The White Nights

Though even more minds may be leaking out of Russia than capital or nuclear secrets, St. Petersburg possesses, though only for a few months of the year, what is by definition the ideal of enlightened existence, namely unending daylight. Though with electric lighting the rest of the world has learned to mimic this condition, which incidentally means that the great Enlightenment began not in the 18th but at the beginning of the 20th century, two centuries earlier Saint Peter the Intrusively Tall, in choosing to build a capital city in an artic swamp, had stumbled upon at least this one advantage. Even in the heavy hours the light grows dim but never enough to quite preclude the most basic elements of cultivated life: reading a book–or writing. There’s something slightly inhuman about this though, since there exists as well a nighttime inside living things, whether or no it corresponds to anything in the surroundings, which demands a time to rest.

Of course for me the light is blocked out, living as I do in the permanent nighttime of a lightless gypsy cavern, hedged in by sparkly purple curtains, giant teddy bears with full red promiscuous lips and willow-like nets of beads hanging from candles and chandeliers all somehow carrying on the spirit, even if in cheap and degraded form, of the rococo motifs all over the walls and ceiling of the 18th century building. Since the ever-bumbling institute where I’m studying, which is fittingly named after Aleksandr Nevsky, who, defeating the Teutonic Knights in the 1300’s, struck an early blow for Russian culture against the Teutonic characteristics of efficiency and competence, I suppose I will have a few more days of my own underground life, though as a matter of fact I am the opposite of the Underground Man. He claimed to only be speaking to himself but was actually read around the world, whereas I think I’m addressing the whole world but am really only speaking to myself.

2 Responses to “The White Nights”

  1. Tom Says:

    Does part of you wish the Teutons had won?A Russian friend told me the other day that the reason the Russians will eventually beat the Americans in the ‘great game’ is that they had a much more developed right side of the brain.I guess it makes them more fun!

  2. Curt Says:

    If I lived in Russia I might wish they had won, but for me personally, if I want to get some Teutonic culture I can always hop on the train and be in Stockholm in six hours. If by a “more develped right side of the brain” he means more imaginative and less practical that is the reason I enjoy coming to Russia, but I think it might also have something to do with the inability to implement any kind of effective economic planning.

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