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The Buddha's Return (Pushkin Collection) Paperback – 28 Aug 2014
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'The Gazdanov revival... is nothing short of a literary event... Gazdanov's thrillers offer a truly original vision, distinguished by profound existential and metaphysical concerns, a peculiar sense of humour, and enchanting prose, which Bryan Karetnyk has once again reproduced with impeccable grace' TLS
'He has his own utterly distinctive voice... Pushkin Press is to be congratulated on reviving an author who is as relevant now as ever' Spectator
'Eccentric... exciting... an offbeat appeal and flashes of black humour... a fascinating writer' Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
(Praise for The Spectre of Alexander Wolf) 'A masterpiece... it will stay with you for the rest of your life' Guardian; 'Mesmerising' Antony Beevor; 'Devastatingly atmospheric' Irish Times; 'Irresistible' Daily Mail; 'As if the roman policier has been filtered through Dostoevsky... just waiting to be discovered by a filmmaker' TLS
'Gadzanov is a modernist master' Mary O'Donoghue, Irish Times
'I would eagerly recommend... Bryan Karetnyk's sensitive re-translation' --Boris Dralyuk, PEN Atlas
About the Author
Gaito Gazdanov (1903-1971) joined the White Army aged just sixteen and fought in the Russian Civil War. Exiled in Paris from the 1920s onwards, he eventually became a nocturnal taxi-driver and quickly gained prominence on the literary scene as a novelist, essayist, critic and short-story writer, and was greatly admired by Maxim Gorky, among others. His 1949 novel The Spectre of Alexander Wolf was published by Pushkin Press to great acclaim in 2013.
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Top Customer Reviews
Described as a noir the novel works it's way into exploring bigger themes, taking in the philosophical, religious and the political, it casts it's net into a broad and varied sea of subjects, and at the same time it's finale grips the reader in the style of a classic whodunnit, when the Buddha statuette goes missing at the murder scene it becomes pivotal in unlocking the case and in some ways that as well of the relationship between the enigmatic Shcherbakov, his mistress, Lida, and the narrator. Gazdanov adds additional characters and portraits to the story, one being Catherine, a woman whose relationship the narrator recalls in memories that interpose the main story, which is also left until the novel's closing pages before being resolved. Very much looking forward to 'An Evening With Claire' and also catching up with a reading of 'The Spectre of Alexander Wolf'.
However, I am very grateful to Pushkin Press for republishing this little known Russian émigré writer and to Netgalley for letting me have a copy for review. I’d not heard of him before, and I always like to discover new Russian writers. Gazdanov was born in Russia in 1903, fought for the Whites in the Civil war and fled to Paris where he soon became part of the vibrant literary culture there. Unable to be published in the Soviet Union, his works are now acclaimed in Russia and around the world. Worth trying to see if he’s for you.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
OK, so what is it? At least two different books, I would say. The first, beginning (almost) with the words "I died in the month of June, at night, during one of my first years abroad," is a nightmare, dominated by dreams and extended hallucinations. The second, beginning (again almost) with the words "You're under arrest" on page 133, is much more literal. Parts of it do live up the the jacket's promise of a detective story as one of the ingredients in this witches' broth, and another ingredient, the love story, begins to raise a tentative head towards the end of the book. The protagonist-narrator, an unnamed Russian history student at the Sorbonne, has already been arrested in the first part, to be interrogated in the cellars of the "Central Power," but that turns out to be one of the hallucinations to which he is periodically subject, a never-ending nightmare out of Kafka or Orwell.
Not there are not real elements in the first part also. For example, the student, approached by a beggar in the Luxembourg who addresses him in remarkably cultivated Russian, gives the man more money than he can easily afford. A year or so later, the former beggar will come into a surprising windfall and his life will be linked with that of the student from that point on. There is also a young woman named Lida, who is the mistress of the older man and the subject of the younger one's fantasies, but is herself linked to a tubercular, illiterate abattoir worker from Tunis…
But what's the point trying to summarize? You don't read this book for plot. In fact, you don't read it so much as submit to it. And, in doing so, immerse yourself in the cross-currents of mid-century literature, drawing you down into a sort of whirlpool. You will think of Camus and Sartre, certainly, and Kafka as I have mentioned, but all seasoned with a particularly Russian quirkiness that I associate with Gorky, who was apparently a great admirer. Which takes me back to the facts at the beginning: this young man fighting for a lost cause, ripped from the stability of the world he had known, exiled in a strange but seductively heady city… what else would he write about but dislocation?
Although in some senses I found the language to be a bit dated, in the end, this is a book that fits under the definition of timeless. It is a bit "important" at times, The author's message might be wrapped in the story but it never disappeared which sometimes made it a bit too dense for me. Still Gazdanov has some wonderful insight that simply does not age. Well worth reading. And admirable to have this book in print in an age when too many novels fall into the "mash category" (Harry Potter meets Bourne Identity) it seems.