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This article is taken from PN Review 76, Volume 17 Number 2, November - December 1990.

Writing Leningrad/Leningrad Writing Donald Wesling

IN THESE DAYS of late September [1989], the trees are all stunned and changing. The city center, described by Turgenev as 'these empty, wide, gray streets, these gray-white, yellow-gray, gray-pink peeling plaster houses with their deep-set windows,' has vistas between the gray and pastel buildings of softly golden branches. The leaves float down the Fontanka canal, and mottle the reflections of sky-blue churches and coral administrative buildings.

September and autumn is nearly over. I can smell winter coming across the Baltic. My hotel is the Morskaya Vauxhall or Sea-Station, on the tip of Vasilievsky Island, facing the Baltic and the Arctic, and next to us in the little bay is a ship-dredger screeching metal on metal all day and night, sound condensing and sharpening the cold. To my California nervous system the weather is already stiff. The yellow dog, curled up here sleeping in a dent in the grass near our trolleybus stop, seems crazy; but a month later he's gone, and I see that he's a hardy thing who knows how comparatively mild is the September rain.

Peter's city and Lenin's. Also Anna Akhmatova's, though she's less likely to be mounted in bronze on a rearing horse or in bronze on a stylized tank in front of the Finland Station; not at all likely to have the city named for her. But no less her city than theirs, the city about which she wrote in 1913 these lines (translator: D. M. Thomas) that evoke ...


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