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St Petersburg


Literature of St Petersburg

Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment (for a taste of the city's oppressive heat and inhuman logic), but also The Double (a brilliant tale of a man becoming progressively immmersed in his own alternative reality), The Idiot (another murder, more madness, more oppressive Petersburg streets), and White Nights

Andrey Bely:
St Petersburg (Symbolist, pre-Modernist novel about a bomb, written by a Muscovite in 1913/1922; explodes the relations between cause and effect, cosnciousness and reality, and son and father)

Alexander Pushkin:
The Queen of Spades (ambitious young officer forces old woman to impart the secret of the three cards which he thinks will make his fortune; she dies of shock, he loses everything, including his sanity)

Daniil Kharms:
The Old Woman (another distillation of the essence of the city: another old woman dies in the company of a young man; see my translation at )

Writings about St Petersburg

Joseph Brodsky: Guide to a Renamed City, One and a Half Rooms (two vivid depictions of the experience of living, walking, and thinking in a city which is divorced from common reality)

any book on
the Siege of Leningrad (in an attempt to get to grips with the unimaginable and impossible)

Lindsey Hughes
Peter the Great

John Nicolson:
The Other St Petersburg (an unconventional guide to the city and its inhabitants; sorry, this is me plugging my own book, but, although written 20 years ago, it hasn't gone out of date - so there must be something to it)

and also: my website (another attempt to wrestle to the ground the city's idiosyncrasies); as a taster, try the following links: