Symbolist poet Andrei Bely’s recitation of his 1911 poem “A Voice from the Past,” replete with roiling, rolling r’s, conjures the feel of fog and the sound of swords of knights from far-away lands galloping north to save a princess. “A Voice from the Past” is from Bely’s “fairytale” cycle “The Princess and the Knights,” which was inspired by his first wife, Anna Turgeneva.
Bely is probably best known in the West for his novel Petersburg, a favorite of Vladimir Nabokov’s: Petersburg evokes (among other things) revolutionaries, a statue freed from its pedestal, and lots of colors, (as befits Bely’s symbolist leanings), including, of course, red.
By the way: John Elsworth’s translation of Bely’s Petersburg won two translation awards in 2012: the Read Russia Prize and the Rossica Prize.
Read Russia! Hear Russia!
- Russian text
- A map of Bely’s St. Petersburg
- A wonderfully detailed review of David McDuff’s translation of Petersburg
- A paragraph from Gerald Janacek’s The Look of Russian Literature that notes the shapes of the poems in “The Princess and the Knights” cycle
Photo of Andrei Bely (1910s) from Wikipedia, Creative Commons.
Audio of Andrei Bely reading "A Voice from the Past
Audio of Andrei Bely reading "A Voice from the Past"