Eleven new translations of stories by one of Russia’s great writers, virtually unknown in his time.
Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) was exiled to obscurity under Soviet oppression. To this day, no one knows where he is buried. Just a sampling of the writer’s early-20th-century writings (Memories of the Future, 2009, etc.) offers a wealth of strange pleasures. In the title story, a remote journalist becomes obsessed with the autobiography of his room’s previous occupant. “In the Pupil” is another odd tale of an affair and a man’s journey into his lover’s eye. “Human love is a frightened thing with half-shut eyes: it dives into the dusk, skitters about in dark corners, speaks in whispers, hides behind curtains, and puts out the light,” Krzhizhanovsky writes. Some stories are both literal and fantastic; in “The Runaway Fingers,” a world-class pianist’s fingers run off to spend a night sleeping rough in the streets. In “Yellow Coal,” the world’s energy crisis is resolved by harnessing the world’s spite: The titular energy source is bile. Still others are distinctly Russian fairy tales. In “Bridge Over the Styx,” an albino Stygian toad asks an engineer to construct a bridge to Hades. This collection isn’t quite a revelation but definitely qualifies as buried treasure.
Funny and pointed satire from one of literature’s lost souls.