William Gerhardie: An English Writer with a Russian Accent ‒ on the Revolution and Civil War
The works of William Gerhardie, a witness of the two Russian revolutions and the Civil War, are the unique fruit of cultural interaction, and especially of Chekhovian influence on British culture. Gerhardie is a rare example of a person and writer on the Anglo-Russian cultural border. In the 1920s, he was well known in Britain and the USA, especially in literary circles: in the 1990s, after his books were published in English and translated into the main European languages, he received wide recognition. However, he is still poorly known in Russia, and his works have not been studied. The clash of two cultural and civilisational traditions – Russian and English – determined his double identity and the dramatic character of his life. However, in his works he synthesised and harmoniously combined the Chekhovian tradition with the English cultural tradition, rooted in the works of Sterne, English caricature (evolving from William Hogarth), Dickens, and Beckett, creating a vivid, modernist prose which gave a creative impulse to British writers of later generations – E. Waugh, G. Greene, O. Manning, A. Powell, W. Boyd, etc. Gerhardie, probably on more significant grounds than Katherine Mansfield, is often called an “English Chekhov” in literary criticism. It is a spectacular definition, but not quite accurate, since he was a writer of a different time and language who belonged to a different cultural and aesthetic tradition, which often led him to inner polemics with Chekhov. In this article, his early works are analysed from an imagological point of view, since it was between the 1920s and 1930s that he created an expressive image of Russia, Russians, and the English.
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