The Spectre of Alexander Wolf

Gaito Gazdanov

A superb early postmodern classic by one of Nabokov's fellow émigré writers, rediscovered after more than half a century

"A mesmerising work of literature" Antony Beevor

"A work of great potency ... it punches very much above its weight, and I have a hunch that what's in it will stay with you for the rest of your life" Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

"This is an original at work, that originality perceived as it were through a veil, as an intrigue, an enigma ... offering a perception of reality, of death and guilt and the effects of both" George Szirtes, The Times

"Quick-paced, taut prose ... rendered beautifully in Karetnyk's accomplished new translation" Ivan Juritz, Independent on Sunday

"A masterpiece of modern literature" Die Zeit

"If Proust had been a Russian taxi driver in Paris in the 1930s..." L'Express

A man comes across a short story which recounts in minute detail his killing of a soldier, long ago-from the victim's point of view. It's a story that should not exist, and whose author can only be a dead man.

So begins the strange quest for the elusive writer "Alexander Wolf".

A singular classic, The Spectre of Alexander Wolf is a psychological thriller and existential inquiry into guilt and redemption, coincidence and fate, love and death.

Gaito Gazdanov, the son of a forester, joined Baron Wrangel's White Army aged just sixteen and fought in the Russian Civil War. Exiled in Paris from the 1920s onwards, he took on what jobs he could and during periods of unemployment slept on park benches or in the Métro. A job driving taxis at night eventually allowed him to attend lectures at the Sorbonne and write during the day; he soon became part of the literary scene, and was greatly acclaimed by Maxim Gorky, among others. He died in Munich in 1971.

Translated by Bryan Karetnyk
Cover illustration by Julien Pacaud
192 pp
Published 20/06/2013
ISBN 9781782270089
Pushkin Collection


The Spectre of Alexander Wolf

More on this book

Gaito Gazdanov’s The Buddha’s Return

Translated again by the accomplished Bryan Karetnyk, The Buddha’s Return is the story of a young man afflicted with a confused sense of reality (to say the least), who is drawn into the Parisian underworld and eventually accused of his friend’s brutal murder.

Daunt Books Hampstead/Walking Book Club Present “The Spectre of Alexander Wolf”

Sunday, January 26th, 11:30am – meet at South End Road shop

‘Hotel of the Future’ by Gaito Gazdanov

HOTEL OF THE FUTURE by Gaito Gazdanov Translated from the Russian by Bryan Karetnyk  

Read an Exclusive Story by Gaito Gazdanov

To celebrate Gaito Gazdanov’s 110th birthday, we are publishing here for the very first time in English Gazdanov’s experimental short story ‘Hotel of the Future’, translated by Bryan Karetnyk. “Picture to yourself a Parisian street. Decorated with austere asphalt, regular walls and buildings, where the ground is smooth, like the belly of a lizard, and […]

The New Paperback Edition of The Spectre of Alexander Wolf

‘A tantalising mystery … a mesmerising work of literature’ Antony Beevor

Antony Beevor on “Alexander Wolf”: “Mesmerising”

In last Saturday’s Times, Antony Beevor chose The Spectre of Alexander Wolf by Gaito Gazdanov as one of his two choices for the summer: “Written by a White Russian émigré in Paris … it provides a tantalising mystery. Much more than a period piece, it is a mesmerising work of literature.” Click here for the full article: […]

Gazdanov: Showing Them How It’s Done

“Elegantly eerie”: The Irish Times reviews “The Spectre of Alexander Wolf”

Soldier, Taxi Driver, Master Novelist

Gaito Gazdanov’s “The Spectre of Alexander Wolf”


The Queen of Spades and Selected Works
I Was Jack Mortimer
The Spectre of Alexander Wolf
Subtly Worded and Other Stories
The Buddha’s Return
The Flight