Discussion: Akhmatova, Anrep, Berlin: their Work and their Influence

The presenters of the discussion and their abstracts.

Robert Chandler's translations from Russian include Alexander Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter, many works by Vasily Grossman and Andrey Platonov and Hamid Ismailov’s novel The Railway, set in Central Asia. He has compiled two anthologies for Penguin Classics, of Russian short stories and Russian magic tales. A third anthology, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, is being published this month   He runs a regular translation workshop at Pushkin House and also works as a mentor for the British Centre for Literary Translation.

Robert Chandler's presentation explores life and poetry of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova.

For many decades Anna Akhmatova was idolized.  The real Akhmatova, however, was more interesting than any idol.  As well as reading from his own translations of her poetry, Robert Chandler will read poems about her by more recent poets, including Boris Slutsky and Lev Ozerov.  A fuller and richer picture of Akhmatova will emerge.

Jane Williams is a PhD candidate in History of Art at the University of Reading. Her dissertation, ‘The Mosaic Portraits of Boris Anrep, 1913-1955’ will be submitted later this year. She teaches History of Art at Wychwood School, Oxford.

Jane Williams will present about the mosaics of Boris Anrep in Chelsea.

Boris Anrep (1886-1969), the Russian mosaicist arrived in England during the early decades of the twentieth century. He gained an entrée into the Bloomsbury group through the artist, Henry Lamb with whom he had trained in Paris. He not only selected the Russian contribution to Roger Fry’s Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition but was also the impetus for Bloomsbury’s interest in the Byzantine. Anrep moved within an extensive circle of friends, encompassing both the artistic and the literary worlds, resulting in a duality that is observed in his works. His public commissions in London include schemes for the Tate Gallery, the National Gallery and Westminster Cathedral but this paper will focus on his first private commission for the London home of the American artist and socialite Ethel Sands. In its day, it was noteworthy as an example of the modern aesthetic and was both described and illustrated in contemporary publications. The scheme has been neglected by scholarship because for many years it was partially hidden under layers of paint until its recent restoration and rediscovery. The floor mosaics reveal previously unrecognised portraits including a self-portrait of the mosaicist and his lover, the poet Anna Akhmatova as well as a memorial to the poet and critic, Nicolai Nedobrovo. The walls display Anrep’s skill as an astute observer of English bohemian society, which he depicted with wit. His work, which was tempered by his Russian character and embraced the ancient Byzantine medium, pursued a strongly individual path. The Chelsea scheme, which straddles the worlds of East and West, demonstrates how Anrep developed a new pictorial language in mosaics to become a significant Russian influence on British modernist culture.

Peter Kaznacheev received a PhD in political philosophy from Moscow State University and a Master’s degree in international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington. In his PhD dissertation "Pragmatism and the Liberal Discourse", which was published in Moscow in 2002, Peter developed a new social and philosophical interpretation of the tradition of Isaiah Berlin and the works of the American philosopher Richard Rorty. In his non-academic professional career Peter specialises in advising governments and companies in the areas of natural resources and public administration. He is currently Director of the Centre for Resource Economics, a think tank, and he also has his own consulting practiceSince 2005, he has been a visiting professor and lecturer in resource economics at the Russian Academy of the National Economy (RANEPA). 

Isaiah Berlin as philosopher.

On October 31, 1958 Sir Isaiah Berlin delivered an inaugural lecture as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford which was entitled "Two Concepts of Liberty". This lecture which was later published as a pamphlet in the collection of Berlin's papers Four Essays on Liberty (1969), became arguably the most influential among all of his works. In this seminal lecture Berlin analysed the notion of freedom in the history of philosophy. He drew a critical distinction between "negative" freedom which essentially asks the question "what we are free from" and "positive" freedom which asks the question "what we are free to do". As similar as these two questions seem to be from the first glance, this distinction, accroding to Berlin, had broad political and ethical implications, including clashes between liberty and tyranny in the 20th century. Peter Kaznacheev will reflect on the importance of Berlin's essey and its influence on later philosophical schools, including post-modernism and neopragmatism. He argues that Berlin's philosophy of liberty is also helpful in understanding the origins of contemporary ideological disputes in Russia and in the West.