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Autobiography of a Corpse

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  754 ratings  ·  107 reviews
The stakes are wildly high in Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's fantastic and blackly comic philosophical fables, which abound in nested narratives and wild paradoxes. This new collection of eleven mind-bending and spellbinding tales includes some of Krzhizhanovsky's most dazzling conceits: a provincial journalist who moves to Moscow finds his existence consumed by the autobiogra ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published December 3rd 2013 by NYRB Classics
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Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This is like fables on acid, man.

Wait. Wait a minute. I mean, honestly, I've never actually been on acid. I've never even been remotely close to being on acid. So just strike that. That was me trying to be hip, which is silly and pretentious and fraudulent.

This is like fables on hashish, man.

There. That's better.

This book is a collection of stories - fables, parables - written by Krzhizhanovsky (yes, it's pronounced just like it looks) in the '20s and '30s and with enough 'Is he talking about us
May 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Borges, Kafka, & Poe

Eleven stories—eleven different faces of paranoia, whimsy, stunted desires, manias, in varying degrees of the bizarre & the fantastical. It's hard to choose a favourite here; almost all of them register high on the novelty meter. Krzhizhanovsky chooses unconventional subjects ( e.g. The Collector of Cracks, now who would've thought of that!) & gives them a unique treatment.
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) was one of history's deleted characters; just like the 0.6 person of his story: a t
Vit Babenco
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“An old Indian folktale tells of a man forced to shoulder a corpse night after night—till the corpse, its dead but moving lips pressed to his ear, has finished telling the story of its long-finished life. Don’t try to throw me to the ground. Like the man in the folktale, you will have to shoulder the burden of my three insomnias and listen patiently, till the corpse has finished its autobiography.”
Probably there was something in the air at that period because so many writers in the different, di
Mar 26, 2014 added it
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Best Translated Book Award longlist 2014
[2.5] No more books of short stories by early twentieth century East European writers introduced by Adam Thirlwell. That shouldn't be too difficult a resolution to keep.

Almost as much as with the volume of Kafka prefaced by Thirlwell which I read early in the year, I'm in a minority by not being terribly keen on this.

It made fascinating, sometimes prescient ideas remarkably dry. At times I wanted to argue with the illogic of the stories. The philosophy said little that I found new or profound.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've read Krzhizhanovsky before (Memories of the future), and didn't care for his writing style or material in that volume. However, I can say without a doubt, this is one of my favorite collections of short stories that I have ever read. First off, I would reccomend the Kindle version, as it makes it much easier to keep track of all the various footnotes, as Krzhizhanovsky makes numerous references to philosophers, philosophical teachings, religions, latin, various Russian folklore, locations, ...more
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
“Man is to man a ghost”

This is a collection of short stories written by surely the most difficult to spell author of all-time, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Writing under the Soviet regime in the early part of last century, most of his work didn’t get past the censors and remained unpublished until the period of Glasnost in the late ’80s. The stories are quirky and imaginative, sometimes fantastical, usually satirical, and often witty; and there are common themes of individual and social identity, r
Chuck LoPresti
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not to be read prior to Memories of the Future or Letter Killers Club, this collection of short works does the same as NYRB's previous two editions of K's short stories; it shows the fusion of engineering and literature in short outbursts of Soviet-era stories. Think something like Zoschenko's social satire meets Verne's love of machination and you've arrived at this point. Grin's dreamy adventure lit is also a salient point of comparison and K. makes it clear he's read his Grin. I must admit th ...more
Ronald Morton
This was fine. Some imaginative stories, none of which did a lot for me in execution. I was much more fascinated but the foreword and how close the author was to never actually being published; taken with my recent reading of Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet I have to wonder how much stuff from the last century actually remains undiscovered/unpublished (I’m sure it’s a ton).
Though Krzhizhanovsky wrote these stories in the 1920s and 1930s they weren't actually published until the Soviet Union was on its last legs. It's no wonder then that he is not a well-known writer in the west. I hadn't heard of him until a few months ago.

