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Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 6, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; First Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173198
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173190
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fantastically imaginative, darkly ironic and marvelously crafted, these seven tales written in the 1920s were unpublished during Krzhizhanovsky's lifetime. Set mostly in Moscow, where the toilsome workdays sap spiritual strength, the stories are about the strange, wondrous and alarming things that can result from a chance encounter. In Quadraturin, the most straightforward story, the resident of a matchbox-size flat is proffered an experimental formula for biggerizing rooms, which, when applied, expands the space and doesn't stop until the room becomes a black wilderness. In Someone Else's Theme, a writer meets a down-on-his-luck seller of philosophical systems, while the protagonist of The Branch Line is directed to a train that spirits him into a disorienting dreamscape. The long title story is the biography of a brilliant, lonely scientist, Max Shterer, whose obsessive pursuit of making time dance in a circle proves prescient and chilling. Turnbull's translation reads wonderfully, capturing the isolation and strangeness of Krzhizhanovsky's startling stories. (July)
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Review

"For anyone enthralled by the satirical avant-garde that briefly shone on the fringes of Soviet culture in the 1920s, here’s a revelation.  Krzhizhanovsky somehow scraped a living in post-revolution Moscow as he wrote stories infused by a disturbing surrealism.  Joanne Turnbull’s fine translations of seven won the Rossica Prize, and this edition should gain them a flock of new fans."  Boyd Tonkin, The Independent


"These dystopic Stalin-era stories...read like dream diaries..." --The New York Times

"Fantastically imaginative, darkly ironic and marvelously crafted, these seven tales written in the 1920s were unpublished during Krzhizhanovsky’s lifetime. Set mostly in Moscow, where the toilsome workdays sap spiritual strength, the stories are about the strange, wondrous and alarming things that can result from a chance encounter...Turnbull’s translation reads wonderfully, capturing the isolation and strangeness of Krzhizhanovsky’s startling stories." --Publishers Weekly

 "A writer visionary, an unsung geniu..." --Georgy Shengeli

"Nightmarish visions and philosophical conundrums explored in highly entertaining, fleet-footed prose... Krzhizhanovsky's whimsical and self-reflexive tales are more likely to strike readers as harbingers of Borges or Calvino." -OLIVER READY, The Times Literary Supplement

"Like Platonov, Krzhizhanovsky is a poker-faced surrealist whose imagination is so radical it goes beyond political lampoon into the realms of metaphysical assault. But Krzhizhanovsky’s writing is more in the fantastical modernist mode of Jorge Luis Borges and Stanislaw Lem–he works out the eccentric premises of his plot with a relentless cogency..." --Bill Marx, WBUR.fm

"Krzhizhanovsky is often compared to Borges, Swift, Poe, Gogol, Kafka, and Beckett, yet his fiction relies on its own special mixture of heresy and logic...phantasmagoric..." --Natasha Randall, Bookforum

“Curiously, one of the most startling qualities of his work is the directness with which it addresses our 21st century concerns. It’s as if the Soviet editors were right: Krzhizhanovsky now seems more our contemporary than theirs...His stories, like those of Jorge Luis Borges, are closer to poetry and philosophy than to the realistic novel...It is now clear that Krzhizhanovsky is one of the greatest Russian writers of the last century.” –Robert Chandler, Financial Times

"Delightful to read, humorous, sad and meaningful...His work, subtly subversive, as his editor rightly calls it, only started to be published as a whole in 1989, when what might be described as all the usual suspects, Kafka and Borges, Swift, Gogol and of course Samuel Beckett, were promptly trotted out by way of comparison. Krzhizhanovsky has certainly much in common with them, but the flavour and personality of his writing is all his own, as if it were a subdued and friendly personal conversation. His method, as he put it, was not to borrow from reality, but to ask reality for permission to use his own imagination'." –John Bayley, The Spectator

