“Petersburg Tales: Nevsky Prospect” by Nikolai Gogol
(First publication: 1835 / This edition: Alma Classics 2014)
Taken at the monument to Catherine the Great at Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg
There is nothing to compare with Nevsky Prospect, at least not in St. Petersburg, where it embodies everything. There is no end to the glamour of this street—the belle of our capital city! I know that not one of its pale and high-ranking residents would exchange Nevsky Prospect for the world. (pg.3)
Hello from St. Petersburg! I got here on September 22nd late at night, after a 10-hour flight from Bangkok, a 4-hour wait at the Moscow airport, and actually running to our plane (for St. Petersburg) literally three minutes before it took off due to a gate change we did not realize. So glad we actually made it on schedule.
Anyway, so today was my second full day in St. Petersburg and I just want to show a few of my photos. I have taken about a thousand by now, so here are just a few. We’ve already covered most of the “must-see” places in the main part of the city, but I want to cover “Nevsky Prospect” in this post!
First of all, about this book—Nikolai Gogol is a beloved writer of St. Petersburg. This is my first time reading his work. Rambling—I actually got this book back in May this year, wayyy before my mom even got the idea of coming to Russia in her mind. It was sort of a “random” purchase—I was just interested in reading something by Gogol. I didn’t even make the connection that “Petersburg” referred to the city OF “St. Petersburg” since I didn’t even know he was from here—yes, it was a completely random pick. And after the purchase, it was just sitting in my shelves for months until my mom decided about a week before our flight that she wanted to come to St. Petersburg. Maybe it was a sign. Ooh.
Once my mom started getting excited about coming, she kept telling me about all the places we have to go see—and about how there’s “this one big main road that’s 4 kilometers long called Nevsky Prospect”. When I did my own research and booked our hotel, I realized then too that “Nevsky Prospect” does seem to have this big importance to the city as it is pretty much the main tree trunk and everything else just seems to branch off of it.
And then, surprise, surprise, the first time I open up this Gogol’s “Petersburg Tales” book, the first story is titled: Nevsky Prospect.
There are four tales in this collection: “Nevsky Prospect”, “The Nose”, “The Overcoat”, and “Diary of a Madman”. I’ve only read “Nevsky Prospect”.
I started reading it on the plane from Bangkok. And naturally, it boosted up my excitement so much I just wished the captain could speed up the flying. I think my wishing worked, because we arrived an hour earlier than expected. 😉
The short story (55 pages) talks about the life of this road, Nevsky Prospect. The narrator goes into great details about the nature of Nevsky Prospect—the people you see, the different lives that use it daily, the encounters, the stereotypes of its inhabitants, the beat and the movements… The story then follows two different encounters.
Indeed, is there anyone it doesn’t delight? The moment you step on Nevsky Prospect there is an air of pure conviviality. You may be on some vital, pressing errand, but you will most likely forget all about it once you have taken that step. (pg.3)
I would recommend it if you’re coming to St. Petersburg. 😉 I don’t think I would be that into it if I weren’t coming—it’s a beautiful story, but I wouldn’t really be able to picture or understand what is so “magical” and “romantic” about Nevsky Prospect until I actually saw it with my own eyes.
Anyway, enough about the book—I want to show some of my photos!
Above: Singer House, also known as the House of Books. The corner is the Dom Knigi bookstore—there is an alright selection of English books, especially of Russian authors. Very expensive though, so I didn’t get any.
Above: I hunted down this old bookstore mentioned in my guidebook. It’s called “Staraya Kniga” on Nevsky 3, hidden away in a courtyard. But unfortunately, it was closed—looks like a forever-kind-of-closed, too. So here’s a photo with the bookstore sign as my consolation prize.
Above: We had an amazing, stomach-bursting dinner at Gosti. Surprisingly, the decorations were very bookish! It was love at first sight. And the cream of salmon soup with red salmon caviar and sour cream was love at first taste, too.
Will post more photos from my trip later! Loving this city so far! 🙂
Here are some of my favorite lines from the story “Nevsky Prospect”:
It lies at any time of day, this Nevsky Prospect, but most of all it lies when night cloaks it with its thick layer and picks out the white and pale-yellow walls of the houses, when the whole city turns into boom and glitter, myriads of carriages spill down from the bridges, postilions shout and bounce up and down on their houses, and when the Devil himself lights up the street lamps solely to disclose everything, but not as it really is. (pg.55)
How strangely, how mystifyingly does our fate toy with us! Do we ever obtain what we desire? Do we ever achieve what our powers seem to be deliberately conditioned for? Everything happens the wrong way around. Fate has given one person beautiful horses, on which he rides nonchalantly without even noticing their beauty, whilst another, whose heart burns with a passion for horses, goes on foot and contents himself with clicking his tongue when a trotter is led by. (pg.53)