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St Petersburg Paperback – 1959


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Grove; (7th) edition (1959)
  • ASIN: B001NF0XMQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,411,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on August 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
...tick tick tick.....this is Turgenev's Fathers and Sons written after the modernist floodgates had been opened. My version of this has a Kandinsky on the cover and that is the perfect emblem to front this Russian avante garde revolution of a book. There is in it a live time bomb waiting to go off. It takes awhile to get used to Biely's unusual way with words(and I have no idea if this is a translation thing or not) but once you catch his rhythms it is a great read. We live in a much more settled civilization than the one this author experienced and documents but if you like to read things that remind you that culture occasionally does undergo monumental shifts, this is one of those works. Not perfection to our postmodernist ears but strange music indeed. Boom.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. Crabtree VINE VOICE on August 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
I own the Grove Press, 1959, hardcover edition of this book which I personally consider, in a word, magnificent. But I also wished to share my thoughts about Biely's superb novel here at the "softcover edition" site. This fictional account was artfully translated by John Cournos who also wrote an outstanding eight-page introduction to the book. Also included in this particular edition is an informative four-page foreword (essentially, an Andrey Biely mini-biography) by George Reavey.

Anyone who is remotely interested in first-class literature in general, or in top Russian novels in particular can hardly afford not to read Andrey Biely's (born Boris Bugayev) intriguing account of a wild two-day period in 1905 St. Petersburg. Of course this is a crucial era of Russia's history because late that year a devastating general worker strike coupled with revolutionary riots transpired in this Russian Capitol. The insurrection was eventually quashed by Tsar Nicholas II's military forces but the episode was clearly a prophetic warm-up for the brutal 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

The backdrop of 1905 St. Petersburg is notably integral to the story chiefly because it gives rise to the absolute credibility of sequential fictional incidents as they are related here. The St. Petersburg of this epoch flaunted a society, comprised of multiple divergent cultures and classes of people, most of whom were completely out of control. As Colin Wilson shrewdly asserted in his book Rasputin and the fall of the Romanovs: Colin Wilson. --, [paraphrasing here] "...all the men were intriguers and all the women were hysterical.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on November 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
It was Vladimir Nabokov's opinion that this novel is "One of the four great masterpieces of twentieth-century prose," in company with The Metamorphosis, Ulysses and Remembrance of Things Past. Andrey Bely (or Biely, I've found it spelled both ways) was the pen name of Boris Nikolayevich Bugayev. He was a leading figure of the Symbolist movement in pre-Revolutionary Russia and, in addition to Nabokov, influenced Boris Pasternak and Yevgeny Zamyatin, among others. St. Petersburg is certainly as innovative as the other works Nabokov ranks it with, using characters and even geography as allegorical symbols for ideas, and written in a nearly stream-of-consciousness prose. But to my very pleasant surprise, it is much more enjoyable than these other touchstones of Modernism.
The action of the novel, and happily there is some action, occurs over the course of two days in 1905, when Russia, having lost the War with Japan, was wracked by strikes, conspiracy, violence and near revolution. Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov is an elderly, but still devoted, Tsarist bureaucrat. His dilettantish son, Nikolai, who is dabbling in radical politics, has been given the task of murdering his own father; the chosen weapon, improbably enough, a bomb in a sardine tin. Just as the city of St. Petersburg--Peter the Great's "window on the West"--represents the point where the rational West meets the savage and mystical Orient, so this confrontation between father and son represents impending conflict between European reason and Asiatic barbarism, and the bomb itself represents the indiscriminately destructive forces about to be brought to bear on the decaying Tsarist state.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Ferguson VINE VOICE on October 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
Andrei Biely takes Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman as the literary basis for this novel, creating a similar tension in the strikes of 1905 that Pushkin did with the 1824 flood in his famous poem. Here we see son pitted against father as a shadowy group of anarchists plot to kill Nikolai Apollonovich, a respected nobleman in Petersburg. At the same time the elder Apollonovich tries to come to terms with the distance that has grown between him and his son and the fractuous nature of a government seemingly in a death spiral. Bely is not content to play this story straight, taking a Symbolist approach to the novel that will probably vex many readers, but creates a marvelously passionate account of events, with numerous misunderstandings complicating situations.

What struck me about this novel, is how it not only forshadowed James Joyce crowning achievement, Ulysses, but that of the later "Post-Modernists," who seem really nothing more than latter day Symbolists, after reading this novel. Joyce would have had no access to this novel, so in no way did it influence his work, but Petersburg was translated by Cournos in 1959, which would have made it available to many of the leading post-modern writers. Biely draws on the works of Blake and Ciurlionis, among others, in creating this vibrant novel, that actually makes you experience colors and sensations, which Nabokov notes. Biely was great friends with Alexander Blok, and is mentioned in Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago.
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