In the early 1960s Anna Akhmatova encouraged Emma Gerstein to record her own memories of the renowned Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam. But Gerstein's vivid and uncompromising account was not at all what she had expected. When first published in Moscow in 1998 Gerstein's memoirs provoked responses from condemnation to rapturous praise amongst Russian readers. A shrewd observer, a close member of the Mandelstam and Akhmatova family circles, and a serious literary specialist in her own right, Gerstein is uniquely qualified to remove both poets from their pedestals without diminishing them, or their work, and to bring back to life the Soviet 1930s. Part biography, part autobiography, this book radically alters our view of Russia's two greatest 20th century poets, providing memorable glimpses of numerous other figures from that partly forgotten and misunderstood world, and offers several unforgettable vignettes of Boris Pasternak. Gerstein's integrity and perceptive comment make her account compulsively readable and enables us to re-examine that extraordinary epoch.