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By Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Joanne Turnbull, Adam Thirlwell

An NYRB Classics Original

Winner of the  2014 PEN Translation Prize

Winner of the 2014 learn Russia Prize

The stakes are wildly excessive in Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s extraordinary and blackly comedian philosophical fables, which abound in nested narratives and wild paradoxes. This new number of 11 mind-bending and spellbinding stories comprises a few of Krzhizhanovsky’s so much surprising conceits: a provincial journalist who strikes to Moscow unearths his life fed on by means of the autobiography of his room’s earlier occupant; the hands of a celebrated pianist’s correct hand run away to spend an evening on my own at the urban streets; a man’s lifelong quest to chew his personal elbow conjures up either a highly well known circus act and a brand new refutation of Kant. traditional fact cracks open sooner than our eyes within the pages of Autobiography of a Corpse, and the extreme spills out

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Sample text

Excited people were bunched on street corners all talking at once. ” Glinting fitfully from the walls of buildings I saw paper squares. Only yesterday afternoon they weren’t there. I walked up to one. The shadow from a cornice had cut off the top lines. I began reading from somewhere in the middle: . ; pair of boots (mil. ; also . . Only by holding a lighted match up to the paper square’s top lines did I learn that it was collecting not only boots and undershirts but bodies with what was in them: life.

But in Krzhizhanovsky’s second mode the subject becomes more abstract: It is no longer a description of the fantastic but a description of how the fantastic could be described at all. And his method for this investigation is to treat language very seriously and very flatly. Perhaps, for instance, you think you can distinguish between abstract nouns and proper nouns. Krzhizhanovsky democratically erases such a distinction, so that whereas in the old tradition things were personified that could not really be personified, like noses or fingers, in these extraordinary stories much smaller elements can now take on uncanny life—like “solitudes” or literary terms.

And so the rational story and the marvelous story were revealed as different ways of describing the same philosophical truth—that all reality is apprehended subjectively. ”[10] And there is, no question, a grandeur to this high-speed survey. But I also wonder if Calvino was a little abrupt in his conclusion. For of course the fantastic tale did not end with James at all. The genre continued—into even more anxious philosophical territory. The “psychic reality of experience” feels cozily mundane when compared to the labyrinths invented by the twentieth century.

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