I’ve been hearing great things about Futility by William Gerhardie, freshly resurrected from publishing oblivion by Melville House. We’ll be having an review in an upcoming TQC; until then, Michael Dirda in The Washington Post.
William Gerhardie’s “Futility” must stand with Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and Hubert Crackanthorpe’s “Wreckage” high among English fiction’s best single-word book titles. Written while its author was still an undergraduate at Oxford and first published in 1922, “Futility” is precisely what the subtitle announces: “A Novel on Russian Themes.” Its overall tone is distinctly Chekhovian, a mixture of comedy and pathos, suffused with low-key irony. When the American edition appeared, it bore a preface by no less an eminence than Edith Wharton, praising “the laughter, the tears, the strong beat of life in it.”
That description sounds off-puttingly Edwardian and old-fashioned, yet Gerhardie’s novel and its successors — especially “The Polyglots” and “Jazz and Jasper” (called “Eva’s Apples” in the United States before gaining its definitive title, “Doom”) — won a chorus of praise from Arnold Bennett, H.G. Wells, Katherine Mansfield, Evelyn Waugh (“I have talent, but he has genius”), Graham Greene and many others. . . .
Gerhardie fans will be pleased to know that Melville House has The Polyglots planned for January 2013.