Monday 5 October 2020

Book Review: The Little Devil and Other Stories by Alexei Remizov (Modern Classics/Short Stories)

Title: The Little Devil and Other Stories
Author: Alexei Remizov
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: 13 April 2021
Pages: 320
eBook - PDF
Genre: Modern Classics / Short Stories
Source: ARC via NetGalley

In a dilapidated and isolated old house, something peculiar seems to happen whenever the town's bestial exterminator visits. On a seemingly bucolic country estate, the head of the household is a living corpse obsessed with other corpses. An adolescent boy who passes his days in private dream worlds experiences a sexual awakening spurred by his family's scandalous tenant. In these and other stories, the modernist writer Alexei Remizov offers a panorama of Russian mythology, the supernatural, rural grotesques, and profound religious faith in fiery revolutionary settings.

Alexei Remizov was one of the greatest writers of the Russian symbolist movement of the early twentieth century. In the thirteen stories collected in this volume, Remizov's exceptional stylistic achievements are on full display. Equally drawing on rural colloquial speech, the language of Russian fairy tales, and the customs of the Old Believers and Russian Orthodoxy, they transport the reader into a mysterious world in between uncanny folktales and encroaching modernity. The Little Devil and Other Stories includes works from across Remizov's career encompassing his thematic preoccupations and stylistic experimentation. Antonina W. Bouis's translation captures Remizov's many registers to offer English-language readers a sampling of a remarkable Russian writer. 


Until I requested this book, I was unfamiliar with Remizov's writing, my prior focus on Russian literature having been firmly centred on the nineteenth century. Having now read these stories, I am grateful to Columbia University Press and Antonina W. Bouis for making this work available to English-language readers. The Little Devil and Other Stories is a delightful collection of tales, each of which is captivating and interesting in its own way. Naturally, I had some favourites among them, but all the stories were a pleasure to read. I appreciated the little introductory notes that provided some background on each story, and the translation flowed seamlessly, the prose easy to read. Based on my experience with this book, I would be keen to read more of Remizov's works in the future, and I recommend The Little Devil and Other Stories to anyone interested in the symbolist movement and/or early twentieth century European fiction. This book was a 4.5 star-read for me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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