Andrei Bely's novel Petersburg is considered one of the four greatest prose masterpieces of the 20th century. In this new edition of the best-selling translation, the reader will have access to the translators' detailed commentary, which provides the necessary historical and literary context for understanding the novel, as well as a foreword by Olga Matich, acclaimed scholar of Russian literature.

Set in 1905 in St. Petersburg, a city in the throes of sociopolitical conflict, the novel follows university student Nikolai Apollonovich Ableukhov, who has gotten entangled with a revolutionary terrorist organization with plans to assassinate a government official-Nikolai's own father, Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov. With a sprawling cast of characters, set against a nightmarish city, it is all at once a historical, political, philosophical, and darkly comedic novel.


It was a dreadful time, in truth,
Of it still fresh the recollection …
Of it, my friends, I now for you
Begin my comfortless narration.
Lugubrious will be my tale



Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov was of venerable stock: he had Adam as his ancestor. But that is not the main thing: it is more important that one member of this venerable stock was Shem, progenitor of the Semitic, Hessitic, and red-skinned peoples.

Here let us make a transition to ancestors of an age not so remote.

Their place of residence was the Kirghiz-Kaisak Horde, whence, in the reign of the Empress Anna Ioannovna, Mirza Ab-Lai, the great-greatgrandfather of the senator, valiantly entered the Russian service, having received, upon Christian baptism, the name Andrei and the sobriquet Ukhov. For brevity’s sake, Ab-Lai-Ukhov was later changed to Ableukhov, plain and simple.

This was the great-great-grandfather who was the source of the stock.

A lackey in gray with gold braid was flicking the dust off the writing table with a feather duster. A cook’s cap peeped through the open door.

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