The Beggar and Other Stories

Gaito Gazdanov, trans. from the Russian by Bryan Karetnyk. Pushkin, $18 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-78227-401-8
This collection of short fiction from Gazdanov (1904–1971), following the novel The Flight, is a stellar showcase of the Russian-born Parisian’s striking voice. In “Maître Rueil,” a government agent sails to Moscow on a ship filled with surreal intrigue; the family chronicle “Happiness” subjects its paterfamilias to an almost Job-like run of misfortune; and “Deliverance” introduces readers to a vicious malcontent meditating on a death that arrives in spectacular and unexpected fashion. Two more stories, the devastating adultery tale “The Mistake” and “Ivanov’s Letters,” which penetrates the private life of a mysterious idler, round out the collection. But none of these ascend to the heights of the brilliant title story, in which readers meet a ragman who haunts the Paris Metro, only to uncover his secret past as a defiant young man who rebels against life itself (“To live meant to have desire, to strive for something, to defend something”), and finds existence as a mere shadow preferable. This collection is Gazdanov at his best, allowing readers to slowly pry open the secrets of its cast of dilettantes and lost souls. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2018
Release date: 09/25/2018
Genre: Fiction
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