Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s ‘Autobiography of a Corpse’

1124-bks-Kalfus-articleInlineKen Kalfus at The New York Times:

The stories in this collection by the early Soviet writer Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky are nearly as fantastic as the crashing combination of consonants at the beginning of his surname. In one, the reflection of a man in his girlfriend’s eye vanishes down the dark corridors of her pupil and falls into a deep well, where it joins the lonely, miserable reflections of her previous lovers. There the reflections debate their mistress’s charms and caprices, as well as their own deficiencies of character. And they plot their escape. The hero of another story, a writer, composes a tale about a hermit whose prayers temporarily close all the cracks in the world — potholes, mountain gorges, facial wrinkles, even “the cranial seams hidden under the skin on people’s heads.” After reading the yarn to some indifferent friends, the writer is visited by an enthusiastic scientist, a reincarnation of the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who claims that reality itself, the entire space-time continuum, is no less cracked than our everyday world, riddled with gaps and intermittencies.

Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) was from the generation of Soviet writers who came to Moscow in the 1920s, a time of explosive literary ferment. Mikhail Bulgakov, Yuri Olesha, Andrei Platonov and others, while working on revolutionary newspapers and in avant-garde theaters, were often appalled by the headlong modernization, mechanization and collectivization of the society they saw around them. Their best work, much of it satirically fabulous, expressed their disquiet without putting themselves in opposition.

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