Andrei Bely, one of the prominent members of the Russian symbolist movement or the "Silver Age" of Russian literature is best known for his novel Petersburg. The conflictive times of these periods created a certain gap in western knowledge of Russian literature, and Bely is perhaps it's most obvious example.
The novel, is a symbolic fresco of it's time, it's setting is the revolution of 1905. It also drags much from the Russian literary tradition: such names as Gogol, Dostoevsky and Pushkin spring to our mind when reading Petersburg. Even though it is said that Petersburg holds the status of a A la recherche du temps perdu or of a Ulysses for the Russian language, it's complexity is forgiving. Reading, say, Ulysses, as a regular novel, is pretty much like not reading anything at all, but Petersburg can be read as a casual read, and it's complexity unfolds as one digs deeper, a detail that might have seemed insignificant is in fact an important symbol. And in fact calling this work "symbolist" is an understatement, "transcendental" literature might be a better term.
Bely was a genius, a madmen and a prophet - literally. His personality is omnipresent in the book, we can feel his mind floating and moving the characters like puppets. Petersburg, is also omnipresent, it acts with Bely to drive the grotesque characters to their absurd destinies after a bomb is given to Nikolai by revolutionaries in order to kill his father, senator Ableoukhov.
This book will be great the first read, greater at a second, and you realize there is much substance in that book that is so light, so funny, at the same time, that you will probably never be able to get bored by it.
This book is truly a unique masterpiece, and I add my (unworthy) name beside those of Nabokov and Burgess, among others, to call this novel one of the greatest masterpiece of the 20th century.