Thursday, September 9, 2010
As I read Petersburg, first published in 1916, I probably could use a few more annotations, as there are so many references that if you aren't fully knowledgeable of the events that surrounded the 1905 uprising, you will find yourself missing a lot of them. My overall sense of the novel is that Andrei Bely was channeling Gogol while setting his characters against each other like chess pieces. Each chapter seems to represent a "move," or series of moves, leading toward a fateful ending. I can see why this is one of Nabokov's favorite books from the 20th century, as it has much of the sardonic wit and clever juxtaposition of characters that you read in Nabokov's books.
A new translation by John Elsworth apparently breathes more life into the novel. I have been reading the Cournos translation, which I haven't found that stilted, as Katya Galitzine notes in her review of the book, but am curious to read the Elsworth translation as he goes back to the "more complex 1913 version" of the novel. Here's an audio interview with John Elsworth from The Leonard Lopate Show.
Here's a set of reflections by Nikolai Berdyaev regarding Bely's Petersburg, which he describes as an Astral Novel, written in 1916.
The painting is Manifesto of October 17th, 1905 by Ilya Repin