The Petty Demon is one of the funniest Russian novels ever written. It is also the most decadent of the great Russian classics, replete with naked boys, sinuous girls, and a strange mixture of beauty and perversity. The main character here, Peredonov, is as comical as he is disgusting—at once a victim, a monster, a silly hypocrite, and a sadistic dullard. The plot moves from Peredonov's petty quest for a promotion to arson and murder via one of the most incredible and uproarious scandal scenes in world literature, the masquerade attended by the boy Sasha dressed as a beautiful geisha. The electricity of the relationship between androgynous, pubescent Sasha and the lovely Lyudmilla, with her exotic perfumes, caresses, and lubricious fantasies, never fails to hold the reader’s attention. Even in its censored form, The Petty Demon is one of the most provocative and sexually open of Russian books. Sologub removed many passages (fifteen percent of the text) that would have been unacceptable at the time of publication. These sections are restored in this edition, so that the reader can experience the novel as it was originally written.
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