In his novel “Petersburg”, Andrey Bely, a Russian modernist writer who was active in the early 20th century tells the story of a young man named Nikolai Apollonovich Ableukhov who is drawn into a complex web of political intrigue and personal conflict in the city of St. Petersburg.
The story of the novel revolves around Nikolai’s involvement in a revolutionary plot to assassinate a high-ranking government official. Along the way, he becomes involved with a cast of characters who are all vying for power and influence in the city. These characters include his own father, a wealthy merchant; his sister, who is engaged to a powerful politician; and a group of radical revolutionaries who are plotting the assassination.
As the novel progresses, Nikolai becomes increasingly disillusioned with the revolution and the people he has become involved with. He struggles with feelings of guilt and betrayal and ultimately decides to turn his back on the plot and flee the city.
“Petersburg” is notable for its innovative use of stream of consciousness narration, which allows the reader to experience the inner thoughts and emotions of the characters. It is also notable for its depiction of the political and social turmoil of the time, which was a reflection of the tumultuous period in which it was written.
Considered Andrei Bely’s masterpiece, Petersburg, is a pioneering modernist novel, ranked in importance alongside Ulysses, The Metamorphosis, and In Search of Lost Time. Through exploring themes of history, identity, and family, and drawing on news, fashion, psychology, and ordinary people, Bely succeeds in creating a distinctive and timeless literary triumph.