Simple stories of Petersburg madness: Natalia Sokolovskaya's version

Simple stories of Petersburg madness: Natalia Sokolovskaya's version
5 April , 17:06Culture
Everything that Natalia Sokolovskaya writes is somehow connected with St. Petersburg. More often directly - the action of her books takes place in this city.

But even if the action goes beyond its limits, St. Petersburg still shines through what is happening - in its image or simply in its special, St. Petersburg attitude to life.


As a statement, this may sound abstract, but in the prose of Natalia Sokolovskaya it acquires quite definite features. Her new book "Long Happy Morning" (St. Petersburg: Limbus Press. Publishing House of K. Tublin. 2021 ) is evidence of this. After reading all the stories and stories of which it consists, it seems that the entire city toponymy is captured on its pages.

In the story that gave the book its title, Emmanuel, a Leningradian, hears, in the early June morning of 1941, through a receiver receiving European broadcasts, a message about the beginning of the war. The Soviet people have yet to learn about this. And Emmanuel has to somehow live the morning with his beloved wife and two little daughters - the morning is still serene for them - already realizing how dramatically their common life will change now. And he goes to look for support in this difficult knowledge from his city:

“The city was empty and beautiful. Curtains quietly moved in the open windows. He turned from his Michurinskaya onto Kuibyshev and walked towards Kirovsky Prospekt. Near the Kshesinskaya palace, he was overtaken and overtaken by two watering machines following each other. The wind blew from the Neva, as always. The spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral burned in the gentle rays of the rising sun. At the stop, several people were waiting for the tram. The bread van passed. From Gorky Street, he turned to the People's House, rounded it to the left and broke a cold purple lilac on the bank of the channel.

Nothing special seems to have been said, but, apparently, this toponymy, in a naming way, contains in itself both strength, and originality, and intrigue. Teachers like to ask students at exams on which street Raskolnikov lived and where exactly the ghost of Akaki Akakievich tore his overcoats from passers-by. These are not empty names, and one feels that the author is aware of the chain in which he becomes a link. It is no coincidence that the literary critic Yelena Ivanitskaya writes in the preface: "Natalia Sokolovskaya narrates at the intersection of documentary, memoir, realistic and symbolic."

Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad-Petersburg appears in her book not only in spatial, but also in temporal extent. This is most clearly manifested, perhaps, in the final story “Letters. The story of one madness". This city has always had the ability to determine by itself - by all avenues, embankments, gardens and canals - the life of its inhabitants. In the same story, the modern life of the heroes is literally programmed not even by the city as a whole, but by its one house - "a luxurious building built at the beginning of the last century in the center of the city by a famous St. Petersburg architect." This building houses a publishing house, the owner of which shamelessly takes advantage of the fact that its employees are ready to endure a lot for the opportunity to work in this house, which looks like a castle with a carved cast-iron fence from Perrault's fairy tales, and publish these very books.

“Of all the types of neuroses that the human race is subject to, for the time being we were not threatened by one - the one that arises in the absence of meaningful goals. We could live for months, receiving only a third of the salary. We could run into debt and loans to raise children. We could dream of sales, in order to somehow update our wardrobe, and again miss them, because the next expected payment did not follow... All this did not concern the bastion called "the meaning of life". Books were our motivation, salary and bonus at the same time". This meaning, absolutized and driving to madness, as a glove fit into the image of St. Petersburg, in what, and only in the madness of the one who knows a lot. And it is extremely interesting to see how simple stories told in the book of Natalia Sokolovskaya are interwoven into this mighty sense - not of the madness of St. Petersburg, but of this great city in general.

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