Petersburg by Andrei Bely -1913- translated from Russian in 2009 by John Ellsworth - 572 pages
Andrei Bely - Pen name of Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev
October 26,1800 - Moscow
January 8, 1934 - Moscow
Petersburg by Andrei Bely has been on
my to be read list for a long time.
Petersburg Is for sure the last significant Romanov era literary work. Vladimir Nabokov included it with Ulysses, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and the first half of Remembrance of Things Past as one of the four greatest works of literature of the 20th century.
Set in now Saint Petersburg Russia just before the 1905 Revolution. Nikolai Apollonovich, a young intellectual, has been drawn into an
assassination plot. The target is an important official, his own father. A bomb planted in a sardine can is to be the weapon. Petersburg, the capital, is the real star of this amazing book.
There are just so many uses of color images in Petersburg I found myself a bit swamped, and much is made of the fact that Peter the Great created the city out of a swamp. Nikolai is involved very much in the chaos of the Pre-Revolutionary capital. He seems at times a frivolous young man raised in privilege with servants. We see great wealth living on the backs of those not far from serfdom. There is an abundance of literary references and Echoes of Gogol, Dostoevsky and Pushkin.
Petersburg made me feel I was there back in 1905, Russia has
just been humiliated by Japan in a war. People feel the need for a change but no one has a sensible plan.
All sorts of non-realistic things happen, a giant statue of Peter the Great seems to walk the city.
. Petersburg is sometimes called the first work of Russian Modernism.
There is a lot of family drama,interesting historical digressions and low comedy to keep us going.
I found this a fascinating work of art. I am very glad I read Petersburg.
John Elsworth is an English academic and translator, specialising in Russian literature. He studied Modern Languages at St John’s College, Cambridge, and also spent a year at Moscow University. He is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester, where he taught from 1987 to 2004. Wikipedia
Education: St John's College
The translation has been highly praised.