'William Gerhardie is one of our immortals. He is our Gogol's Overcoat. We all came out of him.' Olivia Manning'He is a comic writer of genius ... but his art is profoundly serious.' C.P. SnowFirst published in 1925, this is perhaps the most acclaimed of William Gerhardie's novels and was celebrated by Anthony Powell as 'a classic'. Like his first novel, Futility, The Polyglots draws largely on personal experience. It is the story of an eccentric Belgian family living in the Far East in the uncertain years after World War I and the Russian Revolution. The tale is recounted by their dryly conceited young English relative, Captain Georges Hamlet Alexander Diabologh, who comes to stay with them during a military mission. Teeming with bizarre characters - depressives, obsessives, paranoiacs, hypochondriacs, and sex maniacs - Gerhardie paints a brilliantly absurd world where the comic and the tragic are profoundly and irrevocably entwined.
William Alexander Gerhardie was born in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1895. As a young man he went to London and, when the First World War broke out, joined the army. He was first sent to Russia and later travelled the world before beginning to write. Futility (1922), his first novel, was sponsored by Katherine Mansfield, and other notable works of his include The Polyglots (1925) and Of Mortal Love (1936). Gerhardie's writing was acclaimed as an influence on many of his peers, including Anthony Powell, H. G. Wells, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Olivia Manning. He died in London in 1977.