The stories in this volume are surreal, fantastic tales; they remind me of E.T.A. Hoffmann and Franz Kafka as well as others - at times he's like Samuel Beckett. But Krzhizhanovsky has his own very distinctive style; he's obsessed with topics su
Kris McCracken
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Krzhizhanovsky was largely unpublished in his lifetime.

I expect that I know why...
Charles Dee Mitchell
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-fiction
These intellectual fantastic tales can be heavy going, as they should be coming from an author whose name is so exquisitely unpronounceable. Krzhizhanovsky came to Moscow in the 1920’a from Kiev via a European tour that introduced him to the avant garde movements of the day. He worked in the theater and became a member of the writers’ union, but his fiction was unpublishable under the reign of Soviet censorship. His stories first met the public in 1989.

His work reminds me most of Edgar Allan, bu
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was my first introduction to Krzhizhanovsky and, to be honest, the collection started off incredibly slow for me. Many of these feel like tales of lonely weirdos wandering through Moscow wondering about existence vs. the Void. I'm not a philosophy expert, so even with the footnotes, most of the headier themes were lost on me. Still, "The Unbitten Elbow" is one of my new favorite stories of all time, right up there with Kafka's "The Hunger Artist". "Yellow Coal," "The Collector of Cracks" an ...more
Catriona Macaulay
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Whereas Perec and his intellectual games leave me cold, these have me page turning like a thriller. OK I'm not sure how much you get out of these if you haven't read much philosophy, but for lovers of fantasy, mind games and stories that want you to work a little at them, these are fantastic. As a couple of reviewers have mentioned it takes a while for the collection to get moving - The Collector of Cracks did it for me. In fact for a newbie it might be best to start with one of the earlier coll ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-clubs
When Krzhizhanvosky described the Imaginists in the final story, it all made sense: what he excels at in these stories is creating fully developed fantastical images and following them down the rabbit hole. It would take me a while to get into each story (there is a lot of disbelief to suspend!) but I was eventually sucked in every time. My favourites were, I think, 'Yellow Coal'—such an interesting exploration of a fantastical idea that feels strangely realistic—and 'Postmark: Moscow', which ju ...more
modernist, involved short stories to author's lover, moscow, and shes a cold bitch he can't leave. so how to live in the city on 10 kopeks a day (no booze, tobacco, or mass trans for you, just walk until you hallucinate)
amazing that his stories were never published, never. until after gorbachev. they stayed in his lover;s closet for all those years. god blees her.

(see aidans reivew for some of the zingers of this collection, just when you thought you have read it all, read krxhizhanovsky )https
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this collection to my philosopher friends. The stories "The Collector of Cracks" and the "The Unbitten Elbow" are especially interesting; the former is a kind of parable of deconstruction, avant la lettre, and the later is a funny "critique" of Kant that include an explanation of the "the principles of unbiteability." Insightful references to Descartes, Leibniz, and especially to Kant are woven through many of the stories.
Daniel Polansky
Strange, sad, funny, the back of my book compares this to Borges and Beckett and that sounds about right. About half of the stories missed me, but about half of them – one about a priest given control over all of the world's cracks, one about a man who tries to bite his own elbow, and the societal rage this sets off – I absolutely adored. Definitely recommended.
This book has the sci fi syndrome: really cool, imaginative ideas dragged down by dull, pedestrian writing. Mercurial book.
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea, for the most part: dark & solipsistic tales told by lonely, alienated, hyper-abstracted pseudo-philosophe narrators. But the eighth of this book's eleven stories -- "Yellow Coal" -- got my attention, reading it, as I did, in April 2020, during the Covid-19 "shelter-in-place" interlude of the still unfinished reign of the 45th POTUS.

