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This is truly quite an amazing book. While I admittably lack the true spirit of a Peterburger (born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1975, moved to Chicago, IL in 1991), my best(?) years were spent in what (and where) Kiev had to offer in the counter-culture scene. This book touched some of the best memories I have of the life "back in USSR".
It would take extreme measures to convince me that it was written by a Westerner [I would love to learn more about (or hear from) Mr. John Nicolson, be it a true persona or a pseudonym] but if so, he must have been an exceptional one. I would much rather believe that it was written by a Russian who is very proficient in English, perhaps, "up to the point of considering it" a "second native language" (am I close by with my guess, Nicholai? ;-) Either way, an excellent account of what so many of us have left behind, mistakingly easily. One of these days, "when will I return", these mistakes will be corrected.
Subject: Response to your story "The Other St. Petersburg"
For the first time in my life I've heard from someone non-Russian what I've failed to explain hundreds of Americans:drinking of vodka is a hard job rather than time spent for fun. But point is not this off course. Having been taken away from my city and way of thinking and much more way of living which all constitute St. Petersburg, having spent one year (what for?) right in the middle of the US - the state of Indiana what knowledge did I aquire here except the fact that the only place in the world where I can LIVE is St. Petersburg? Having been everywhere in the States - from Chicago to New Orleanes and from New York to Los-Angeles while telling people about importance of drinking beer walking along Neva or getting up to the roof of "Egipetscy Dom"(Egipt Hous) by Chernyshevscaya metro station (the highest point of the whole neighbourhood) did I see any other reaction to this than dully blinking with eyes? No. Another culture? No. Different values? TOTALLY different values. Now I understand why the Americans don't understand the Russians and are afraid of them. It's beyond their scope. Whatever the Russian does is an attempt to go beyond, to transpass the borders in search of real spirituality. Methaphysically it all is a transcendenal jump, eschatological deed, an attempt either to go beyond THE End or to approach It saying the least. In this light staying at the top of Egipetscogo Doma, flying above these roofs is just a try to approach the pivot of this city, which is hopefully not far from the one of this Univerce. You are the first foreigner in my life who has come so close to it. And most probably (according to vocabulary) you are from England. What is the bottom-line? None. I'm just dying here from spiritual hunger and your story was another pain-revocing and soothing drop simulteniously .
What keeps me here? I am afraid to confess myself that it is all about easy material life. Anguish it gives is considerably more than shortages of every-day life in St. Petersburg. So...
I shall finally return. I promise I shall. Everything has its own time. I will not find my city as I left it( or as He left me ): one my frend jumped off the Troitsky Bridge (his body was found a week later), another who used to drink in one week as much as I do for the whole month now forgot even the taste of alcochol and attends church twice a day, the other still is trying to find his past wandering along the St. Petersburg's streets and finally one can hardly find a bottle of "777" now. Everything will be so much different. But anyway it will be somebody's else past.
It will be another story.
Thank you for writing and simply for being.
Konstantin. ( 26 year old, Ph. D. student in
Mathematics, Purdue University. )
P. S. Nicholai, you can publish it wherever you want. It was just an attempt of acknowlegement to a man who is on the one hand is a representative of this so rational Western world and on the other is such a real Russian.