Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  2,028 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Taking place over a short, turbulent period in 1905, "Petersburg" is a colourful evocation of Russia's capital—a kaleidoscope of images and impressions, an eastern window on the west, a symbol of the ambiguities and paradoxes of the Russian character. History, culture and politics are blended and juxtaposed; weather reports, current news, fashions and psychology jostle tog...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 1st 1979 by Indiana University Press (first published 1913)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Petersburg, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Petersburg

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoyevskyAnna Karenina by Leo TolstoyThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Best Russian Literature
58th out of 345 books — 1,351 voters
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleUlysses by James JoyceSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutGravity's Rainbow by Thomas PynchonIf on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
The Shandian Spawn
23rd out of 171 books — 55 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jeffrey Keeten
”Nikolai Apollonovich raised curious eyes toward the immense outline of the Horseman (a shadow had covered him); but now the metal lips were parted in an enigmatic smile.
The storm clouds were rent asunder and, in the moonlight, clouds swirled like the green vapor from melted bronze. For a moment, everything flared: waters, roofs, granite. The face of the Horseman and the bronze laurel wreath flared. And a many-tonned arm extended imperiously. It seemed that the arm was about to move, and that me
As a result in part of it's history, going many years without publication outside of the U.S.S.R., Andrei Bely's Petersburg (first written in 1913, and not translated to English until 1959) is woefully under-read. It is, perhaps, most often read nowadays for the praise it received of Vladimir Nabokov, who ranked it among Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, Joyce's Ulysses, and Kafka's Metamorphosis as the twentieth century's greatest novels. It is deserving of significant praise, though it's...more
Yes, yes Andrei Bely, I shall plunge into your world of candy-coated crayons, supertzar Slavs, and sardine-can ordinance, of a père et fil in merry-go-round pursuit to discover and detonate the bomb. Lauded by Nabo, compressed and expanded, a slyly singsong cavalcade of daydream dalliance, mythomnemonic mayhem, and prancing prickliness, all coated with allusion and fired until the melancholic gloss shimmers like a midnight sun—I am firm in my faith in Davey Boy, clan McClan, clan McDuff, to ligh...more
Whoa. Fucken whoa. Really enjoyable, yet I constantly felt that to really appreciate the depths of this book I should have a 10 year minimum background in Russian literature and a good handle on the cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Fortunately, it doesn't take scholarship to appreciate life's farcical underbelly which Biely upturns with alternating emphasis on humor and pain. Sergey Sergeyevich's failed hanging gave me a whole new appreciation for the underlying ridiculousness of...more
David Lentz
Vladimir Nabokov was half-right when he cited the top four greatest novelists of the 20th century. Joyce and Proust clearly are worthy of their luminous literary prominence. While I admire Kafka and his novels, I would hardly rank him among the top four of the century. Bellow, Faulkner, Barth, Hemingway, Gaddis and Vonnegut, for example, all out-gun either Kafka or Biely in their literary prominence. While I admire Nabokov, too, I also wouldn't rank him in the top four and my best guess is that...more
Scott Laughlin
Jul 27, 2008 Scott Laughlin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Scott by: A 20th Century Russian Classic
The book is quite difficult but amazingly rewarding. You really have to gear up for it, as Bely is employing many of the modernist techniques such as fractured narrative and time. Also, the notes in the back, while amazingly helpful, especially if you have little context for Russia, are so extensive, it's as if you're reading two books at one time. I recommend this wonderful novel for those who simply want to go deeper into Russian Literature. If you have other big books by Tolstoy and Dostoevsk...more
Jose Luis
Es de esos libros mucho más grandes que uno mismo, uno de esos libros que uno duda merecer, de esos que merecen mejores lectores. Como La Dádiva, de Nabokov, merecería un lector experto en literatura rusa, capaz de captar las referencias a Gogol, Dostoievski, Chejov, etc., que llenan la novela. También se pierde mucho en la traducción (Akal o Alfaguara). De todas formas sí se disfruta de una forma de narrar visionaria, un modo de aproximarse a la realidad más capaz de retratarla en su complejida...more
Oct 26, 2007 Matthew rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pip-pip-pop-popovich and people who think Kant is right.
I found an excerpt of this in some random Russian lit reader. Five pages and I was hooked. I scoured bookstores until I finally located it (at the time, I couldn't even find it at Amazon). And I devoured it.

