"But here a dark figure is marking the houses,
and calling the ravens, and the ravens come."
While working on the Russian story in Stray Dog Winter, I became fascinated by the Russian lyric poets: Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam, and Marina Tsvetaeva, among others. I included an Akhmatova poem as an epigram.
Why is this age worse than all the others? Perhaps
in this: it has touched the point of putrefaction,
Touched it in a rush of pain and sorrow,
But cannot make it whole.
In the west the familiar light still shines
And the spires of the cities glow in the sun.
But here a dark figure is marking the houses
and calling the ravens, and the ravens come.
This year's Melbourne Writers Festival, by chance, honored the life and poetry of Anna Akhmatova. With writers including Anya Ulinich, a young Russian-American novelist who now lives in Brooklyn; Orlando Figes from the U.K., who has a non-fiction book about the Stalin years; and Robert Dessaix, a well-known Australian writer and Russophile, I was invited ...