatar eyes flashing,â€ as he recalled in his 1963 memoir, â€œA Precocious Autobiography.â€ â€œThis was Bella Akhmadulina, whom I married a few weeks later.â€
Although Mr. Yevtushenko wrote a series of love poems to her, the marriage did not last, and Ms. Akhmadulina would later claim not to remember the relationship. She went on to marry the short-story writer Yuri M. Nagibin, the childrenâ€™s writer Gennadi Mamlin and the film director Eldar Kuliev before marrying Mr. Messerer, a set designer for the Bolshoi Ballet, in 1974. In addition to her husband, she is survived by two daughters, Elizaveta and Anna.
With the arrival of glasnost and perestroika, the honors and official acclaim denied her under the Soviet regime came in a torrent. She was awarded the U.S.S.R. State Prize in 1989 and the State Prize of the Russian Federation in 2004. She published several collections of verse in the 1980s and â€™90s, including â€œCasket and Keyâ€ (1994), â€œA Guiding Soundâ€ (1995) and â€œOne Day in Decemberâ€ (1996).
Like so many Russian writers, Ms. Akhmadulina stood for more than literary accomplishment. To Russian audiences she embodied the soul of poetry and expressed, in her clashes with the authorities, the moral imperative behind Russian literature.
â€œThere is only one honorable reason for writing poetry â€” you canâ€™t do without it,â€ she said in an interview during her first visit to the United States in 1977. â€œWhen a young person comes to ask me, â€˜Should I, should I not, write poetry?â€™ I say, â€˜If thereâ€™s a choice, donâ€™t.â€™Â â€
by William Grimes