A novelist living in St. Petersburg (Russia) reflects on the city and the fiction it has produced:

It’s a city with a very, very strong sense of destiny and I think the literature reflects that … Living here is like an itch. There is something troubling you – troubling your sleep, troubling your dreams. When you’re a writer you’re sort of juggling all these things that fall into your hands and not really knowing quite what to do with them but they’re bothering you all the time.

(Via Things Magazine.)

Also via Things Magazine: a former Russian prison guard drew copies of prisoners’ tattoos, and they are collected in a 166-page book. “The tattoos are taken very seriously, he says, and if a prisoner has a tattoo that he doesn’t merit, he can be badly beaten or even killed.”

The deadline for the Summer 2004 St. Petersburg Summer Literary Seminars is February 28, 2004. The fiction judge is Francine Prose; the poetry judge is Edward Hirsch.

The Unfinished City,” an essay about St. Petersburg from the director of the program, contemplates the city at its tercentennial:

St. Petersburg’s greatest peculiarity lies in its inherent unchangeability. Renamed, re-renamed, and then renamed twice more, it has managed to remain essentially the same throughout, ever since the suppositional end of its presumptive infancy — the stage of life it has never known, having sprung to adulthood in a quantum leap, as it were, of frenetic skyline-forging activity. It was born fully formed, already unmistakably itself.

In that respect, it presents a stark contrast with Moscow. Moscow, at the ripe age of 854 (if the old chronicles are to be trusted), is still evolving, changing constantly, forever reinventing itself.

An editorial from The Manila Times quotes Doestoevsky and Gogol on St. Petersburg:

Dostoevsky railed against the “corrupted Petersburg intelligentsia” that did not measure up to the “incomparably more genuine Russian people.”

Gogol, for his part, said that the “idea of the city is emptiness taken to the highest degree.”

Here’s a page of apartments for rent in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

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