A valuable collection of 25 stories written by the 1933 Russian Nobel laureate (1870-1953), during the years 1925-45, when he lived as an exile in France following the 1917 Revolution. Bunin's rhapsodic images of the natural world and understated portrayals of romantic and familial longing and loss are etched memorably even in such brief vignettes (which translator Hettinger calls "prose miniatures") as "Summer Day, "Cranes," and "The Eve"—though his fluent meditative style functions even more impressively in longer tales like his best-known piece, "The Gentleman from San Francisco," in which an American millionaire's sudden death in Europe becomes a threnody on the vanity of human wishes. Other standouts include the emotional title story, about an ardent young army officer's brief affair with an enigmatic married woman; "Ballad," a modern folktale of sorts, about a lustful old man pursued by an otherworldly avenger; and "Cold Fall," which explores the emotions of a woman who has lost lovers to two wars. Bunin is, unaccountably, the least translated of the great Russian writers (and his best work ranks with that of Turgenev and Chekhov). This splendid volume takes an important step toward righting a long-standing wrong.
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