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The Spectre of Alexander Wolf (Pushkin Collection) Paperback – 20 Jun 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press; First edition (20 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782270086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782270089
  • Product Dimensions: 12.1 x 1.7 x 16.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 217,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

We decadent Westerners, who are finally allowed to read Gazdanov ... love his contemporary narratory style because it's now action, now reflection, and at the end there is always a perfect, but uncontrived, solution as in an HBO-series. ... Gazdanov teaches us with each line of his beautiful, sad, ambivalent prose that always drifts into the essayistic to love our beautiful, broken, neurotic lives.--Maxim Biller, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

How each of us forms his memories is the theme of this novel. Rarely has one read about it as elegantly, as deeply and despite everything so comfortingly as here.--Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine

A stroke of luck for the reader ... a novel which, on few pages, in scenes which one cannot quickly forget, deals with forlornness, enjoyment, distraction, with love, death and coincidence all that, which makes the human life beautiful and unbearable ... Already it's a favourite book.--Jens Bisky, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Fantastic, clever, precise and so thrilling, and at the same time modern in a cool way ... The Spectre of Alexander Wolf is a novel which can change your life. If you're prepared for the trip.--Georg Diez, Kultur SPIEGEL

One hasn't read such a humanely fine and moving novel about the great twentieth-century Ice Age of the Soul in a long time.--Iris Radisch, Zeit

The Spectre of Alexander Wolf becomes a study of the soul in the zone of death, written with a fine criminological sense, churning us up, gripping, exciting. --Andreas Puff-Trojan, Die Welt


Of course, you sense yourself that you are very talented. And I want to add that you are talented in your own, very special way. I can say this with some justification, because I have read not only An Evening with Claire, but also some of your short stories. --Maxim Gorki, letter to Gazdanov, February 1930

What saved Gazdanov as a person was Gazdanov the writer, who in his art transformed the unbearable reality of his life, his time and the society in which he lived not into a falsified, tacky image or into a philistine dream of a wonderful life, but into a metaphysical scream, which, because of its intensity and its sincerity, sounds into the deepest reaches of the human soul and moves and satisfies us through the power of its expression. In this sense Gazdanov s artistic style grants the wonderful life the shape of reality, of life, as it should be and as it only exists in art. --Laszlo Dienes, University of Massachusetts Amherst

"A lost classic" Sunday Telegraph




About the Author

Gaito Gazdanov, the son of a forester, joined Baron Wrangel's White Army aged just sixteen and fought in the Russian Civil War. Exiled in Paris from 1920 onwards, he took on what jobs he could and during periods of unemployment slept on park benches or in the Métro. A job driving taxis at night eventually allowed him to attend lectures at the Sorbonne and write during the day; he soon became part of the literary scene, and was greatly acclaimed by Maxim Gorky, among others. He died in Munich in 1971.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Jun. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Once again, Pushkin Press have rediscovered yet another fantastic novel for us to enjoy. This slim book was written by Russian emigre Gaito Gazdanov (Georgi Ivanovich Gazdanov, 1903-1971). Like the narrator of this story, Gazdanov fought in the Russian Civil War for the White Army, meaning, of course, that his work was not published in Russia until after the collapse of communism. Again, like the narrator, Gazdanov found himself in Paris, where he suffered a great deal of poverty and worked in many different jobs - including as a cab driver - before becoming a part of the 1920's literary scene.

At the beginning of this book, our narrator explains how his whole life he has had a flashback of killing a man in that war. He was only sixteen when he was faced with a man on a beautiful white horse, who was about to kill him. Our narrator shot him first and left him lying there as he rode away on his horse. This so-called 'murder', muses the narrator, marked the beginning of his independence. Now working as a journalist in Paris, he comes across a book of short stories one day. In the volume, by Alexander Wolf, is a story recounting that day, down to the smallest detail. In fact, the narrator surmises that only the man he killed could have written it and begins a search for the elusive author.

This is a haunting novel of war, the emigre experience, love, fate and inter-twined lives. It will take you through 1920's Paris, London and is beautifully written. I am so glad Pushkin have republished this novel and can only wonder what other long forgotten gems they are going to come up with.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Erin Britton on 9 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a truly astounding book. Gaito Gazdenov tells the haunting, humbling story of a young man caught up in the brutal fighting of the Russian Civil War and then laid low both physically and philosophically by a murder he believes himself to have committed. Having to flee Russia after the war, the narrator is living in Paris when he chances upon a book of short stories, one of which details a murder that seems uncannily familiar. The writer of the short story collection is Alexander Wolf and the narrator finds some purpose again in his life as he pursues the mysterious author and attempts to discover just where exactly fact meets fiction. The Spectre of Alexander Wolf is a gripping novel of war, survival and predestination. It's a thrilling mix of crime caper and existential angst and is one of the best books that I've read this year.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Oversetter on 19 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
An enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I would recommend this to lovers of the Russian novel or to those who are interested in discovering it. Gazdanov's plot and characters are unusual but very believable (in particular the narrator, whose experiences were very similar to the author's own), and Karetnyk's translation provides a feeling of authenticity to those of us who are not fortunate enough to be able to read the original. Excellent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Pink Cat on 28 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book starts very well, with a vivid opening scene that seems to promise a psychological mystery in a Dostoyevskian mould. Maybe that was the problem for me, that my expectations were too high. Because after that, the narrative just seems to meander, as the incredibly passive narrator wanders through life, introducing threads here and there which you think might connect up to something, but which turn out not to. Some people have conversations. One or two of them die. Then it ends. Does that add up to anything? Not to me. It's very well written. That's not enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AK TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gaito Gazdanov is a Russian emigre, who chose the White side during the civil war and had to consequently flee, only to reemerge in the 1920s Paris, as many of his compatriots did. After many menial jobs at the breadline (Renault factory worker, cab driver...) he eventually established himself as a writer, with the current book being one of his greater post WW2 (1947/8) successes. Greatly admired by - amongst others - Maxim Gorky (not something many White's could claim for themselves) for his prose, it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to read his work in English (and in Kindle format, no less).

The story - on the surface - is a simple one. A Russian emigre residing in Paris keeps vividly recalling a war scene, where he shot a Red (Communist) compatriot riding a beautiful white horse, the only time he was sure of killing a man. When he reads a short story of that very incident from the other man's perspective, he becomes obsessed with finding its author and getting to grips with the episode.

All this is placed into an interwar Paris and the author skilfully blends very astute observations on war and its psychological burden, emigration, love and life in Paris in the period into a highly satisfying book. Even though he did not come to Paris with a fortune, like some Russian aristocrats managed after the ousting from Russia, and had to work hard for his living, his outlook is very different from that of George Orwell, who captures the same period in his Down and Out in Paris and London (Penguin Modern Classics).
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