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The Long Song of Tchaikovsky Street

The Long Song of Tchaikovsky Street

The Long Song of Tchaikovsky Street by Pieter Waterdrinker, translation: Paul Evans
(Scribe, 2022, 416 pages)

‘History doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes.’

One day in 1988, an enigmatic priest knocks on Pieter Waterdrinker’s door with an unusual request: will he smuggle seven thousand bibles into the Soviet Union? Pieter agrees, and soon finds himself living in the midst of one of the biggest social and cultural revolutions of our time, working as a tour operator ... with a sideline in contraband.

Thirty years later, from his apartment on Tchaikovsky Street in Saint Petersburg, where he lives with his Russian wife and three cats, Pieter reflects on his personal history in the Soviet Union, as well as the century of revolutions that took place in and around his street. A master storyteller, he blends history with memoir to create an ode to the divided soul of Russia and an unputdownable account of his own struggles with life, literature, and love.

‘A remarkable, sly blend of memoir and history, past and present, amusement and bemusement. How the memoir of a Dutch writer selling bibles in Russia also becomes the story of our past century is beyond me. But in Waterdrinker’s masterful hands, it does. The Long Song of Tchaikovsky Street is a spectacular tale, and a towering achievement.’ – Shalom Auslander, author of Mother for Dinner
‘Russia’s recent history has been inspirational and unpredictable, tragic and bizarre, and it takes a quirky literary autobiography like this to capture that. From showing the Russian president’s wife through Amsterdam’s red-light district to wheeling and dealing in the dying days of the USSR, Waterdrinker offers up an eminently readable and critically affectionate vision of a Russia constantly in the throes of reinvention.’ – Professor Mark Galeotti, author of A Short History of Russia
‘Peter Waterdrinker’s experiences of Russia over the past quarter century are undoubtedly worth telling … his descriptions are evocative.’ – Owen Matthews, Catholic Herald