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Saturday, March 6, 2010


The book Literary Russia creates a literary map of that country that details the roles different areas of the country have played in Russian literature.  This book can be an invaluable source to those unfamiliar with the vast nation.  In relation to The Idiot, the book assists in keeping track of the movement of the characters.  For example, one learns that the Epanchins live near Liteiny Prospect, a wealthy street in St. Petersberg where Ptitsyn wants to live eventually.

In Part II, the action of the novel shifts from St. Petersberg to Pavlovsk, located about 16 miles south of the former in the western part of Russia near the border with present-day Estonia.  The city is famous for a palace Catherine the Great built there for her son Paul I in the latter part of the 18th century.  It is known as a holiday town, and the Epanchins have a summer villa there and Lebedyev tells Myshkin he is heading there as well.  Lebedyev explains, "It's nice and high up, and green and cheap and bon ton (fashionable) and musical--and that's why everyone goes to Pavlovsk."

The description of Pavlovsk contrasts with that of St. Petersberg six months earlier when Myshkin first arrives from Switzerland.  The latter is described as "thawing, and so damp and foggy" while Pavlovsk is full of life and action.  Pavlovsk is a change of scenery that allows the characters to get away from the chaos of St. Petersberg. 

Pictures of autumnal Pavlovsk can be seen here.

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