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7 Stories (New Russian Writing) Paperback – November 11, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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About the Author

One of the greatest Russian writers of the 20th century, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) was, by his own admission, "known for being unknown". Like his better-known contemporary, Bulgakov, Krzhizhanovsky was born in Kiev and moved to Moscow in the early 1920s. The Bolshevik Revolution had put an end to his brief career as a lawyer, freeing him to devote all of his mind and energy to writing and philosophy.
In his viewless room – so small it must once have been a larder – that Krzhizhanovsky wrote his strange, philosophical, satirical, lyrical phantasmagorias including the seven incomparable stories in this collection: "Quadraturin", "Autobiography of a Corpse", "The Bookmark", "In the Pupil", "The Runaway Fingers", "Yellow Coal" and "The Unbitten Elbow".
The author of five novellas, a hundred-odd stories, a dozen plays, screenplays and librettos, and dozens of essays, he went to his grave "a literary nonentity." Unearthed by chance, Krzhizhanovsky's collected works (3,000 pages) are only now being brought out in Russian. He was a writer-thinker. Many of his stories have the quality of a problem or puzzle: "I am interested," he said, "not in the arithmetic, but in the algebra of life." The constant rejections eventually drove Krzhizhanovsky to drink. Asked what had brought him to wine, he joked: "A sober attitude towards reality." On December 28, 1950, the critic Georgii Shengeli drew a black frame around this entry in his notebook: "Today Sigizmund Dominikovich Krzhizhanovsky died, a writer-visionary, an unsung genius."
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Product Details

  • Series: New Russian Writing (Book 39)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: GLAS New Russian Writing; 1 edition (November 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 5717200730
  • ISBN-13: 978-5717200738
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,031,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A fantastic and all-too-small collection of stories by a forgotten Russian writer and intellectual who was a celebrated friend of the major players in Moscow theatre and intellectual life of the 1920s and 1930s. His lack of luck at getting published has made him a new and exciting gem not for his generation, but for ours, after Vadim Perel'muter discovered and began publishing Krzhizhanovsky's works in Russian in the 1990s. Krzhizhanovsky's ironic and playful, yet exceedingly philosophic and melancholic style is sure to remind variously of Borges, Kafka, Poe, and more, yet Krzhizhanovsky is by all means unique. These stories apprehend the Soviet reality in very much their own way.
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Format: Paperback
There are quite a few coffins in these Wellsian stories - and one senses that they are real ones. Poor Russia! The corpse comes to life from p90 to p138. First off the narrator in an embedded text - distanced from the fictitious protagonist and therefore probably truer to the authorial voice - is waxing lyrical about 'the narrow margins of books' which he has 'long preferred' to 'the monotonous miles of fields'; the story then spirals into a kind of Catch 22 madness ('the war's dialectic forced all those who were more or less alive to go to their death; and gave all those who were more or less dead the right to live') both funny and authentically surreal, though it ends feebly. The shorter The Unbitten Elbow is a quaint treat with distinct Kafkan echoes and the first three pages of The Bookmark are sheer delight (the rest is utterly sinister). The funnier, the better - if it had all been like that central story I might have had to shoot myself or convert to Orthodoxy. 'Spring.. when identical people love other identical people, when the ground is covered with puddles, the trees with green pustules..' Your kinda gloom? Enjoy!

Our author appears to be clasping a sausage; if it's a cigar it's gone out. (Somehow one doesn't associate such things with post-revolutionary Russia.) The translator's notes might have told us that breviers and nonpareils (rhymes with apparel) are print sizes. And when SK observes that relationships are 'a succession of betrayals of each other *with each other*', one suspects he'd been reading Proust. Is that possible? If not, well done for thinking along parallel lines
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