Stravaging "Strange"

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskii


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Columbia University Press
28 February 2023
ISBN: 9780231199476
224 pages

From the publisher

"I'm not on good terms with the present day," Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky once mused, "but posterity loves me." Virtually unknown during his lifetime and unpublishable under Stalin, he now draws comparisons to Beckett, Borges, Gogol, and Swift. This book presents three tales that encapsulate Krzhizhanovsky's gift for creating philosophical, satirical, and lyrical phantasmagorias.

"Stravaging 'Strange'" details the darkly comic adventures of an apprentice magus: lovesick, he imbibes a magic tincture to reduce himself to the size of a dust mote, the better to observe the young lady in question. He stumbles across a talkative king of hearts, a gallant flea, a coven of vindictive house imps, and his romantic rival along the way to a cinematic denouement. "Catastrophe" wryly parodies Kant's philosophy: an old sage decides to extract the essence from all things and beings in a ruthless attempt to understand reality-and chaos ensues. "Material for a Life of Gorgis Katafalaki," set in Berlin, Paris, London, and Moscow, recounts the absurd trials of an otherworldly outsider of uncertain nationality and unfixed profession with boundless curiosity but scant means.

This book also includes excerpts from Krzhizhanovsky's notebooks-aphoristic glimpses of his worldview, moods, humor, and writing methods-and reminiscences of Krzhizhanovsky by his lifelong companion, Anna Bovshek, beginning with their first meeting in Kiev in 1920 and ending with his death in Moscow in 1950.