Russian author Fyodor Sologub’s novel The Little Demon (also translated as The Petty Demon, 1907) puts us in the heart of summer.
Mad, lascivious, sadistic and ridiculous, the provincial schoolteacher Peredonov torments his students and has hallucinatory fantasies about acts of savagery and degradation, yet to everyone else he is an upstanding member of society. As he pursues the idea of marrying to gain promotion, he descends into paranoia, sexual perversion, arson, torture and murder. Sologub’s anti-hero is one of the great comic monsters of twentieth-century fiction, subsequently lending his name to the brand of sado-masochism known as Peredonovism. The Little Demon (1907) made an immediate star of its author who, refuting suggestions that the work was autobiographical, stated ‘No, my dear contemporaries … it is about you‘. This grotesque mirror of a spiritually bankrupt society is arguably the finest Russian novel to have come out of the Symbolist movement.
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