Deceit by Yuri Felsen

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Appearing for the first time in English, Deceit is the debut novel by Yuri Felsen, a leading modernist writer of the interwar Russian diaspora. Known by his contemporaries as ‘the Russian Proust’, Felsen died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, his life and legacy destroyed by the Nazis.

Written in the form of diary, Deceit is a psychological self-portrait of an unnamed narrator, a neurasthenic and aspiring author, whose often-thwarted pursuits of his love interest and muse provide the grounds for his beautifully wrought extemporizations on love, art and human nature. Modulating between the paroxysms of his tormented romance and his quest for an aesthetic mode befitting of the novel he intends to write, Deceit is a remarkable work of introspective depth and psychoanalytic inquiry.

Quite unlike any other writer in the Russian canon, Felsen evokes in rich, poetic, idiosyncratic prose not only the Zeitgeist of interwar Europe and his émigré milieu, but also its psychology and the existential crisis of the age. What Nabokov achieves with images and the physical world, Felsen does with the emotional and metaphysical.