St. Petersburg used to be a familiar place for Russians and non-Russians alike. It is so recognizable—even clichéd—as a setting for the high drama and intrigue of nineteenth-century Russian literary classics that one recent Russian novel features a first-person shooter videogame called Dostoevsky’s Petersburg.
As Petrograd, we know it as the cradle of the Revolution, the backdrop for Eisenstein; as Leningrad, the tale of its suffering during the murderous Siege of Leningrad by Nazi and Finnish
This is something of an impromptu book review, to mark the publication three weeks ago by FSG of John Ashbery’s Collected French Translations
, volume I devoted to poetry, volume II to prose. I take this to be a major publishing event. As do its superb editors Rosanna Wasserman and Eugene Richie, who go so far to quote Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary to the Swedish Academy in a widely reported remark he made to the Guardian
in 2008: “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t
Benjamin Kunkel reflects on what led him to his preoccupation with Marxist—or "Marxish"—political economy, in this excerpt from Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis, his new collection of essays.
To the disappointment of friends who would prefer to read my fiction—as well as of my literary agent, who would prefer to sell
it—I seem to have become a Marxist public intellectual. Making matters worse, the relevant public has been a small one consisting of readers of the two publications,