An Evening with Claire

Gaito Gazdanov, Author Ardis Publishers $0 (135p) ISBN 978-0-88233-934-4
Between the two world wars, the Russian emigre community was noted for the ferment of its literary and intellectual activity. The best-known of its members was, of course, Nabokov, but there were many other Russian emigre writers who found exile a way of evaluating, sentimentally or otherwise, the Old Russia they would never see again. Written when the author was 26, and effectively translated by Daynard, this is a thinly disguised memoir of his youth, much of which was tragic. Gazdanov's sisters died young, as did an idolized father. A stint at a strict military school and gymnasium ended when the author enlisted in the White Army, where he spent two horrifying years on a machine-gun platform of a train, traversing southern Russianan experience he recounts with a teenager's glee. This first novel provides neither social nor political analysis. In effect, it is the portrait of an intelligent, emotional boy whose hypersensitivity is masked by a veneer of cynicism and whose flair for mimicry cannot hide his innate compassion. Awkwardly framed by an introduction and coda describing a night spent in Paris with the eponymous Clairea woman he has loved obsessively for 10 yearsit is an emotional paean to childhood. There is no bitterness, just a resounding sadness, a reminder of an irrevocable past. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Paperback - 142 pages - 978-1-4683-0884-6
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