the spectre

 This is Kelly, and I know this might not look like a book you would immediately pick up, but when I saw that the Guardian said it would stay with me for the rest of my life… I thought, oh really? We’ll see about that.

Well, the skeptic in me was proven wrong. This is the kind of book that immediately draws you in and doesn’t actually let go.

Summary: 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.

Reviews: “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” Guardian

“A mystery…multilayered…this is an original at work” The Times

Click for an Excerpt:

I promise it will actually stay with you… enjoy!

Excerpt: Of all my memories, of all my life’s innumerable sensations, the most onerous was that of the single murder I had committed. Ever since the moment it happened, I cannot remember one day passing when I haven’t regretted it. No punishment for it ever threatened me, because it occurred in the most exceptional of circumstances and it was clear that I couldn’t have acted otherwise. Moreover, no one other than I knew about it. It was one of those countless episodes of the Civil War; in the general course of contemporary events it could be looked upon as an insignificant detail, all the more so as during those few minutes and seconds prior to the incident its outcome concerned only the two of us-myself and another man, unknown to me. Then I was alone. No one else had any part in this.

I couldn’t faithfully describe what led up to the event because everything was such a blur, a mark of almost all fighting in any war, the participants of which least of all conceive of what’s happening in reality. It was summer, in southern Russia, and we were on our fourth day of continuous, disorderly troop manoeuvres, to an accompaniment of gunfire and sporadic fighting. I’d completely lost all concept of time; I couldn’t even say where I was exactly. I remember only the sensations, which could just as easily have been elicited in other circumstances-the feeling of hunger, thirst, terrible fatigue; I hadn’t slept these past two and a half nights. There was a torrid heat, and the air hung with the faint smell of smoke; an hour previously we’d made our way out of a forest, which was ablaze on one side, and there, where the sunlight couldn’t penetrate, a great straw-coloured shadow slowly pressed forward. I was so desperate for sleep; I remember thinking at the time that it would have been utter bliss to stop, lie down on the scorched grass and drop off, forgetting about everything. However, this was the one thing that I couldn’t do, and so I continued through the hot, drowsy haze, swallowing my saliva and periodically rubbing my eyes, which were irritated by the heat and a lack of sleep.

I recall that when we were passing through a small grove, I leant against a tree and, standing for what I thought to be only a second, I drifted off with the long-familiar sound of gunfire in the background. When I opened my eyes there was no one around. I cut across the grove and set out on the road, in the direction I thought my comrades to have taken. Almost immediately I was outstripped by a Cossack astride a swift bay horse; he waved to me and shouted something I couldn’t make out. After some time, I had the good fortune to come across a scraggy black mare whose rider obviously had been killed. She was bridled and had a Cossack saddle on her back, and she was nibbling at the grass, constantly swishing her long, wiry tail. As soon as I mounted her, she set off at a gallop.

#FridayReads: The Spectre of Alexander Wolf by Gaito Gazdanov

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