This book by Andrei Bely should really have followed Ulysses because the city of St Petersburg is a character in itself and of course the book takes its name from Russia’s old capital. The sense of the Neva, the fog and the numerous bridges and the limitless facades of buildings provides a picture of a city that is grand but on the edge of a swamp that could consume it at any time.
Bullet points between pages 1 – 36
* The principle characters in the first chapter are a senator, his son and a stranger who you suspect plans to throw a bomb at the senators carriage to make a political point but all of this builds up in fragments
* The senator Apollon Apollonovich is 68-year-old man who is head of a department and therefore successful but his wife left him five years earlier running off with an Italian singer and Russia is in flux
* The year 1905 marks the loss against the Japanese, rising troubles for the Tsar and you sense this with a few comments and the presence of a stranger and whisperings of a terrible act being undertaken as a ‘provocation’
* But there appears to be a link between the stranger and the senator’s son Nikolai who does not get up until midday and seems to have been unlucky in love roaming the streets at night recalling how a lost love ended – you get the idea she might have jumped off a bridge
* But the chapter ends with the stranger again being placed centre stage of not just the senator’s mind but also of the readers
Just what will happen should start to unfold tomorrow and with any luck I won’t forget to take the book to work and will get through more pages…