November 9, 2012 7:32 pm

Cultural orientation

A collection of writing that gives an impressionistic and captivating introduction to the Russian city

City-pick St Petersburg, edited by Heather Reyes, Oxygen, RRP£9.99, 272 pages

 

From Gogol’s lively descriptions to Miranda Sawyer’s journalistic reflections, this collection of writing on St Petersburg gives an impressionistic introduction to the Russian city. The intention is to capture mood, ambience and history that might complement a guidebook.

Nobel laureate and native son Joseph Brodsky, exiled by the Soviets, reflects on the city’s rich heritage while writers from Nabokov to the dissident Andrei Makine offer differing perspectives of its modern history. But the collection also includes a wealth of non-Russian writers. While John Reed’s account of the storming of the Winter Palace is an obvious inclusion, extracts from Malcolm Bradbury’s To the Hermitage and Helen Dunmore’s The Siege are illuminating, and Truman Capote’s 1957 sortie to help bring Porgy and Bess to the city is an unexpected delight.

Together, these extracts offer a substantive cultural orientation for any actual or armchair visitor to the city.

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