"This is . . . real literature, pure and honest."
"The scintillating English-language debut from Felsen . . . [is] a fittingly volatile record of ruinous desire.
Once considered the 'Russian Proust', Yuri Felsen tells the story of an obsessive love affair set in interwar Europe in Deceit, an experimental novel in the form of a diary that is an as-yet-undiscovered landmark of Russian émigré literature.
We meet our unnamed narrator in Paris in the 20s, where he finds himself an expat after the Russian Revolution. At a friend's request he meets the beautiful, clever socialite Lyolya, also a recent exile from Russia. What begins as casual friendship quickly turns into fascination and obsession, as Lyolya gives mixed signals and pursues other men. Our narrator, emerging from a depression, is soon overwhelmed by the very idea of her, which begins to contour all of his observations, thoughts, and feelings. While Lyolya continues to live a life unencumbered by the forces of social convention, and history, our narrator's revelations, written in diary form, grow increasingly painful, familiar, and rich with psychological introspection.
Quite unlike any other writer in the Russian canon, Felsen evokes in poetic and idiosyncratic prose not only the Zeitgeist of interwar Europe and his émigré milieu, but also the existential crisis of the age.
About this Author
Yuri Felsen was the pseudonym of Nikolai Freudenstein. Born in St. Petersburg in 1894, he emigrated to Europe in 1921 and settled in Paris in 1923. In France, he became one of the leading writers of his generation; influenced by the great modernists such as Marcel Proust, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, his writing stood at the forefront of aesthetic and philosophical currents in European literature. Following the German occupation of France at the height of his career, Felsen tried to escape to Switzerland; however, he was caught, arrested and interned in Drancy concentration camp. He was deported in 1943 and killed at Auschwitz.
Bryan Karetnyk is a British writer and translator. His recent translations include works by Gaito Gazdanov, Irina Odoevtseva and Boris Poplavsky. He is also the editor of the landmark Penguin Classics anthology Russian Émigré Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky.
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