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Andrei Bely
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3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  3,214 Ratings  ·  153 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
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published February 1st 1978 by Indiana University Press (first published 1913)
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Thomas I do not read Russian so I am woefully unqualified to answer the question, but after reading half of the Cournos translation and wondering what I was…moreI do not read Russian so I am woefully unqualified to answer the question, but after reading half of the Cournos translation and wondering what I was missing I switched to Maguire and Malmstead. The Cournos seems almost sketchy compared to M&M. Michael Katz, writing for the Slavic and East European Journal, offers this conclusion: "If someone wants to read Bely's masterpiece and to understand most of it, then learn Russian and read it in the original; if he/she wants to understand some of it, then read Maguire and Malmstead's magisterial annotated, introduced, and reasonably well-translated scholarly edition; and if someone wants just to say that he/she has read Bely's Petersburg for the sake of adding one notch to his cultural gun (or just because Nabokov said it was "one of the greatest masterpieces of twentieth-century prose,") then go read Elsworth's version." (less)
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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 11, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-russians
”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
Dec 01, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A quick note on the four available translations:

The first point is that there are two versions of this novel – the original of 1916 and a later version from 1922. The 1922 version was heavily edited by the author, with significant portions of the text removed, mainly to make it easier to read. He removed many of the more experimental sections, and added clearer structure at the expense of some of his flights of fancy. The shorter version is about 380 pages in the Maguire, the longer is 570 in t
Oct 12, 2015 [P] rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
It is a cliché that all drunk people think that they are wonderful company, that, in the moment, they see in their rambling, slurred, and often nonsensical conversation the brilliant holding forth of a world class orator. Unfortunately for me I have never suffered from this delusion. Whenever I get drunk I am fully aware of myself, fully conscious of the torrents of bullshit pouring from my mouth, I just don’t seem to be able to stop the flow. Something happens when I drink, some kind of mechani ...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 05, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his later years, when Andrei Bely was slowly going mad, he hacked his original text of Petersburg making it twice shorter and endlessly dryer in order to make it readable for proles. I doubt that any proletarian had ever read the novel but somehow this bastardly version had found its way to English translation. And only lately the adequate modern translation of the novel has been published in English.
“Solitary street lamps were metamorphosed into sea creatures with prismatic spines”
Andrei Be
Jul 25, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
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
Dec 25, 2014 Paolo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le stellette sono un po' una media tra l'effettivo piacere della lettura (**) e l'esperienza culturale (****).
Andrej Belyj, pseudonimo di Boris Nikolaevic Bugaev, è stato poeta saggista e critico, esponente della corrente del simbolismo russo, attiva nei primi decenni del XX secolo.
Il libro viene scritto nel 1912 - 13 e descrive l'atmosfera della Pietroburgo percorsa dai fremiti rivoluzionari del 1905.

Il libro si può a fatica definire romanzo: lo definirei meglio una specie di affresco poetico
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
Nov 12, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 08, 2008 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
David Lentz
Jun 20, 2011 David Lentz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 28, 2008 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is almost perfect and should be read by everyone.
Edmond Dantes
Mar 12, 2014 Edmond Dantes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Danzando sull'abisso si potrebbe sottotitolare, se fosse un romanzo di appendice e non un capolavoro della letteratura russa (e unicversale) ante- rivoluzione. Un mondo è alla fine, la nebbia ancora non permette di vedere che succederà, certamente nulla di buono, l'Olandese Volante è pronto a fare base a Pietroburgo come, fra non molti anni, il diavolo a Mosca...- Meno sociologia e più letteratura se si vuol ceracre di capire dove parerà il mondo !!! Chapeau Ripellino per la traduzione (ma del r ...more
Scott Laughlin
Jul 27, 2008 Scott Laughlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 26, 2007 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 20, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 08, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2008 Yulia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russky
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.
Oct 15, 2010 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 10, 2016 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Petersburg, published in 1916 and set in 1905, is a work of genius, an obvious masterpiece. Modernist before modernism. But I might not be the right reader for modernism. I struggled to finish Ulysses, loving some of it, admiring much, and wondering when is he going to wrap up this little experiment through other parts of it. Petersburg is not the struggle to understand that Ulysses is but if your bias is to story you will get impatient with writing where the story is less important than voice, ...more
Jun 12, 2011 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Bely, Andrei. PETERSBURG. (Russia, 1916; this translation, 1995). **.
This translation was by David McDuff for Penguin Publications of what is called a long-neglected masterpiece. The translation, as far as I can tell, is an excellent one, but must have been most difficult. This is a kind of novel that revolves around the happenings of one single day. The basic plot is that the son of a diplomat, Nikolai Apollonovich, has been chosen to assassinate a high ranking official – his father, Apollon A
Jul 22, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, fiction
"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
Apr 23, 2008 Meagan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 06, 2008 Ilona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Vincent Saint-Simon
Oct 08, 2007 Vincent Saint-Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.



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
Nico Lee
Oct 04, 2016 Nico Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, that took some time to read in a hideously busy couple of months... Some lovely lyrical passages, wry humour and I enjoyed it more than everyone's other favourite ticking time bomb caper Conrad's The Secret Agent. I did trip up on the Russian names at one point and conflated two characters. Doh! Went back and realised my mistake- must stop reading just before the head hits the pillow.
Sep 05, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c20th, russia
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
Daniel Polansky
I saw something which called Bely the Russian Joyce, and I was like, yes, sign me up for that one. But after six hundred pages, six hundred pages which went by like a root canal performed by a dentist with delerium tremens, I wish I hadn't. Not that the analogy is entirely inapt – both writers have a fascination with place, and with language at its most basic, that is to say with sound, and both enjoy intertwining earthy, almost silly sorts of humor with immense erudition. But I loved Ulysses an ...more
Spike Gomes
Nov 11, 2012 Spike Gomes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 25, 2011 MountainShelby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
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
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 9783518457160 4 33 Mar 30, 2013 10:31AM  
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Boris Bugaev was born in Moscow, into a prominent intellectual family. His father, Nikolai Bugaev, was a leading mathematician who is regarded as a founder of the Moscow school of mathematics. His mother was not only highly intelligent but a famous society beauty, and the focus of considerable gossip. Young Boris was a polymath whose interests included mathematics, music, philosophy, and literatur ...more
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“People as such do not exist: they are all 'things conceived” 10 likes
“As ruas de Petersburgo possuem uma propriedade indubitável - a de transformar transeuntes em sombras.” 1 likes
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