- Reading level: 18+ years
- Paperback: 624 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (25 August 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141191740
- ISBN-13: 978-0141191744
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.9 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,28,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Petersburg (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 25 Aug 2011
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
The most important, most influential and most perfectly realized Russian novel written in the twientieth century. (The New York Times Book Review)
The one novel that sums up the whole of Russia. (Anthony Burgess)
About the Author
Andrei Beley (born Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev) was born 26 October 1880. Beley was educated at Moscow University where he studied science and philosophy, before turning his focus to literature. In 1904 he published his first collection of poems, Gold in Azure, which was followed in 1909 by his first novel, The Silver Dove. Beley's most famous novel, Petersburg, was pubilshed in 1916. His work is considered to have heavily influenced several literary schools, most notably Symbolism, and his impact on Russian writing has been compared to that of James Joyce on the English speaking world.
Adam Thirlwell (b.1978) studied English at New College, Oxford, and was subsequently elected as a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford in 1999. In 2003 his first novel, Politics, won the Betty Trask Award, and Miss Herbert, published in 2007, won the Somerset Maugham Award. Thirlwell's third novel, The Escape, was published in September 2009.
David McDuff was educated at the University of Edinburgh and has translated a number of works for Penguin Classics, including Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter mobile phone number.
|5 star (0%)|
|4 star (0%)|
|3 star (0%)|
|2 star (0%)|
|1 star (0%)|
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The novel takes place over a short period of time in the autumn of 1905. Although Russian cultural activity was gaining more and more prominence on an international scale, political and social unrest were on the rise domestically. Demand for reform was rampant, and even outright revolution was being advocated in some circles. Commencing in January 1905, a series of strikes, assassinations, and uprisings had occurred. The widespread feeling among the populace that the old values were inadequate for a burgeoning modernity, and that Russia was teetering on the edge of an abyss, becomes apparent early in the novel in this beautifully poetic passage:
From the fecund time when the metallic Horseman had galloped hither, when he had flung his steed upon the Finnish granite, Russia was divided in two. Divided in two as well were the destinies of the fatherland. Suffering and weeping, Russia was divided in two, until the final hour.
Russia, you are like a steed! Your two front hooves have leaped far off into the darkness, into the void, while your two rear hooves are firmly implanted in the granite soil. (64)
As Maguire and Malmstad note, this prophetic meditation on Russia's destiny is similar to several lines in Pushkin's poem, The Bronze Horseman. Both Bely and Pushkin raise the issue stemming from Peter the Great's Westernizing innovations: had Peter's western influences detached Russia from her native traditions and divided her in two, the peasants on the one hand and the Westernized elite on the other, setting her on an unknown course that would eventually lead to destruction?
The plot is rather simple, a political thriller paced by a ticking time bomb that Nikolai Apollonovich Ableukhov, a university student who has become entangled in a revolutionary terrorist organization, agrees to plant in his father's house, the senator, Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov. Underlying the apparent simplicity, however, is a very complex text with intricately woven plots and subplots on many levels. Petersburg is suspenseful, socially relevant, political, psychological, philosophical, and historical, and loose ends come together in the myriad of characters who populate the novel, ranging from the powerful and privileged to the poor and discontented, through whom Bely paints a vivid picture of Petersburg society. There are double agents, terrorists, journalists, secret police, government officials, and society people. Peter the Great is himself evoked through the images of the Bronze Horseman and the Flying Dutchman. Many characters confront a personal crisis: the family crisis triggered by his wife's flight to Spain with her Italian lover in the case of the senator; the love crisis of his son, Nikolai Apollonovich, as a result of his broken relationship with Sofia Petrovna; and the consciousness crises experienced by both Nikolai, who has rejected Kant, and Dudkin, who has become disillusioned with Nietzsche, each searching for a new meaning in life. These personal crises are intensified by, and representative of, the real social, political and governmental crises within Russia herself.
As a paradigm of Russian Symbolism, with no omniscient narrator, Bely demands that his readers be attentive, astute, and perceptive. Using synecdoche as a mode of expression, Bely often will not provide an image as a whole-we see a piece of attire, a prominent feature, a segment:
Rolling toward them down the street were many-thousand swarms of bowlers. Rolling toward them were top hats, and the froth of ostrich feathers.
Noses sprang out from everywhere. (178)
Earlier in the novel, Bely depicts another crowd scene:
Contemplating the flowing silhouettes, Apollon Apollonovich likened them to shining dots. One of these dots broke loose from its orbit and hurtled at him with dizzying speed, taking the form of an immense crimson sphere-
-among the bowlers on the corner, he caught sight of a pair of eyes. And the eyes expressed the inadmissible. They recognized the senator, and, having recognized him, they grew rabid, dilated, lit up, and flashed. (14)
The present is chaos, precariously moving on an apocalyptic path. Apollon Apollonovich recognizes the chaos and sees the crowd in fragments because of his sense of isolation and vulnerability in a Russia at the brink of radical change. The dots and spheres also form a leitmotif through which the apocalyptic themes of the novel are presented. The sphere is crimson, a color associated with revolution and danger. An ominous feeling, together with a sense of apprehension and disorientation, permeates the novel. The sense of insecurity we experience as we read through the novel parallels the sense of insecurity the inhabitants of 1905 Petersburg must have endured.