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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More please
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky never managed to get a book published in the Soviet Union in his lifetime (1887 - 1950). It was not until 1989 that his work started to be published, now stretching to five volumes in Russian. So it was with delight that I discovered this translation of probably his best known short story and six other short works in 'Memories of the Future',...
Published 20 months ago by K. N. Tole

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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surreal, but not quite there
I found this book a bit of a disappointment, wanting more and feeling slightly let down. The stories are Surrealist and the intellectual paradigm in which they are made seems to be an analysis of the times in which they were written, i.e the oppression of the Soviet Union. The first story is a good example. A man coats his bedroom in a special paint, and over weeks sees...
Published on 15 Dec. 2009 by Spilsbury


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More please, 23 July 2013
This review is from: Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky never managed to get a book published in the Soviet Union in his lifetime (1887 - 1950). It was not until 1989 that his work started to be published, now stretching to five volumes in Russian. So it was with delight that I discovered this translation of probably his best known short story and six other short works in 'Memories of the Future', published by the New York Review of Books and translated by Moscow-based Joanne Turnbull.

What a gem this book has turned out to be. After reading as much of Bulgakov, Kharms and Grossman as I have been able to get hold of, Krzhizhanovsky has to be included with them. Had more of his work been published during his lifetime with the encouragement this would have engendered then I personally think another Russian name would be added to the canon of European masters-who-changed-our-perceptions-of-literature. Too strong? Get the book and read for yourself.

Krzhizhanovsky's background appears to be very similar to another Polish Ukrainian Russian - the composer Karol Szymanowski. The composer turned to Poland whilst the writer turned to Moscow - one to become grumpier and fated to be hailed as the new Messiah for the rise of a post-Chopin Polish music, and the other to all but vanish into obscurity despite his incredibly well-read and intellectual background in both Philosophy and all the Arts.

As I lived very close to where Krzhizhanovsky used to live on old Arbat I feel akin in a way and also appalled that I did not know this before leaving for Mayakovskaya. Every story within this book has at its kernel a gem of an idea, and every story has at least one section that you want to underscore, highlight and write down for reference. They tend to feel like they have a 'science-fiction'-like (hawk...spit) quality, but these are not science-fiction. Everyone asks, however, for engagement by the reader. This is not some cosy little volume of Chesterton or Huxley.

'Quadraturin', the first story, reads like a short Kafka exercise in which a room's inhabitant disappears in the suddenly expanding dimensions of his previously assigned cosy cubby-hole. The second story 'The Bookmark' removes the writer from the writing by several dimensions and we are off into Flann o'Brien / Third Policeman / At-Swim-Two-Birds territory with a particular Russian slant. This is a writer writing about a writer writing about a book in which a writer........ you get the picture. It contains what could very well be some pithy autobiographical stuff too

"You say this is 'nonsense'. Not at all: we writers write our stories, but literary historians in whose power it is to admit us or not to admit us into history, to open or slam the door, also want, you see, to tell stories about stories. Otherwise, their stuck. And so the story that can be told in ten words or less, the one easily summarised, squeezes in the door, while writings, which cannot produce that something,remain..... nothing.

and....

" ...the land's noblest and richest magnates raised animals disputans. There isn't anything to argue about in an isolated country where everything has been determined and predetermined in saecula saeculorum but these disputants were trained for the purpose, fed a special diet that itrritated the liver and sublingual nerve, then pitted against one another and forced to argue till they were hoarse and foaming at the mouth - to unanimous laughter and merry halloos of those that still remembered the old traditions.

The fun doesn't stop there. The next story is 'Someone Else's Theme', a wild adventure again about a wordsmith who encounters a Theme-Giver and looks to seek him out again. We're into the realm of meta-fiction again where characters talk about their lack of existence and writers fight their creations. Read this deeply and you begin to sense Krzhizhanovsky's suggestion that there is a character-like made-upness about the nature of existence. This most certainly is the existential short story with reflections by readers on characters in books and that inflexion that takes place at that point. A truly deep, psychological and meaningful story which just gets better the more you consider it. 'Someone Else's Theme' will give you hours of contemplation and pleasure as you unravel this multi-stranded tale.

'The Branch Line' is the slightest of the short strories being an evocation of dream to reality during a railway journey. But its a dream of dreaming itself and a fantasy on the 'heavy industry' of dreaming with Stakhanovites called up to the maintenance and vorsprung of Soviet dreaming.

'Red Snow' and 'The Thirteenth Category of reason' I will leave for you to discover, only to say that Krzhizhanovsky read Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' as an adolescent (or at least according to the burgeoning copying from one internet site to another so beloved of yoof-innernet geekdom out there).

'Memories of the Future' itself is an absolute belter of a tale which I am not about to give away. But it is about Time Travel and has absolutely nothing to do with H G Wells. I keep looking for a picture of Krzhizhanovsky, and when I find it I think it will be the face of Shterer, the protagonist, that I see as I read the tale.

What else can I say?
get this book - its a belter and reveals an undiscovered genius who '........ coulda been a contender' errrrrrrr for something. A great writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Arrived in time and in good condition Contentwise a four star, 28 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Arrived in time and in good condition

Contentwise a four star. Some pieces are of an outstanding content and style, providing an in-depth and highly original view of the Soviet society under NEP. At the same level as Bulgakov's best, beating other, similar writers from the same period like Sologub, Samjatin and Ehrenburg, However occassionally Krzhizhanovsky gets caught in his own excellence as a spinner of tales and gets somewhat longwinding and convoluted.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surreal, but not quite there, 15 Dec. 2009
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Spilsbury (UK, Liverpool) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
I found this book a bit of a disappointment, wanting more and feeling slightly let down. The stories are Surrealist and the intellectual paradigm in which they are made seems to be an analysis of the times in which they were written, i.e the oppression of the Soviet Union. The first story is a good example. A man coats his bedroom in a special paint, and over weeks sees the room enlarge until it has virtually become a wilderness in which he finds himself quite lost. The writing is at times beautiful and there is a questioning and philosophising that at times promises to open up the book into a wonderful dialogue with the reader, but Krzhizhanovsky somehow keeps forgetting the reader, disappearing into tedious and not really relevant monologues that are a persistent feature of the stories presented.
The language is somehow heavy and makes onerous reading at times without always being rich in content. Allegory is out, and if surrealism is in, it is at times quite baffling!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 26 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Great book
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Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics)
Memories of the Future (New York Review Books Classics) by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (Paperback - 26 Nov. 2009)
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