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Seven Stories

Published by Glas New Russian Writing

ISBN: 9785717200738

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7 Stories has just won the Rossica Prize 2007 for the best translation from Russian to English. The translator was Joanne Turnbull

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky wrote five novellas, a hundred or so stories, a dozen plays, screenplays, librettos and essays. Even with this prolific output he went to his grave a ‘literary non-entity’. Unearthed by chance, his collected works, some 3,000 pages, are only now being published in Russian. As with his better-known contemporary, Bulgakov, Krzhizhanovsky was born in Kiev and moved to Moscow in the early 1920s. The Bolshevik Revolution had put an end to his brief career as a lawyer, freeing him to devote all of his mind and energy to writing and philosophy.

His first real story published in 1919, was a ‘fantasy-dialogue’ between Jacobi, the German philosopher and “Supposedly” – the sum of all human meanings. In the spring of 1922 in Moscow, Krzhizhanovsky moved into a small, dark room on the Old Arbat. In this airless and viewless room, Krzhizhanovsky wrote his strange, philosophical, satirical, lyrical phantasmagorias. In this same dark room, he wrote the seven incomparable stories in this collection: Quadraturin, Autobiography of a Corpse, The Bookmark, In the Pupil, The Runaway Fingers, Yellow Coal and The Unbitten Elbow.

The proletariat-minded editors to whom Krzhizhanovsky brought his work mostly handed them back as not ‘timely’ or ‘contemporary’. The constant rejections eventually drove him to drink. Asked what had brought him to wine, he joked “A sober attitude towards reality”. In 1950 a stroke left him unable to recognise letters and, on December 28, the critic Georgii Shengel drew a black frame around this entry in his notebook: “Today Sigizmund Krzhizanovsky died, a writer-visionary, an unsung genius.”
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