Ruth Fainlight wrote:
It was the study of my guide’s parents, two polite Petersburgians who had survived the siege, their daughter said, with bodies gaunt and eyes enormous as Rublev saints on icons at the Hermitage (‘That’s how we all looked’), and now, proudly, showed books, albums, pamphlets guarded through terrible years. I turned the pages of thick or flimsy paper, thought of those writers and artists gone to the gulags or Paris, and knew that I was touching holy relics. ‘Here’s Mandelshtam’s first published verse,’ Galya translated. ‘These woodcuts are by Goncharova. And look: Blok. Bely. Gumilev.’ ‘The Acmeist who married Akhmatova?’ (I was such a show-off.) ‘Yes,’ they confirmed. ‘And this is the book with the cycle of poems dedicated to her by Marina Tsvetaeva’ – who titled them The Muse, and later said: ‘I read as if Akhmatova were the only person in the room. I read for the absent Akhmatova,’ – who didn’t hear them, but carried the manuscript in her handbag for years, until it split at the folds and fell apart.
From ‘Sugar-Paper Blue‘, London Review of Books, Vol. 15 No. 24 · 16 December 1993.