Tuesday, September 27, 2016

King Stakh's Wild Hunt

King Stakh's Wild Hunt, by Uladzimir Karatkevich

I have no real idea of where I heard of this title.  It's been on my wishlist for a while and when I went on an ILL binge, I included it.  My copy came all the way from Florida!  It's a really nice copy, too, a hardback printed in 2012 by Glagoslav, a publishing outfit that specializes in Slavic books.

Uladzimir Karatkevich was a Belarussian author, a pretty famous one, and he published this novel in 1974.  It's supposed to be something of a modern classic, or so they say.  I liked it.  It's very Gothic!  Appropriate to the fall season, and it could have been an RIP title if I had joined RIP this year, which I forgot to do.

Belaretsky is an ethnographer who travels around his beloved Belarus, collecting old folktales and songs.  Upon arrival in a remote country district, he meets a girl--Nadzeya Yanovsky, the last of her line, living in a near-derelict manor, who expects to die under the family curse.  She's got ghosts in the house and the Wild Hunt after her; everyone knows that her long-ago ancestor killed King Stakh, and he cursed the family for twelve generations.  The Hunt came after her father, and now it's going to get her.

Of course, as a rational modern man, Belaretsky doesn't believe in ghosts or Wild Hunts or family curses.  He's sure it's swamp gas or a hallucination or something--at least, until the Hunt very nearly gets him.  Belaretsky is determined to figure out just what the Hunt is and save Nadzeya from a cruel death.

So it's a patriotic Belarussian Gothic novel!  Very fun.  I enjoyed the writing and the atmosphere

It is completely impossible to figure out just when this story is supposed to be set--for me, anyway.  It could be any time between the 1860s to about 1910--all I could tell was that World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution hadn't happened yet.  That is, until the end, when he mentions 1902 as post-dating the story, but he's narrating it as a very old man, so that doesn't really help all that much.



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