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.”
These eleven newly translated tales from a playful Soviet master of the unlikely and the uncanny ask you to take a second look at the cracks in everyday reality. “Krzhizhanovsky wanted to perform imaginary experiments with the nature of time and space…. It is a method for investigating how much unreality reality can bear.”—Adam Thirlwell
Set in Moscow in the 1920s, this strange tale centers on the doings of a secret society of “Letter Killers”—who meet in a room of empty shelves to enact stories, committing nothing to paper. Krzhizhanovsky is at his philosophical and fantastical best in this extended meditation on madness and silence, the word and the soul unbound.
The first English-language collection of stories from a Soviet writer whose mind-bending tales draw comparisons to the works of Poe, Borges, Kafka, and Capek. “Here a natural storyteller, striking intellect, and deeply creative soul are found all in one—a rare combination.”—The Complete Review