Horseman of the Sands

Leonid Yuzefovich, trans. from the Russian by Marian Schwartz. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $16 trade paper (234p) ISBN 978-1-939810-09-0
This impressive volume from Yuzefovich consists of two novellas. The quixotic title novella transforms into fable the real-life adventures of R.F. Ungern-Shternberg, an unhinged Russian general whose intense, messianic passion for the East drove him to attempt to conquer Mongolia during the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution in the early 20th century. Told in layers, the story is passed to a young Soviet officer by the old shepherd Boliji, whose brother Jorgal traveled with the ruthless Ungern, known as the bloody white baron, and his czarist military entourage. Jorgal wished to exact revenge on Ungern for the murder of his father, observing the general’s quest to gain control of the vast plains from both the Soviets and the Chinese with mixture of awe and horror—“His impotent hatred made his teeth ache, like icy water.” But Jorgal’s quest was difficult and deadly, for he believed Ungern was protected from harm by the Buddhist deity Sagan-Ubugun, who purportedly rode a white mare alongside him. A second story is included in this volume: “The Storm,” a bizarre tale of a day at a Russian elementary school when a stranger visits, spreading angst among the children, but perhaps inviting cosmic punishment on himself as well. Shot through with a mythic and cipherlike style, Yuzefovich’s novellas are cogent depictions of faith, obsession, power, and the ties that bind. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2018
Release date: 09/04/2018
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