Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Catriona Kelly on St. Petersburg

Below are a few favorite quotations from Catriona Kelly's book, St. Petersburg: Shadows of the Past. See my previous post on the book as well.

"Communist myth was starting to lose the struggle with materialism of a kind inimical to Marxism-Leninism:  the passionate attachment to unconsidered historical triffles."

"You've showed me St. Petersburg, and it was magnificent.  As for Leningrad--I've never seen the place."  Kelly cites a British teacher in the 1980s.

"If Moscow, proverbially, does not believe in tears, Leningrad-Petersburg has never been inclined to notice them."

"Soviet culture was highly integrated, and had a strong drive to homogeneity."

"As Academician Dimitry Likhachev...put it in 1965, few people who had actually seen pre-revolutionary Petrograd would have called it a beautiful city."

"..the late Soviet period was a time of deficit.."

"Given what Antony Cross calls 'the Russian aversion to walking'..."

"From the sea, Leningrad is an appalling city.." Kelly cites a local historian.

"She said as she left," "I would give up everything to be Anna Akhmatova."  "What a silly thing to say, eh?  Everything?  Three windows on the Neva?"  Kelly quotes Ahkmatova, who in turn satirizes Larisa Reisner.

"The city was not built for cars," he concluded.  Kelly cites Colin Thubron, a race-car driver.

"But walking to get somewhere (as opposed to promenading) was a great anti-tradition in this city."

"Just a little more patience, a decade or so, and the factory will find you a flat, and then you can get yourself a family, have children, bring them up."  Kelly cites Vyacheskav Reznov.

"Indeed, the pod'ezd, or entryway, was one of the key sites of Soviet collectivism..."

"In many ways the kitchen was the most 'Soviet' room in the Leningrad apartment."

"In Leningrad literary tradition, the communal dump had a humble but secure niche."

"One might live in squalor in the old centre, but there could be compensations:  'One loo between twelve people, no hot water in the bathroom, and a single stove with four burners.  But in return, the Summer Garden was five minutes' walk away."  Kelly cites the poet Nonna Slepakova.

"It was hard to seem counter-cultural when sitting at a table neatly set with doilies, while one's solicitous mama pressed tea and cakes on guests."

"I owe everything worthwhile in myself to vodka."  Kelly cites Lev Losev.

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