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Petersburg: Poetic and prosaic

A new book explores facets of St. Petersburg from dark episodes in its history to modern Russian women.

Published: January 23, 2013 (Issue # 1743)



  • The cover of City-Pick St. Petersburg.
    Photo: FOR SPT

A cultural guide to St. Petersburg that was published in October by Academia Rossica in cooperation with Oxygen Books in London, City-Pick St. Petersburg offers a fascinating view of Russias northern capital as seen by more than sixty writers, poets, dancers and artists from different eras.

It is an essential read slip it into your bag alongside a Rough Guide, is the advice to readers from Waterstones Books Quarterly, a literary magazine published by the U.K. book retailer Waterstones.

While a classic guidebook serves travelers up heaps of helpful practicalities, from ideas for quick refuels between sightseeing and water taxi schedules to skating rink locations and warnings about pickpockets favorite hangouts, City-Pick St. Petersburg offers readers a wealth of different flavors of St. Petersburg, creating a fabulous sense of the city. Flipping through the pages, the reader is presented with a diverse and beautiful portrait of the city, and a fair idea of what St. Petersburg is about.

Along the canals, the globes of the street lamps throw pale circles onto the pastel walls; in the deserted Square of the Decembrists, the Bronze Horseman looks lost, the only complex, human form in the middle of a vast geometric space, standing out in the mist made of mingled water and sky, the receding perspectives of the palaces converging on the shining spire of the Peter and Paul Fortress, reads an excerpt from a 1987 essay by French journalist and travel writer Olivier Rolin.

A rather different image of the city comes from an essay by the British writer Duncan Fallowell, the author of One Hot Summer in St. Petersburg. St. Isaacs balloons ahead, the cross mounted on an anchor at its apex (anchors and tritons are everywhere in St. Petersburg), he writes. This is the almightiest cathedral in the city, with Samsonic columns to prove it outside, and within an opulence of malachite and lapis lazuli and harlequinades of colored glass.

Divided into nine chapters, the anthology interweaves memoirs and diaries with fiction and documentary prose as well as historical essays and travelers notebooks.

Incorporated in the book are short fragments from the novels of some of Russias greatest writers, including Leo Tolstoys War And Peace, Ivan Goncharovs Oblomov, Fyodor Dostoyevskys The Idiot and Alexander Pushkins The Captains Daughter.

The lions share of the anthology, however, is devoted to much more recent writing, encompassing the prose of Vladimir Nabokov and Andrei Bitov, and the recollections of poet and Novel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky, composer Sergei Prokofiev and filmmaker Alexander Sokurov.

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Thursday, Apr. 17


Expocenter Eurasia at 13 Ulitsa Kapitan Voronin is the sight of Goods on the Way, a five-day event starting today showcasing the latest in the industrial products industry. Bags, backpacks, swimsuits and much, much more will be available to attendees hoping to update not only their style but their accessories for the upcoming summer.


Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldnt miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norways largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.