Like the works of Gogol, Bulgakov and Dostoevsky, Bely's writing seems to straddle the line of reality and the absurd. At times blatantly humours, at times deeply philosophical, this book represents what for me is darn close to the ideal novel.
Wonderfully weird. Incredibly Russian. A tongue-in-cheek look at postmodernism (to some extent), but a masterful work of postmodernism in itself. I almost did my thesis on this book...the imagery and insane number of references to anything spherical (a ticking bomb and the rotating, thriving planet are the two driving forces of the story) has stayed with me for years. The translator's notes and the introduction are a MUST read!
A joyful, poetic celebration/explosion of all the wonderful and overdone themes of Russian/Petersburg literature. Unbe-fucking-lievable.

p.s. nabokov called this one of the four great novels of the 20th c. the other three are ulysses, the metamorphosis, and "the first half of" in search of lost time. czech it motherfuckers.
I never did finish this when I was taking a class on the Russian avant-garde: it got much too confusing. My father reminded me it wasn't a surreal but a Symbolist work, but even if that's the case, I was utterly mystified by what the symbols meant!. Still, I give it an honorable mention for having been translated by my professor.
Petersburg, Petersburg!
Sediment of mist, you have pursued me too with idle cerebral play: you are a cruel-hearted tormenter; you are a restless ghost; for years you used to assail me; I would run along your terrible Prospects and my impetus would carry me up on to that cast-iron bridge which starts from the edge of the world and leads to the limitless distance; beyond the Neva, in the green distance of the other world -- the ghosts of islands and houses rose, seducing me with the vain hope that...more
this book will make your mind bend...not very well known because it was prevented from being published during the Soviet Union...Nabakov even said that the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century included Ulysses, Transformation,Petersburg, and the first half of Proust's fairy tale In Search of Lost decide
Vincent Saint-Simon
Oct 08, 2007 Vincent Saint-Simon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: James Joyce lovers
Sirs and Madams,

This is the Ulysses of Russian literature. Besides ushering in their high-modernist period, Bely's masterpiece was also a favorite of Nabokov.


Feb 06, 2008 Ilona rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: russophiles, revolutionaries, filmmakers
Fantastic hard edged, modernist fiction from early 20th century Russia on the brink of Revolution. strange, layered, and highly readable
This book is almost perfect and should be read by everyone.
I really enjoyed reading Petersburg by Andrei Bely. It’s quite long, but it never loses momentum because of the central element in its plot: a young man who’s become mixed up with radical elements at university has been entrusted with a bomb – to kill his own father, who’s a powerful bureaucrat in 1905 Petersburg. And Petersburg – like the rest of Russia – is in political turmoil…

First published in Russia in 1916, Petersburg was (according to Wikipedia) said by Vladimir Nabokov to be one of the...more
Typical Russians: running around the city in strange clothing, storing bombs in sardine tins (I just discovered the joys of canned meat. Kipper snacks, anyone?), parricide (inevitably), recluses (inevitably), black-haired maidens, and other neuroses.

It was perfect in every way, except that it went off on strange rants about things unrelated to anything, reached back time without warning, and ventured into dreams without telling me (I think.) I wanted to step into this book, even if it meant livi...more
Nov 16, 2010 Dwight added it

What an amazing, strange, wonderful, funny, frustrating, magical book. Needless to say, I highly recommend it. So what have you heard about Petersburg? Vladimir Nabokov declared it one of the most important works of the twentieth century, but he also stated no good English translation was available. I have no idea whether or not the 2009 Pushkin Press edition that I read, with translation by John Elsworth, corrects that deficiency. Even if the language onl...more
Spike Gomes
What can I say? This novel is the bomb...
Okay, Apollon Apollonovich would have liked that one... Anyways, it's a must read for anyone with an interest in Russian literature, though I would not recommend it as a jumping off point; it's the distillation of all the greats preceding it, with echos of Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky resounding in the city streets of Petersburg. The edition I read did not have notes, so I probably lost out on much of the wordplay and inside jokes, but those I d...more
Recommended for readers with some background in Russian literature. Not recommended as a first venture into Russian literature or with expectations of a "political thriller" (as the popular genre stands today). This is not a book about "a ticking time bomb" (as the back cover announces) as much as a book about different types of explosive clashes--human relationships, fathers and sons, political ideas, the old guard versus the new order, etc. Approach this book slowly, reading and absorbing each...more
William Dearth
I really enjoyed St. Petersburg. Having traveled there a few years ago, it helped bring this novel to life. Having also witnessed and been a victim of the sinister side of St. Petersburg, it was not difficult to imagine many of the scenes from the novel. I like it when I can revert to visualization when reading a novel. It is quite satisfying to be able to recall the Peter and Paul Fortress, the mighty Neva and Nevsky Prospect while reading this suspenseful novel.

