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The Spectre of Alexander Wolf

Gaito Gazdanaov
In Print
Pushkin Press (2013)

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This entry created 27 December 2021. Last revised on 27 December 2021.

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The Spectre of Alexander Wolf

174 pages.

This slim novel was originally published in the Russian language in New York in 1947. In 2013, it was translated into English and republished.

During the Russian Civil War, one cavalryman is ambushed by another. One horse is shot dead, one man is left on the battlefield with a fatal wound.

Years later, the survivor is now a journalist in Paris. By chance, he reads a short story in English – it tells of two cavalrymen in the Russian Civil War. It is his story, but told from the perspective of the dead soldier. The author's name is Alexander Wolf.

Gradually, he begins to solve the mystery of who Alexander Wolf is, what happened after that fateful day, and how their lives are entwined; while also working as a journalist covering politicians and gangsters, taking us on a journey through Paris as well as the Russian emigre community; and ultimately finding solace in the arms of a woman with a mysterious past.

This novel is largely a psychological thriller, as the author gradually reveals the protagonist's burdens (or PTSD, as we would say today) – his guilt and his sense of detachment.

Can you wargame it? Descriptions of the Russian Civil War might inspire a campaign (the author was a veteran).

This novel is acclaimed as a 'masterpiece'. I thought it started off well, bogged down midway through, wandered into a tangential story about a gangster that seemed out of place, and the ending didn't impress me.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.