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The mist of St Petersburg

This is not a London fog. The mist of St Petersburg is special, unlike any other. It is the soul of this splendid capital.

'The Neva's sovereign current, the granite of its shores', the bridges, palaces, squares, gardens: all this is external appearance, mere dressing. But mist is the soul.

There, in this spectral half-light, Akaky Akakievich is stripped of his overcoat, Raskolnikov goes to kill the old woman, Liza throws herself into the icy waters of the Swan Ditch, and Innokenty Annensky in a starched shirt-front and beaver furs falls with a dull pain in his heart on the steps of Tsarskoe Selo Station into

"The yellow steam of a Petersburg winter,
The yellow snow that smothers the paving stones...";

Georgy Ivanov, Russian poet in emigration, Paris, 1953.

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