I can't say that I see the claim...more
Грандиозный пример авторской пунктуации, осмысленной и беспощадной. А кроме того (только вот... как же это, позвольте?) — роман в стихах в прозе, аккуратная и тем более значимая точка (пусть и очередная) русской литературы. Каждый абзац, каждое предложение разворачивать осторожно, на цыпочках, — воздастся сполна.
Sep 05, 2007 Zach rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 1905
After learning 19th Russian Historians had to say about the bomb tossed at the carriage of the Russian Tsar, the first defiance against the monarch by terrorists unsupressed by the massive Russian Bear. Bely's Petersburg is a novel with the seizure on the Palace in Moscow where the Tsar hardly scraped the riots as crowds tore in the city streets for his royal heinous, and the reactionary Tsar emerging from the ashes with his great St Petersburg. Where the stolid enforcement on the letter of the...more
"Time sharpens its teeth for everything-it devours body and soul and stone."

This is no ordinary book, and it was a mistake to think I could read it like one.

It is fantastically dense, with layers upon layers of symbolism, history - a very Russian book. Which is appropriate, as it deals with the Russian idea of identity. The unusual style and use of symbols is very off-putting, but you become accustomed to it, if not totally comprehending. I will have to return to this book in the future. It dese...more
The Bronze Horseman descends from his pedestal and goes visiting at night. A young man has a bomb which is given literary expression. Cockroaches crawl beneath wallpaper.

This is St. Petersburg before the revolution. It has a great long street on which are doors with numbers on them, numbers in sequence mind you. It is the capital, but it is not the capital, and if it is not the capital then what is it?
Itai Miller
Jul 09, 2007 Itai Miller rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dostoevsky and Joyce fans
I like it, I like it a lot. But whenever reading Russian literature I just feel like an outsider. I want to enjoy the language and the puns and the clever plays on words that I know I'm missing out on.

There are a few elements missing from this novel, there's a level of developmental suppression. I wouldn't put Biely up with Tolstoy or Dostoevsky but he's definitely underrated and under-read.

Brent Legault
Nabokov called this was one of his favorite novels (along with Anna Karenina and Ulysses) so I felt I should like it more than I did. Perhaps I'm just a fool. Or perhaps I don't always have to recognize the genius of what a genius liked in order to appreciate the genius of that genius.
Jul 28, 2007 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: literature enthusiasts
Shelves: favorites, fiction
For me, the absolute best thing that came out of Russian Lit class. Known as the classic text of Symbolist literature, the story is a layered and exciting maze, with a bomb at the center. Loved it!
God, how do you 'rate' a modernist classic... The love child of Gogol and Beckett. Nabokov rated it above Ulysses. But he was Nabokov, so caveat emptor.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 9783518457160 4 29 Mar 30, 2013 10:31AM  
  • Envy
  • The Petty Demon
  • The Golovlyov Family
  • The Queue
  • The Foundation Pit
  • Moscow to the End of the Line
  • The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
  • Red Cavalry
  • The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)
  • Forever Flowing
  • Generations of Winter
  • Kolyma Tales
  • Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings
  • The Dream Life of Sukhanov
  • Memories of the Future
  • The Case of Comrade Tulayev
  • A School for Fools
  • The Compromise
Andrei Bely was a Russian novelist, poet, theorist, and literary critic. His miasmal and profoundly disturbing novel Petersburg was regarded by Vladimir Nabokov as one of the four greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Nikolai Bugaev was well known for his influential philosophical essays, in which he decried geometry and probability and trumpeted the virtues of hard analysis. Despite — or becau...more
More about Andrey Bely...
The Silver Dove Kotik Letaev The Dramatic Symphony; The Forms Of Art Симфонии Собрание сочинений. Стихотворения и поэмы

Share This Book

“People as such do not exist: they are all 'things conceived” 3 likes
“As ruas de Petersburgo possuem uma propriedade indubitável - a de transformar transeuntes em sombras.” 2 likes
More quotes…