Author(s): Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskiĭ
An NYRB Classics Original.
Virtually unpublished during his lifetime, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s fantastic and blackly comic philosophical fables have since 1989 earned him a reputation as one of the greatest Russian writers of the twentieth century. Included in this collection of eleven newly translated tales are some of his strangest and most brilliant conceits: a provincial journalist who moves to Moscow finds his existence consumed by the autobiography of his room’s previous occupant, a suicide who vacated his hundred square feet in exchange for his successor’s consideration of his manuscript; the fingers of a celebrated pianist’s right hand run away to spend an abrasive night alone on the city streets; a man’s lifelong quest to bite his own elbow inspires both a wildly popular circus act and a new refutation of Kant; a desperate energy crisis is resolved through the systematic exploitation of the one substance to reliably increase along with the dysfunctions of modern life: bile, or “yellow coal.” Abounding in nested narratives, wild paradox, and improbably high stakes—what would you do if a Stygian toad landed on your pillow one night and asked for help in saving the world by building a bridge to death?—the unlikely stories in Autobiography of a Corpse ask you to take a second look at the cracks in everyday reality.
SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY (1887-1950) studied law and classical philology at Kiev University. In his philosophical and satirical stories with fantastical plots, he ignored official injunctions to portray the new Soviet state in a positive light, and three separate efforts to print different collections were quashed by the censors, a fourth by World War II. Not until 1989 could these surreal fictions begin to be published. Both his story collection, Memories of the Future, and his novel, The Letter Killers Club, are available from NYRB Classics. JOANNE TURNBULL has translated a number of books from Russian, including Krzhizhanovsky's The Letter Killers Club and Memories of the Future (short-listed for the Best Translated Book Award), both available from NYRB Classics. ADAM THIRLWELL is the author of the novels Politics and The Escape, an essay on novels, The Delighted States, and most recently the experimental book with folding pages, Kapow!. He lives in London.