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This report is taken from PN Review 94, Volume 20 Number 2, November - December 1993.

Soviet Facts and Russian Fiction Jeremy Noble

Two million foreigners visited St Petersburg last year; not many of them, however, visited the literary museums, although Russian literature helped define the city as a cultural centre. There are always tourists at the palatial 'Museum Apartment of A.S. Pushkin' on the Moika embankment, and Dostoevsky's apartment is always good for a fifteen-minute stopover, but few people find their way to the museums of less well-known writers.

Conveniently for the trippers who visit the Hermitage, Pushkin lived only a few minutes walk away, and of course it helps Intourist that Russia's national poet had such a romantic life, and an even more compelling death. I was asked if I had lost my excursion group when I walked in alone, and did I want to look at the souvenirs. It is possible to buy a quill pen exactly like the one used by Pushkin himself, but you cannot buy any of his poetry. I followed a group of elderly Americans through the rooms of elegant Empire furniture, half listening to their chaperone: 'The great Russian poet … born 1799 … here, tragically his life came to an abrupt end on 29th January 1837 … mortally wounded … even in the pantry it is possible to see a tray which belonged to Push-kin's family … left huge debts … a waistcoat worn by Pushkin the day of his duel. …"

Leaning over the rope, I looked closely at some of the five thousand volumes in Push-Kin's library, ...


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