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The Letter Killers Club (New York Review Books Classics) [Paperback]

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky , Caryl Emerson , Joanne Turnbull
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £7.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

23 Feb 2012 New York Review Books Classics

A New York Review Books Original. Writers are professional killers of conceptions. The logic of the Letter Killers Club, a secret society of "conceivers" who commit nothing to paper on principle, is strict and uncompromising. Every Saturday they meet in a fire-lit room hung with blank black bookshelves to present their "pure and unsubstantiated" conceptions: a rehearsal of Hamlet hijacked by an actor who vanishes with the role; the double life of a medieval merry cleric derailed by a costume change; a machine-run world that imprisons men's minds while conscripting their bodies; a dead Roman scribe stranded this side of the River Acheron. The overarching scene of this short novel is set in Soviet Moscow, in the ominous 1920s. Known only by pseudonym, like Chesterton's anarchists in fin-de-siècle London, the Letter Killers are as mistrustful of one another as they are mesmerized by their despotic president. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky is at his philosophical and fantastical best in this extended meditation on madness and silence, the word and the soul unbound.

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The Letter Killers Club (New York Review Books Classics) + Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics) + Autobiography of a Corpse (New York Review Books Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (23 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159017450X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590174500
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 12.9 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 342,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


A quirky, exploratory novella.

(Glasgow Herald)

Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov have impressively captured the philosophical, pithy, occastionally folksy and profoundly poetic character of Krzhizhanovsky's prose

(Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887—1950) was an ethnically Polish Ukrainian-born short-story writer whose work was largely unpublished, though he was active among Moscow’s literati in the 1920s. He died in Moscow but his burial site is unknown.

Joanne Turnbull has translated a number of books from Russian, including Andrei Sinyavsky’s Soviet Civilization and Ivan the Fool, Asar Eppel’s The Grassy Street, and Andrei Sergeyev’s Stamp Album. She lives in Moscow.

Caryl Emerson is A. Watson Armour III Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The one-star missive on here is to be disregarded. Certainly, do not let the witless author of the 1* attempted demolition put you off a truly essential author. Give it a go. Chances are you'll then want to move on to the masterful 'Memories of the Future'.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Diversion 28 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A clever, often quite amusing book that certainly lifts the reader out of the humdrum of much of today's pusillanimous literature. This said I did find myself dreaming of the end about 40 pages ahead of its conclusion - strange as the novel is rather short. Perhaps it would have been more engaging as a stage play?
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1 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Opaque and tedious 25 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is as if someone told the author that he was intellectual. He must think that "intellectuals" write in an opaque way, cofusing and over complicating the plot at every turn. Well, great literature is nearly always clear and plain. The central idea of the novel rests upon the notion that the best thoughts come when our dependence on the printed word is recognised. Well this may be true, but he always writes in a obscure, even dull manner. Not for me, mind you I didn't understand Ulysses either...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terribly Overlooked 29 Feb 2012
By Steiner - Published on
Krzhizhanovsky is an obscure Soviet writer, who in this text, emerges as one of the most interesting literary figures of his time. Through allegorical construction, he unveils the Letter Killers Club, a secret society who gather to present stories that cannot be committed to paper. This demonstration of the purity of narrative concepts unfolds with brilliant precision and irony- Krzhizhanovsky weaves stories of wonderful cleverness and depth. Perhaps the most memorable is the creation of a performance of Hamlet, wherein an actor disappears with the role during rehearsal. For all its challenges, The Letter Killer's club is lucid in its satirical demolition of Soviet censorship-and I have a hunch that his work will experience a new readership through this excellent re-printing.
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