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The Letter Killers Club (New York Review Books Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky , Caryl Emerson , Joanne Turnbull
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Letter Killers Club is a secret society of self-described “conceivers” who, to preserve the purity of their conceptions, will commit nothing to paper. (What, after all, is your run-of-the-mill scribbler of stories if not an accomplished corruptor of conceptions?) The logic of the club is strict and uncompromising. Every Saturday, members meet in a firelit room filled with empty black bookshelves where they strive to top one another by developing ever unlikelier, ever more perfect conceptions: a rehearsal of Hamlet hijacked by an actor who vanishes with the role; the double life of a merry medieval cleric derailed by a costume change; a machine-run world that imprisons men’s minds while conscripting their bodies; a dead Roman scribe stranded this side of the River Acheron. But in this book set in an ominous Soviet Moscow of the 1920s, the members of the club are strangely mistrustful of one another, while all are under the spell of its despotic President, and there is no telling, in the end, just how lethal the purely conceptual—or, for that matter, letters—may be.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“It is now clear that Krzhizhanovsky is one of the greatest Russian writers of the last century.”
—Robert Chandler, The Financial Times

“Krzhizhanovsky wanted to perform imaginary experiments with the nature of time and space. Outside, in the streets, the Communist state was busy performing such experiments for real. In response, Krzhizhanovsky’s prose has a recklessly unstable tone in which delighted examination of impossible worlds can slip into ferocious political  sarcasm. . . . It is a method for investigating how much unreality reality can bear.”
—Adam Thirlwell, The New York Review of Books

“A Russian writer whose morbidly satiric imagination forms the wild (missing) link between the futuristic dream tales of Edgar Allan Poe and the postwar scientific nightmares of Stanislaw Lem . . . an impish master of the fatalistically fantastic.” —Bill Marx, The World

About the Author

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887–1950), the Ukrainian-born son of Polish emigrants, studied law and classical philology at Kiev University. After graduation and two summers spent exploring Europe, he was obliged to clerk for an attorney. A sinecure, the job allowed him to devote most of his time to literature and his own writing. In 1920, he began lecturing in Kiev on theater and music. The lectures continued in Moscow, where he moved in 1922, by then well known in literary circles. Lodged in a cell-like room on the Arbat, Krzhizhanovsky wrote steadily for close to two decades. His philosophical and phantasmagorical fictions ignored injunctions to portray the Soviet state in a positive light. Three separate efforts to print collections were quashed by the censors, a fourth by World War II . Not until 1989 could his work begin to be published. Like Poe, Krzhizhanovsky takes us to the edge of the abyss and forces us to look into it. “I am interested,” he said, “not in the arithmetic, but in the algebra of life.”

Joanne Turnbull’s translations from Russian in collaboration with Nikolai Formozov include Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Memories of the Future (NYRB Classics), short-listed for the Best Translated Book Award.

Caryl Emerson is the A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University.

Product Details

  • File Size: 303 KB
  • Print Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (December 6, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005EH38VW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,855 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terribly Overlooked February 28, 2012
Format:Paperback
Krzhizhanovsky is an obscure Soviet writer, who in this text, emerges as one of the most interesting literary figures of his time. Through allegorical construction, he unveils the Letter Killers Club, a secret society who gather to present stories that cannot be committed to paper. This demonstration of the purity of narrative concepts unfolds with brilliant precision and irony- Krzhizhanovsky weaves stories of wonderful cleverness and depth. Perhaps the most memorable is the creation of a performance of Hamlet, wherein an actor disappears with the role during rehearsal. For all its challenges, The Letter Killer's club is lucid in its satirical demolition of Soviet censorship-and I have a hunch that his work will experience a new readership through this excellent re-printing.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky July 8, 2014
Format:Paperback
Sigizmundundik Krzhizhanovskyalovski is another Polish writer who lived in a Russia where writers were to be killed or exiled. His Letter Killers Club is another example of his intriguing use of words. He reminds me of Daniil Kharms (a surrealist and absurdist writer Died 1942).
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