Monday, November 9, 2009

Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (translated by Joanne Turnball) is a collection of surreal short fiction written in the 1920's but published posthumously. I don't know too much about this guy, but his writing is absolutely incredible. I have faith that pretty much anyone who reads this blog would not find spending the short amount of time it takes to read one of these stories to be a waste and that many of you, ok at least some, would find this to be as good as the best fiction you have read. I am taking it slow, savoring each story, because I don't want it to end.

Here's what the New York Times has to say:

Newcomers to this author will appreciate the guidance Turnbull provides in her introduction, which serves “to exgistolate the gist” of the stories, as the author might say. In “Quadraturin,” a man who lives in a communal apartment building “loses his way in the vast black waste of his own small room,” which has been magically enlarged by the application of a “proliferspansion” ointment. “The Bookmark” features an Eiffel Tower that “runs amok.” In “The Branch Line,” a commuter ends up in a place where “nightmares are the reality,” while in “Red Snow,” a dejected man “comes across a line for logic but doesn’t join it.” A “sociable corpse misses his own funeral” in “The Thirteenth Category of Reason.” And in the title story, the man with the time machine “gets a glimpse of the far-from-radiant Communist future.”

Krzhizhanovsky’s stories are more like dream diaries than fiction. Quite intentionally, he blurs the line between sleep and waking, real and unreal, life and death. While his translators admirably convey the whirligigging quality of his narratives, Krzhizhanovsky’s peregrinations demand unstinting focus and frequent compass checks. His characters often seem half, or wholly, asleep. Sometimes, as in “The Thirteenth Category of Reason,” they are dead — which doesn’t stop them from boarding city trams and chatting with commuters. “Alive or dead, they didn’t care.” Their only concern is whether such conduct is “decrimiligaturitized” — that is, legal. “In “Quadraturin,” the man with the proliferspansion ointment never exits a state of benumbed grogginess. Lying on his bed, “unable to part eyelids stitched together with exhaustion,” he tries to sleep through the night, “mechanically, meekly, lifelessly.” When inspectors from the Remeasuring Commission drop by to make sure he hasn’t exceeded his allotted 86 square feet of space, he hovers, terror-stricken, at the door, hoping they won’t spot his infraction. It’s an archetypal nightmare, reminiscent of Kafka.

1 comment:

CO said...

wow! i'm checking this out!