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Anna Akhmatova and the Engineers of the Human Soul

August 2, 2019 @ 7:30 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on August 3, 2019 at 7:30 pm

It was Ioseb Jughashvili who said that writers are the engineers of the human soul.  You probably know him better by his adopted Russian name – Joseph Stalin.

But what kind of engineers did he want working for him and what kind of souls did he want them to produce?  Certainly not those such as Anna Akhmatova, one of the great poets of the twentieth century.  Very little of her work was printed after Stalin came to power – mere possession of her poems was enough to risk arrest and a trip to the gulag.

At the height of the Great Terror in the 1930’s, when her son was in prison (for the second time), she –  like hundreds of others –stood in line outside the prison in the hope of getting news or a package to those inside.  Seventeen months Akhmatova waited.  One day a woman in the queue “identified” her.  Beside her in the queue was another woman.  Her lips blue with the cold, the woman came out of a trancelike state and whispered (everyone whispered) to her – “Can you describe this?”  “Yes, I can” Akhmatova said.

The result, written and revised over three decades, was her great poem, Requiem.  Written in fragments, memorized and then burned, it was passed orally among a few poets and friends – those who were not (yet) in exile, or dead, or imprisoned.  It will be at the heart of our play Anna Akhmatova and the Engineers of the Human Soul.  Her friend Nadezhda, wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam (died in a transit camp in ’38) will help tell her story and narrate the life and times of those who chose to stay and bear witness to this – a society where many spent sleepless nights, fearing the squeal of tires, the slam of the door the of Black Marias, the tramp of boots on the stairs and the knock on the door – where the lack of evidence was proof of guilt, so cunning and devious were these wreckers and saboteurs in covering their tracks.

The event is free and open to public.

Please note that this is not a CREECA’s sponsored event.


August 2, 2019
7:30 pm


Fermat’s Last Theater Co.
2021 Winnebago St
Madison, 53704 United States
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