Vsevolod Garshin was the outstanding new writer in Russia between Dostoyevsky and Chekhov. This ‘Hamlet of his time’ gave voice to the disturbed conscience of an era that knew the horrors of modern war, the squalors of rapid industrialisation, and a politically explosive situation culminating in the assassination of Alexander II. His novellas and short stories make an immediate impact on the reader, often with the almost sacred and terrifying quality of a confession. He moves away from the broad canvas and solid objectivity of the realist novel towards the fragmentary and fleeting, impressionism and modernism.
This selection, the most substantial in English for nearly a century, contains the best of Garshin’s fiction – sixteen stories, almost all the published work completed in a tragically short life. The epic title-story on the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78; The Red Flower, Garshin’s haunting masterpiece set in a lunatic asylum; the compact war story Four Days which pioneers stream-of-consciousness technique; masterly and moving stories such as Artists and Orderly and Officer; the semiotic tour de force The Signal; the reworked legend Haggai the Proud, here translated into English for the first time; a handful of fables, including the allegory on the revolutionary movement Attalea princeps – the thematic and stylistic variety is impressive.
‘Garshin’s supreme gift is an acute moral intelligence steadied by the economy of his style . . . The effect is well caught by Peter Henry and his colleagues. This volume should win a wide readership for Garshin.’ – Henry Gifford, Times Literary Supplement
‘As this ably translated collection shows, Garshin is a powerful, innovative writer of unusually broad stylistic range … He also shows a surprisingly modern insight into human psychology.’ – Olga Wickerhauser, New York Times Book Review
‘full of simple, disturbing phrases … full of revelations.’ – Alan Brien, New Statesman