Red Spectres: Russian 20th-century Gothic-fantastic tales

Russian writers from Pushkin to Bulgakov and beyond have produced outstanding ghost stories, supernatural thrillers, and other tales of the uncanny. In the first decades of the 20th century the Gothic-fantastic genre flourished in Russia, despite official efforts to stamp it out. Few of these stories have been translated or published outside Russia. This collection includes eleven vintage tales by seven writers of the period. Valery Bryusov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Aleksandr Grin and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky; the lesser known but important figure Aleksandr Chayanov, whose story ‘Venediktov’ influenced Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita; and the émigrés Georgy Peskov and Pavel Perov. All but two of the stories appear for the first time in English.

At a time of revolution and civil war, hardship and deprivation, the supernatural genres provided means for a number of Russian writers to explore the dark underside of the machine age and the new political order. Through the traditional Gothic repertoire of ghosts, insanity, obsession, retribution and terror, they convey the turbulence and dissonance of life in Russia in these years.

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‘This collection of Gothic, uncanny and supernatural tales from revolutionary Russia is a remarkable find. Who in the West knew that during and after the birth of the Soviet Union, phantoms, doubles and apparitions swept through the feverish imaginations of its major writers, from Bulgakov to Krzhizhanovsky? The tormented minds of their heroes reframe the trauma of change and war as hauntings and possessions.’ Boyd Tonkin, The Independent