Gazdanov’s (The Spectre of Alexander Wolf) beautiful coming-of-age novel chronicles a young Russian’s journey through childhood, a tour with the White Army during the Russian civil war, and his life as an émigré. First published in 1930, it closely mirrors the author’s own life and is an important document of the rapidly evolving cultural climate in Russia during the years leading up to the Revolution and beyond. Kolya is brought up in a comfortable and literary household, and he spends much of his time in an interior world, a habit that will stay with him for life. The psychological ramifications of this “second life” are examined with great insight, and it is this insight that gives the novel its depth. As a 16 year old, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, he volunteers for the White Army “to know what war was, that same desire [he] always had for the new and unknown.” The story reveals the horrors of wartime, as well as of the grotesque nature of humanity that emerges in life-and-death situations, in sensitive yet simple prose that displays a rare elegance. This deeply personal novel succeeds through its intricate exploration of youth. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014 Release date: 05/27/2014 Genre: Fiction
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