Two years ago, during the hot and stormy summer, I began to read that equally stormy and tempestuous novel The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
This work, like all Dostoyevsky’s work, is visionary and hysterical. It exists in a sweltering, sweating heat of paranoia and obsession.
I took to reading this novel in the Winter Gardens in Sheffield which, despite its name, is actually a kind of hothouse full of tropical flora. Here, amongst the ferns and trees, I read about Prince Myshkin and Rogozhin.
I had previously read the author’s Letters from the Underworld in an old paperback edition that I had bought at a local jumble sale for 10 pence. Come to think of it, I bought my copy of The Idiot from a boot fair.
Yesterday, in this high English summer which is really a kind of perpetual autumn, an endless October of rain, I returned to the Winter Gardens to read some of the letters Franz Liszt wrote during his first residence in Weimar (at which point, Dostoyevsky was in prison doing hard labour).
I sat there and read under towering ferns, the great beams of the roof looking like they had been transplanted into reality from China Miéville’s fictional city of New Crobuzon.
What a space in which to read.
Although I like to do my summer reading in the Winter Gardens, I like to do my winter reading in the snug warmth of a parlour, in front of a fire, dreaming of Wuthering Heights and Poirot’s broken central heating.