This first issue of the St. Petersburg Review: White Nights 2007 is an opening for English readers to a part of the world previously denied them, to ravishing poetry, fiction and essays that will hopefully be coming for decades.
This first issue of the St. Petersburg Review: White Nights 2007 is an opening for English readers to a part of the world previously denied them, to ravishing poetry, fiction and essays that will hopefully be coming for decades. New and established writers of Russia and the region, most translated, have voice here, and what marvelous voices they are. Especially notable is a section of eight poetry and fiction pieces by women of the Gulag, devastating for their bravery, honesty, sensitivity, and irony, giving a window to life there. Svetlana Shilova in “Dear Zek,” writes, “Dear Zek, I loved you / Just as you were / When I set eyes on you / Nearly ready to inter.” In “Unmarked Grave,” the same author writes, “So I cherished my love in silence / Locked it up under golden key… / And in an unmarked grave lies / My love, number 632.” Elena Vladimirova, also a Gulag poet, from the poem “KOLYMA,” pens these words, “I write of a dead generation / Of people silenced forever.” A poem that shares its title with its first line by Anna Barkova begins, “Days they go off like gunpowder, / But nights they’re quiet as mice.” These poems are set side by side with their Russian versions. George Saunders wrote a bold essay: “Manifesto: A Press Release from PRKA.” PRKA stands for “People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction.” It is both entertaining and thrilling reading for peace-lovers, and, on the contrary, there is a scary essay, “Five Easy Pieces in Moscow” by Josip Novakovich. Included are both elegant and modern verse, and short stories uplifting and poignant, like “Excelsior” by Dylan Landis, and the wistful “Used to Do” by Jeffrey Renard Allen. St. Petersburg Review lights up a new window on the world of literature, all two hundred pages of it. The Russian literature is priceless, and the international literature well worth it. Read!