Pushkin: A Biography

Pushkin: A Biography

Pushkin: A Biography

Pushkin: A Biography

Excerpt

It was not a city but an accumulation of disparate villages filled with religious buildings, and wholly charming. Old country mansions, overgrown with foliage and weeds, stood next to new and lordly palaces, with façades like Greek temples. Churches thrust their multicolored cupolas above the rows of huts built of brick and wood and painted milky white. The streets were seas of dust. Almost everywhere miraculous icons kept watch from under dark porches, over everyone's salvation. The sky would be shattered from time to time by a fearful ringing of bells, and a cloud of pigeons would wheel across the sun and then disappear into a hole in some wall, or else take refuge under the bluish-green eaves of some monastery.

In the heart of the city the Kremlin, dominating the curve of the Moskova, reared its massive red walls, the crenellations of which were cut out in the form of swallowtails. Behind the fortifications loomed a chaos of golden bulbs that looked like wrinkled turbans, watchtowers with parapets of emerald faience, sugar-loaf cathedrals, two-headed eagles, and openwork orthodox crosses, furbished with little chains. Around the Kremlin was a conglomeration of open-air markets, chapels with caplike domes, busy populous quarters, and dark shops. People lingered in front of the fruitstands piled high with apples and watermelons. The men wore blouses and high boots, or else bark sandals. The women were dressed in full, bright-colored skirts, which swept the dust, and their red or blue kerchiefs tied under the chin gave them a doll-like appearance. It was a noisy, gesticulating crowd which nibbled at sunflower seeds and sauntered among the countless rows of stalls.

But as one left the center of the city, the animation died away street by street, the passers-by thinned out, and the houses took on a serene and sleepy air.

Patriarchal, sumptuous, and barbaric, Russia's second capital gave refuge, at the end of the eighteenth century, to the many . . .

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