Drawing together episodes of rich atmosphere, this novel is as deep and brooding as the Paris nights that serve as its backdrop. Russian writer Gaito Gazdanov arrived in Paris, as so many did, between the wars and would go on, with this fourth novel, to give readers a crisp rendering of a living city changing beneath its people’s feet. Night Roads is loosely based on the author’s experiences as a cab driver in those disorienting, often brutal years, and the narrator moves from episode to episode, holding court with many but sharing his mind with only a few. His companions are drawn straight out of the Parisian past: the legendary courtesan Jeanne Raldi, now in her later days, and an alcoholic philosopher who goes by the name of Plato. Along the way, the driver picks up other characters, such as the dull thinker who takes on the question of the meaning of life only to be driven insane. The dark humor of that young man’s failure against the narrator’s authentic, personal explorations of the same subject is captured in this first English translation. With his trademark émigré eye, Gazdanov pairs humor with cruelty, sharpening the bite of both.
"Gazdanov creates a unique, dreamlike, impossible tale, where classic Russian themes of madness, exile, suicide, and lost love are intertwined with Kafkaesque absurdity, lost expectations, and the bleak despair of the modern Western civilization between two great wars... Sublime always stays close to ridiculous in [his] lyrical and profoundly serious narrative voice." —Nina Gourianova, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Northwestern University