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By R. H. Chandler on November 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887--1950) used to say that he was `known for being unknown'. For the main part, Soviet editors rejected his work; often they dismissed it as `untimely' or `not contemporary', by which they meant: `This is not what we need during our new socialist epoch.' Curiously, one of the most startling qualities of his stories is the directness with which they address our twenty-first century concerns. It is as if the Soviet editors were right; Krzhizhanovsky now seems more our contemporary than theirs.
One story, `Yellow Coal' (published not in this volume but in the earlier SEVEN STORIES), anticipates global warming. It is set in a time when we have run out of coal and oil and the sun is drying up our reserves of water. A scientist suggests harnessing the energy of human spite: 'On the long keyboard of feelings, you see, the black keys of spite have their own distinct, sharply differentiated tone.' Marriage, of course, is a good potential source of this energy: 'coldness and, wherever possible, repugnance multiplied by proximity would produce high-voltage spite...' But there are other sources: 'Mills could make do with workers' hatred alone; the workers themselves were no longer needed. Factories and mills began laying huge numbers of people off, keeping only skeleton crews to man the spite collectors.' In the end, however, it appears that even the seemingly infinite energy of spite can grant humanity only a brief respite.
The pun on `spite' and `respite' is mine, but it is, I believe, in Krzhizhanovsky's spirit. He follows the play of thought and words wherever they take him. In his own words, `A thinker is not someone who thinks loyally, but someone who is loyal to his thoughts'. He also wrote, `I am not alone. Logic is with me'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By jafrank on February 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
These stories are wonderful. Krzhizhanovsky has a deft way of blending phantasmagoria with prescient observations about the convoluted shape of life in 1920's Moscow, with all of it's crowding and daily upheavals. He spins out dark little dream worlds with eerie precision, 'Quadraturin,' 'The Branch Line' and the title piece are each perfect ruminations on space, dreams, and time. I hope they bring more of his stuff out in English in the future. Not only does he antedate Borges and Cortazar (who are the closest comparisons I can think of) with his weird, Russian Avante-Gardishness, but he might also secretly be responsible for the giant monster movie. Rampaging Eiffel Tower, folks. That's all I'll say
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Smith-Peter on May 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
In these stories, things cast shadows, and not vice versa. Krzhizhanovsky (henceforth to be called K.) provides a series of tales that are dark, disturbing but still with a tinge of humor.

In one, a product allows for the continuing expansion of a once-tiny Moscow apartment. In another, an author creates a manifesto against Symps (sympathetics, i.e. members of the intelligentsia) and is terrified to be called a Symp himself.

This leads into the main theme of the stories, written in the late 1920s and until 1930, which is the impending destruction of the Russian intelligentsia. K. was a man of vision and was able to foresee Stalin's actions against the intelligentsia, realized in the 1930s. A sense of foreboding and doom is palpable throughout. In spite of this, the stories are very readable and worth reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. Dawson on January 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
This collection of seven loosely interconnected short stories, by turns whimsical and menacing, examines Soviet Moscow in the 1920s. In these stories Krzhizhanovsky primarily focuses on the lives of displaced intellectuals--those who, after World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917, are left with little to do but wander the city's streets wondering what happened to their settled lives of respectability. One of Krzhizhanovsky's protagonists describes Soviet Russia, and particularly Moscow, as a "country of nonexistences," and it is these nonexistences, left without a place or function in society, that populate Krzhizhanovsky's stories. While often representing an isolated point of view, Krzhizhanovsky's stories contain enough dark comedy and signs of hope to mitigate their overall bleakness.

In a self-described style of "experimental realism," Krzhizhanovsky mixes gritty details (dark rooms in concrete block buildings, frozen boulevard benches) with fantastical elements, including several extended dream sequences. In one story, the Eiffel Tower uproots itself and heads towards the revolution in the East, laying waste to everything in its path. In another, a sociable corpse manages to miss his funeral while trying to experience one more day of life. In the last story of the collection (Memories of the Future), Max Scherter is a man obsessed with the concept of time. He works to build a time machine only to be repeatedly interrupted by war and revolution. Despite the obstacles Max faces, his story is a hopeful one of the perseverance of a noble idea over mankind's tragedies.

Krzhizhanovsky died in 1950 before any of his stories were published.
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