In a 1994 American Scholar article, Andrew Wachtel wrote of Ivan Bunin: "[He] is undoubtedly the greatest Russian writer whom no one reads." With the collapse of communism, however, Bunin's works are undergoing a revival in both Russia and the West. As enthusiastic as readers and publishers have been, scholarship has not kept pace with this "rediscovery," in part due to the many contradictions in Bunin's writing, in part because much past criticism has been used to advanced the critic's own view of what they love or hate about "modern" life.
In If You See the Buddha, Thomas Gaiton Marullo begins addressing the lack of scholarship by establishing that Bunin was a thoroughly modern writer whose images and ideas were rooted more in the twentieth century than in the nineteenth. But beyond that point, Marullo states that, of all the systems of belief that Bunin adopted and adapted throughout his career, it was his interest in Buddhism that best elucidates the dynamics of his writing. Key Buddhistic concepts figured prominently in Bunin's work. These ideas enabled him to make sense of his world and serves as the catalyst for an ars poetica that tempered his philosophical and aesthetic restiveness and contributed a sense of timelessness to work from both his prerevolutionary and émigré periods.