Introduction by Edith Wharton

Part of The Neversink Library

Hailed by his famous contemporaries including Edith Wharton, H.G. Wells, Katherine Mansfield, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh, who called him a “genius,” William Gerhardie is one of the twentieth century’s forgotten masters, and his lovely comedy Futility one of the century’s neglected masterpieces.

It tells the story of someone very similar to Gerhardie himself: a young Englishman raised in Russia who returns to St. Petersburg and falls in love with the daughter of a hilariously dysfunctional family—all played out with the armies of the Russian Revolution marching back and forth outside the parlor window.

Part British romantic comedy, part Russian social realism, and with a large cast of memorable characters, this astoundingly funny and poignant novel is the tale of people persisting in love and hope despite the odds.

WILLIAM GERHARDIE (1895 – 1977) was one of the 20th century’s most underappreciated masters. Of Anglo-Russian upbringing, he deftly combined the keen observations of Russian social realism with the sly wit of the English romantic comedy, all while honing his own particular comic edge on the dawning absurdity of the new century.

”There are elements of Chekhov and Austen in Futility…a compelling story.” — The Quarterly Conversation

”To those of my generation he was the most important new novelist to appear in our young life. We were proud of his early and immediate success, like men who have spotted the right horse.” – Graham Greene

”I have talent, but he has genius.” — Evelyn Waugh

”[Futility] is a living book….it is warm. One can put it down and it goes on breathing.” – Katherine Mansfield

”Why was there no shouting about Gerhardie’s Futility–shouting to reach the suburbs and the country towns? True, devastating. A wonderful book.” – H.G. Wells

”Mr. Gerhardie’s novel is extremely modern; but it has bulk and form, a recognisable orbit, and that promise of more to come that one always feels latent in the beginnings of the born novelist” – Edith Wharton

’William Gerhardie is our Gogol’s Overcoat. We all came out of him.’ – Olivia Manning

’In my opinion Gerhardie has genius.’ – Arnold Bennett

’He is a comic writer of genius … but his art is profoundly serious.’ – C. P. Snow