Synopses & Reviews
This magnificent city, one of the most beautiful in the world, is undergoing a renaissance as Vladimir Putin focuses attention on his hometown, most notably by commissioning architect Norman Foster to convert an island in the middle of the city into a spectacular $378 million arts center with concert halls, a five star hotel, art gallery, and outdoor ampitheatre. All of a sudden, Petersburg is the destination city for the glitterati: Elton John played for 100 guests at the Catherine Palace; Valentino arrived to celebrate his birthday there with Stella McCartney and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Much of Russian literature is St. Petersburg literature: set in St. Petersburg, about St. Petersburg, or written by writers living in St. Petersburg. This guide focuses on writers' residences, museums, buildings, monuments, and settings described in great works of literature. For each author there is a biographical sketch focusing on the writer's relationship to the city and what the city was like at that time, a sense of the writer's work, and the literary and social circles in which she or she moved. The profiles are followed by sites associated with the writers. With crisp details, vivid writing, and striking quotes about the city--as well as neighborhood maps--the book will be manageable for tourists as well as armchair readers.
The lives of these authors are in most cases as dramatic as the stories they tell--settings range from the palaces to labor camps; characters include czars and revolutionaries; the chapters filled with persecution and starvation set against the most tumultuous of histories.
The photographs and paintings of the authors and the city are particular striking. They includea newspaper photo taken inside the courtroom where the young Joseph Brodsky, on trial for "a world view damaging to the state" made his electrifying defense of his credentials as a poet: "I think that it's from God; " a family portrait of the glamorous poet Anna Akhmatova,
Much of Russian literature is St. Petersburg literature: set in the city, about the city, or written by writers who lived there. For each of the fifteen profiled writers, there is a biographical sketch focusing on his or her relationship to the city and a sense of his or her work, along with a list of St. Petersburg sites associated with the writer and the literary works.
Travelers can wander through the museum where a teenage Vladimir Nabokov romanced his girlfriend and see the prison where Anna Akhmatova was inspired to write her poem about the Great Terror. They can find the statue that comes to life in Pushkins poem The Bronze Horseman and visit the square where Crime and Punishments murderer/hero kneels to ask Gods forgiveness.
The images included are particularly striking: a photo taken in the courtroom where the young Joseph Brodsky made his electrifying defense of his credentials as a poet; a portrait of Akhmatova, a symbol of artistic integrity in the face of the most severe persecution; and documentary photographs spanning the upheavals of twentieth century Russia.
Authors included are: Anna Akhmatova, Andrei Bely, Aleksandr Blok, Joseph Brodsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Daniil Kharms, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mandelstam, Vladimir Nabokov, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Mikhail Zoshchenko.
About the Author
Elaine Blair was born in St. Petersburg. She is on the staff of The New York Review of Books. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The American Scholar, The Nation, Slate, and The Village Voice.