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Unrecorded Version of Akhmatova's Famous Poem

Poema bez geroia (triptikh), 1940–1942. Sochinenie Anny Akhmatovoi [Poem Without a Hero (triptych), 1940–1942. A composition by Anna Akhmatova]. Samizdat typescript copy of an unrecorded early draft, ca. 1945.

Leningrad, 1945. 14 leaves of typescript to rectos measuring 29.5 × 20 cm; several pages with hand-written additions in dark blue ink. Very good; light rust to first and final leaf from old paper clip; tiny tear to lower left corner of title leaf.

An unrecorded early typescript variant of Akhmatova’s “Poem Without a Hero” with hand-written additions most likely by someone from the author’s inner circle. Never published in her lifetime, Akhmatova wrote that the poem “appeared” to her on the night of November 26, 1940 in Leningrad, with the first version completed in evacuation in Tashkent in 1942. She continued making small changes, corrections, and additions to the poem until her death in 1966, resulting in numerous known variants, eight of which are held by the Russian State Archive of Arts and Literature (RGALI). We believe this edition to be a very early version of the poem, closest to the so-called second redaction of 1946. Among the key indicators for this dating are, for instance, the epigraph by Ernest Hemingway, which is not found in any of the other post-1950 versions of the poem (this has been determined by Akhmatova scholars N. Kraineva and R. Timenchik). The absence of the third dedication, which was added in the mid-1950s, also suggests a proximity to the earlier variants of the text. Another detail in favor of the early genesis is the fact that chapters 3 and 4 are not separated here, and that the Khlebnikov epigraph to chapter 3, which was only used in the first and second drafts, is present in this typescript (page 7). In addition, the text evinces several differences that are not part of any known versions from the 1940s and 1950s, both those accessible via RGALI and those described by Kraineva, and that require further comparative study. In the version prepared by Akhmatova in 1946 (a copy gifted to Viktor Ardov which is digitized by RGALI), the text is rather similar but with a few minor additions, making it possible that the present is an undocumented version created shortly before the Ardov version. The date of 1945 given on the title page is thus most likely correct. A final detail in support of this is the makeup of the paper, which features the inconsistency of Soviet vtorsyr’e from the immediate post-war period.

Typical of early Soviet samizdat, the text has been typed on a typewriter without Latin letters, necessitating hand-written additions, mainly part titles and quotations in Latin script from Byron, Mozart, and Hemingway. While copies with the poet’s own annotations exist, in our typescript the additions were likely done by a close friend of Akhmatova’s. The format of the leaves corresponds to the Soviet GOS A4 standard; ca. 5 mm have been cut from the right edge of the leaves, possibly in preparation for a binding.

In comparison to Akhmatova’s Rekviem, samizdat editions of Poema bez geroia are very scarce. The author created samizdat versions of this work starting in April 1943, giving them personally only to her closest friends who generally refrained from creating further copies. Comparable items are rarely seen in commerce, both in Russia and abroad. We can trace two sales of analogous typescripts, at Bonhams in 2012 and at Sotheby’s in 2010, both of which sold for approximately $5000 hammer price. A copy corrected and inscribed by Akhmatova sold at Christie’s for 45,000 GBP in 2018. Our copy possibly stems from the collection of Mikhail M. Kralin (1848–2019), an Akhmatova scholar who worked at the Akhmatova museum in St. Petersburg and edited the first scholarly edition of the poet’s work published in 1990.

Book ID: 51325

Price: $4,950.00