The Gaunt Spectre of Modernism*

5 Mar

I first became acquainted with the Pushkin Press when I received a newly published compendium of short fiction by Stefan Zweig and as it turns out, they also publish a number of other titles by Zweig including a recent biography and a also a haunting novel by Laurent Seksik about the last months of Zweig’s life (and death) in Brazil.

As these things happen, I found a copy of The Specter of Alexander Wolf by Gaito Gazdanov amongst the omenous accumulations of books that festoon the flat surfaces of my apartment. I don’t think I read about it because only the daily newspaper from that wonderful metropolis, Minneapolis chose to review it. On the other, hand the ever alert and fastidious Michael Ortofer at the Complete Review provided his commendable customary due diligence

The Last Days by Laurent Seksik

The Last Days by Laurent Seksik

Nicholas Lezard echoes my sentiments,

Another masterpiece from someone I’d never heard of before published by Pushkin Press; how many more do they have up their sleeve? This time it is by Gaito Gazdanov, a Russian émigré novelist whose work was not published in his native country until the collapse of the communist regime.

Suffice it to say that there is a lot going in this nearly 200 page novel detective story, a sly take on the life of a free lance writer, a existential rumination and even a love story.

It should not go unsaid that Pushkin Press exhibits a commendable respect for the paper and ink book by using good paper, crisp design and typography to produce handsome tomes. No small gesture in a tenuous, modern book world.

Currently reading Havana Black by Leonardo Padura (Bitter Lemon Press)

* I found this phrase in Rebecca Schuman’s rumination on Kafka, Susan Bernofsky and Jay Cantor’s new opus, Forgiving the Angel (Knopf) and like it so much that I expropriated it for the title of this piece that luckily has something to do with modernism ( whatever that is).

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