sian literature. On a personal •-vei,nAkhmatova maintained contact withnsome of the finest writers among herncontemporaries—including Mandelstam,nBulgakov, and Pasternak. They, like her,nbecause of their literary independence,nwere persecuted by the regime even tondeath. She saw herself very much as onenwho stood in the great tradition ofnRussian poetry, in which the poet sharesnthe suffering of his people.n1 hough infrequently published,nAkhmatova was immensely pqxilar amongnthe intelligentsia: in his embitterednmemoirs Shostakovich recalls that whennshe entered the hall to give a poetry readingnin Moscow the entire audiencenspontaneously rose to its feet in a sign ofnrespect which could only arouse paranoianamong the authorities. At the closenof World War II (during which she spentnsome time in blockaded Leningrad), thenregime allowed a selection of her worksnto be printed. Before it could be distributed,nhowever, Stalin’s cultural henchmannAndrei Zhdanov initiated a crackdownnon cultural liberalization by denouncingnher as a “cross between a nunnand a whore.” The edition of her poemsnwas pulped, and she fell silent for manynyears.nIn February 1959, as an exchangengraduate student at Leningrad University,nutilizing entirely unofficial channels, In14iinChronicles of Culturenbecame, I believe, the first Westerner tonmeet and talk with her since Zhdanovnhad laid the ban upon her. At the timenthe controversy over Pasternak’s Dr.nZbivago—^which had just been publishednabroad and which implicitly questionednthe October Revolution—was at itsn. height. Akhmatova’s attitude toward thensituation was characteristic of her. Shennever adopted a stance of vociferouslynpublic opposition: the whole controversy,nshe said, would merely lead to “grief fornhim and grief for us.” But she was preparednto accept that grief, judging it tonbe necessary, and when Pasternak diednthe following year she paid the tribute ofnOf Death and DiapersnVance Packard: Our EndangerednChildren: Growing Up in a ChangingnWorld; Little, Brown; Boston.nSusan Meyers andjoan Lakin: Who WillnTake the Children? A New CustodynOption for Divorcing Mothers—andnFathers; Bobbs-Merrill; Indianapolis.nby Bryce ChristensennSecular liberalism is the supremendoctrine of the sovereign self. As such,nits failures are particularly obvious at thentwo end points of life, birth and death,nwhen the limitations of the self are inevitablynexposed. Though medical advancesnand Mediterranean cruises havenreduced the humiliation of old age, deathnhas not yet relinquished its absolute swaynover the rights-bloated self Withoutnpromising greater self-fulfillment or enhancednself-esteem, the grave continuesnto enforce its traditional claims, evennupon the most liberated rebels againstnall tradition. All militantly asserted rightsnto choose among innovative “alternatives”ndisappear into a common hole innthe ground. Consequentiy, many liberalsnMr. Christensen is assistant editor ofnChronicles of Culture.nnnpoetry to him:nThat singular voice has stopped:nsilence is complete.nAnd the one who spoke with forestsnhas left us behind.nHe turned himself into a life-givingnstalk of wheatnOr the fine rain his songs can callnto mind.nAnd all the flowers that hold thisnworld in debtnHave come into bloom, come forwardnto meet this death.nBut everything stood still onnthe planetnWhich bears the unassumingnname… the Earth. Dnhave no idea about how to approachndeath, though death—the first true believernin equal opportunity—is quitensure about how to approach liberals.nBy refusing to accept the strictures ofnreligion during life, such individualsndeny themselves any of its consolationsnconcerning death, and therefore theynoften avoid thinking or talking about it atnall. If the unpleasant topic forces itselfninto view, a panel of popular psychologistsnis summoned, whose discussion ofnhow to “accept” death merely confirmsnthe audience’s despair and low-gradendepression.nBirth, the appearance of a new self,nposes its own vexing problems for liberalnorthodoxy. Just as liberal doctrinenassumes the immortality of the gods, itnalso requires the Olympian mode of reproduction:nautonomous deities leapingnfull-grown from their fathers’ foreheads.nFor how else can the needs of an infantnor child be met by parents without sacrificingnthe sacrosanct autonomy of thenself, especially the female self? Unable tonanswer this question, many self centerednAmericans have either stopped havingnchildren or have refused to make sufficientnsacrifices for those they do have.nThe result, as Vance Packard observes innOur Endangered Children, is “an anti-n