Monday, 26 May 2014

Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (4.5/5)

First published: 2013
Original title: -
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Joanne Turnbull with Nikolai Formozov, 2013

Page count: 230


The back says: The stakes are wildly high in Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s fantastic and blackly comic philosophical fables, which abound in nested narratives and wild paradoxes. This new collection of eleven mind-bending and spellbinding tales includes some of Krzhizhanovsky’s most dazzling conceits: a provincial journalist who moves to Moscow finds his existence consumed by the autobiography of his room’s previous occupant; the fingers of a celebrated pianist’s right hand run away to spend a night alone on the city streets; a man’s lifelong quest to bite his own elbow inspires both a hugely popular circus act and a new refutation of Kant. Ordinary reality cracks open before our eyes in the pages of Autobiography of a Corpse, and the extraordinary spills out.

I say: This collection of 11 short stories generated love and confusion in equal measures, and I am still not entirely sure what it is I’ve read.

Thankfully.

I love the absurd, which is one of the main reasons I bought this, and I was overjoyed that each story has an element of it; albeit more prominent in some stories than others. The summary above lists three of the synopsis of three of the stories, but there is also the story of the past loves of a woman meeting inside of her pupil, and a scientist who invents a way to harness energy from people’s resentment. All the while I was reading I kept wondering where Krzhizhanovsky got these ideas and how he managed to present them in a way that made perfect sense.

Because all of the stories do make some sort of sense, even if they really don’t.

It took me a while to get into the prose of the first, and title story, which initially felt a bit academic and overformal, but a few pages in and I was amazed at how intelligently Krzhizhanovsky is able to turn a phrase. Some of the stories were more profound and linguistically challenging than others, but there were so many sentences that I had to read two or three times because they gave me goose bumps, and as a lover of language I want more of this:


Everyone can forget. Everyone – but the one forgotten.
- p. 61

Swoon.

I must order all of his works, most of which were published after his death.

4.5/5 because a couple of the stories weren’t as great as the others.

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