“The Enchanted Wanderer” by Nikolai Leskov
First of all, I won a copy of this novella from Melville House via Twitter. Social Media is awesome. And, the fact that I came about the book the way I did seems appropriate – as Melville House is doing something really neat and quite innovative. They publish lesser-known novellas (too long for a short story, too short for a full novel) that have often never been put into book form before, and enhance them with a bunch of corresponding online material. By scanning a QR code in the back of “The Enchanted Wanderer,” I can access photos, additional works by Leskov, maps, and other materials. It’s nice to see a publishing company embracing modern media in such a cool way. Kudos to them.
AND, the book is pretty good. The official release calls it “..a Russian Candide with a revolutionary edge,” and that’s an apt description. Our hero, Ivan Severyanych, is cursed to live always on the brink of death after killing a monk, and he regales the story of his lengthy life over the course of a book — he’s been a Tartar slave, a horse thief, and even encounters the Devil. (You know, like you do.) I can’t say it’s a read that will ignite everyone’s desire to keep reading — there are definitely a few duller passages — but if Russian lit is your thing, this would be one to check out. I am certainly glad to have read it, and am pleased to have it among my collection.
To those curious about Melville House, I’d suggest you peruse their other book offerings. They have loads of stuff. (I first learned of them when I came across their edition of Jane Austen’s novella “Lady Susan.”)