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This report is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

A Letter from St Petersbug Jeremy Noble
'Chekhov! You must be joking,' exclaimed the Cockney manager of the new Littlewoods shop. 'He reached his sell-by-date a long time ago, mate. Look at these people,' he said, indicating with both arms outstreched, the mélée of Russians pawing the racks of Summer clothes. 'Do you think they give a damn about your precious Chekhov? Come off it, this is the real world; how about Jilly Cooper? Do you think this lot have time to read? They're too busy catching up with what they've missed out on for so long. They used to queue because there wasn't anything to buy, now they queue just to gawp at everything. Funny thing that, I thought they'd be fighting to stock up on tins of food, but not a bit of it, I can't give it away, not even at half price. You should take some of those meatballs, they're a discontinued line.' I meekly did as he suggested, and added them to my shopping basket of spaghetti, marmalade and custard creams. I paid in dollars (they do not accept roubles), and surprised the Russian check-out girl when I produced my own nondescript old Soviet shopping bag; the distinctive blue and green Littlewoods bag tells you that 'shopping here won't cost the earth', but what it doesn't tell you is that taxi drivers double the fare the moment they see you with this latest status symbol. Then I continued my search for Chekhov.

My quest had started that morning in Dom Knigi ...


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