Books: Memorable Monster

THE PETTY DEMON (355 pp.)—Fyodor Sologub—Random House ($4.95).

The hot outpouring of the Russian literary samovar is not everybody's cup of tea. For casual readers in particular, and restrained Western taste in general, it can be too dark, too wild and too bitter a brew. Yet it is precisely a Slavic lack of restraint and a brooding sense of evil's presence in the world that give the great Russian novelists their widely remarked dramatic powers, and place them ahead of everyone else in a less remarked achievement: the creation of unforgettably grotesque characters. From Mikhail Saltykov's hypocritical Yudushka ("Little Judas") Golovlev, to...

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