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Red Spectres Hardcover – April 18, 2013
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"A new collection translated and edited by Muireann Maguire showcases stories previously obscured by censorship. The darkness and dissonance of these tightly-constructed tales reflect something of the political turbulence of Soviet Russia…Nearly a century after the time, the stories collected here are still powerful in their disaffection." --The Daily Beast
"Maguire has done English-speaking readers a great service in selecting and translating these neglected Gothic works, and bringing them to international attention…[The stories] haunt the imagination on many different levels…[and] provide both vivid explorations of futurism and intriguing introductions to the underappreciated work of several powerful, modernist writers." --Russia Beyond the Headlines
About the Author
Muireann Maguire is a Fellow in Russian Literature and Culture at Wadham College, Oxford. Her study of supernatural fiction in the early decades of Soviet Russia, Stalin's Ghosts, will be published in 2012.
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For this reader, the collection was appreciated most for putting nine of the stories into English for the first time, together with a new translation of Bryusov's tale that was clear and smooth. (Though his work from 1903 doesn't belong under a title like Red Spectres.) Bulgakov's comic tale about a séance after the Revolution was still funny and was one of the handful of works in this collection whose setting was recognisably Soviet; other settings included Western Europe and the US. "The Venetian Mirror" by Chayanov had interesting variations on the theme of the double, but his "Venediktov" seemed very derivative of work by E. T. A. Hoffmann. The tale by Krzhizhanovsky, whose writing has been rediscovered since the 1970s, contained some memorable grotesque images but as a story felt just too obscure.
Lovers of film might especially enjoy "The Grey Motor Car" by Grin, since it inspired "Mister Designer," a Soviet masterpiece from 1988 directed by Oleg Teptsov. Grin's story contained some elements that were in the movie -- the automobile as a symbol of progress and doom, a gambling scene, a woman suspected of being a wax figure. But it was only the bare bones of the film, which made the protagonist an artist and the mannequin his creation, adding a theme of retribution from "Don Giovanni" and a Silver Age setting in St. Petersburg. Many of the Gothic themes contained in Red Spectres are given cinematic expression in this slow-paced but haunting movie.
The translator's introduction mentioned in passing good Russian tales of the supernatural such as Pushkin's "Queen of Spades" (1834), Gogol's "The Overcoat" (1842), Turgenev's "Clara Milich" (1883) and Chekhov's "The Black Monk" (1894).
Other good tales of madness or the supernatural that have been put into English include Pushkin's "The Coffin-Maker" (1831), Gogol's "Viy" (1835) and "The Portrait," Dostoevsky's "Bobok" (1873) and Garshin's "The Crimson Flower" (1883). There's also "Lamia," a vampire tale by Boris Sadovskoy, and Grin's "The Cripple" (1924). Tales of retribution of one kind or another include "The Republic of the Southern Cross" (1905) by Bryusov, Zamyatin's prescient vision of the future in "The Epistle of the Humble Zamuty, Bishop of Monkeys" (1921), and "The Fateful Eggs" (1925) by Bulgakov.