city-Pick: St Petersburg

by

Heather Reyes, Marina Samsonova & James Rann (editors)

by

Heather Reyes, Marina Samsonova & James Rann (editors)

It’s not hard to see why Oxygen Books’ city-Pick series continues to go from strength to strength: these snappy literary collages of the world’s most written-about cities combine erudition with inspiration, bookishness with approachability, and an near-encyclopaedic range of reference with a canny appreciation for whatever it is that would make you want to visit a city in the first place. It’s like having a playlist of all the bits of books that you’d want to read before you visited a place, but would never have the time or energy to find on your own.

St Petersburg, the subject of the latest instalment, might be an intimidating prospect - it’s the city of Dostoevski, Gogol and Pushkin, of revolution and siege and excess and multiple renamings – but the writing collected here makes it glow. There are the classics, obviously, but as with other city-pick selections, the best bits are the writers you’d never otherwise have heard of, or that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the city. Here you can find Truman Capote visiting with a touring production of Porgy and Bess in the fifties, Malcolm Bradbury making a fantasy date with Catherine the Great, H.G. Wells witnessing the difficult birth pangs of Communism, and J M Coetzee reimagining the life of Dostoevski. You’ll also find exclusive translations of Russian writers, harrowing accounts of the 900-day blockade that starved the city in World War Two, and wryly astonished accounts of the glitzy post-Soviet present. There’s only one drawback to this kind of literary smorgasbord: if you weren’t already planning to, it makes you desperately want to visit the city it celebrates.

 

Publisher: Oxygen Books

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