What to read, bearing in mind a visit to St Petersburg… EPISODE 3
Tolstoy – fantastic if you want the cinematic experience of reading a book. Big canvas, lots of characters, so much detail you needn’t think for a moment, just let it play out in your mind. Old Man T didn’t want you to think, mind, so don’t go getting any funny ideas. War & Peace is the one to get a sense of the real players of 19th century Russian history. You’ll see Marshal Kutuzov pursuing his remarkable tactic of retreat, which flabbergasted the whole country, until the great Russian winter froze Napoleon’s army to death, with ‘only’ the burning of Moscow as the price of it. Kutuzov stands proud in front of the Kazan Cathedral, and beams from the walls of the Hermitage. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is one of the more miserable experiences I was made to sit through during school Russian lessons, so I wouldn’t bother going there. Anna Karenina is a fantastic portrait of life and loves in society at the time, but… Only if you’ve got time.