I Forgive Everything

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Reading the essay titled “Amedeo Modigliani,” which was originally published July 17, 1975 in the NYRB and generously reprinted in their latest blog, I discovered, to my delight, the work of poet Anna Ahkmatova (also the author of the essay).

Akhmatova was a friend of Italian artist, Amedeo Modigliani. Her poignant remembrance of their time together is expressed beautifully in the essay (read it by clicking this link):

Anna Akhmatova on Amedeo Modigliani

I Forgive Everything,” which is the title of this blog post is taken from a stanza of her poem, Weak Is My Voice:

How the past loses power

Over the heart!

Liberation is at hand,

I forgive everything.

A couple of years long ago, I read a biography of Modigliani. The reading enhanced, rather than diminished, my appreciation of the artist (sometimes Too Much Information about an artist can turn out to be a negative).

But in this case, the artist’s unfailingly courteous demeanor and generous spirit despite an impoverished existence in Montparnasse (he was a bonafide starving artist who died at age 42) was edifying and moving. Not the first case of fame after death (and greater profits for art dealers).

I first discovered Modigliani’s work at around age 14 thumbing through an art book at the library. Ever since, I have been passionate about his work. Poring over his images transports me to both a realm of childhood innocence and adult freedom of expression, to an intimate world smelling of oil paint and turpentine, a world I have inhabited from adolescence to the present time (that is, when not slaving away at my dreaded day job).

Anna Akhmatova1

Modigliani portrait of Akhmatova (which is mentioned in the linked article)

Reading and re-reading Akhmatova’s essay and intimate personal details of their friendship launched me on a google search for: more information on Modigliani; copies of Akhmatova’s poetry; and images of portraits painted of her by the artist.

The line on page 2 of the essay: During my great losses..,” also piqued my curiosity. What kind of losses? Which led me to search a little more. I learned Akhmatova was living in Russia during the 1917 revolution, refused to flee the country she loved in spite of its dangers. That she lost many friends and loved ones to the war. That her ex-husband was accused as an anti-Bolshevick and shot dead. That her son was also killed. During my great losses…

Reading the essay aroused my desire to delve more deeply, which could be likened to the opening and emptying out of Matryoshka dolls.

If you have played with these charming Russian icons, you are aware that a smaller doll is awaiting inside each respective larger doll. Knowing this neither interferes with nor hinders your enjoyment or desire to repeat the exercise again and again.

Perhaps the continual opening and closing satisfies a yearning to nest; while fulfilling, at the same time, the impulse to be free.

Each emerging doll promises infinite newness. Although you are aware of what is hiding inside, there is a frisson of discovery upon releasing each doll that never disappoints. Thusly, you open and close, open and close, open and close.

matryoshka

Liberation is at hand. You begin again.

You forgive everything.

You are reborn.

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