In "Yellow Coal," written in 1939 and read by yours truly the day before U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson went into hospital due to illness caused
Elena Johansen
I rarely read the introductions in any book that has one. I'd rather get to the actual content, and often I don't have the academic grounding to understand half of what the introduction's authors have to say.

This time, I went back and read it after. Counter-intuitive, I'm sure many people would say, but I was vindicated by Thirlwell mentioning Italo Calvino as a similar author, because I read The Complete Cosmicomics earlier this year and found Corpse to be strikingly reminiscent of it. The subj
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
“An old Indian folktale tells of a man forced to shoulder a corpse night after night- till the corpse, its dead but moving lips pressed to his ear, has finished telling the story of its long finished life. Don’t try to throw me to the ground like the men in the folktale, you will have to shoulder the burden of my three insomnias and listen patiently, till the corpse has finished its biography.’
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s collection of short stories is a waking nightmare of the odd and intellect
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Krzhizhanovsky weaves together this wonderful collection of short stories with recurring themes of shadows, nonexistence, and godlessness. The book reads almost like a love letter to Moscow, though he is a scorned lover. A couple of these stories are forgettable, some are great. My favorite is "Yellow Coal." I will be checking out more by this author.
Carlton Duff
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Surrealist Russian short stories that at times I found thick and difficult to follow..Really liked the Collector Of Cracks and Yellow Coal from this collection.
Just looking at the spelling and ascertaining the pronunciation of the author’s name should give you a hint at what lies within...
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Turnbull and Formozov were clearly in their bags when doing these translations. You would think any one of these stories was written in English.
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A very strong collection of short fictions from an author I was previously wholly unaware of.

The style of stories here seems to vary from those fairly straightforwardly foretold in the title "Autobiography of a Corpse" or "The Runaway Fingers" to things which are described but which go to unexpected places like "The Collector of Cracks", "The Land of Nots", or "The Unbitten Elbow".

These, like each of Krzhizhanovsky's fictions, have excellent phrases and notions hidden in plain sight:

"...just as
Adarsh Appaiah
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book! My only regret is that I don't know how to pronounce the authors name. The stories have a simple premise. But the author mixes in a little bit of fantasy and philosophy creating something very beautiful and unique.
It is recommended to read this on a Kindle to understand the various references the author makes
Jeff Scott
Krzhizhanovsky’s stories are filled with existential angst and desperation. These surreal stories have been compared to Kafka and Gogol. SK’s twist casts a shadow upon living in Soviet Russia wheras one who is not a party member is less than nothing, a minus one. Even though he doesn’t explicitly state this, the idea is peppered through most of the stories. It’s a sharp contrast as these lonely and isolating stories take place in the heart of Moscow. There is an erasure of identity, people who d ...more
Full Stop
Jun 09, 2014 added it
Shelves: fall-2013

Review by Helen Stuhr-Rommereim

Soviet author Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s stories are so effusively strange that it seems a small miracle they ever made their way to publication at all. Admittedly, it was a long road. The Polish-Ukrainian transplant to Moscow wrote prose deemed too dangerously absurd to be published under Stalin in the 1920s and 30s, and his work wasn’t made publicly available until 1989 and the thaw of Soviet power. Autobiography of a Corps
tom bomp
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Only read the first two stories so far but I'm really not convinced on this. They're both really heavy handedly "philosophical" but the whole story doesn't connect together well, thematically or plot wise. I'm probably missing a lot of important stuff (my standard disclaimer when I read "literary" fiction I don't like - I know i'm not as good a reader as I should be) but I just wasn't enjoying myself. He introduces surreal stuff but doesn't really do anything with them - for example "0.6 of a ma ...more
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Krzhizhanovksy an imaginative writer beyond comprehension passed away before his writings were known to the world. Soviet censors and WWII prevented publication of his works. Not hindered by obstacles Krzhizhanovksy secretly continued his writing. In 1989 Krzhizhanovksy's writing were discovered.

Autobiography of a Corpse is a collection of short stories with varying content. A philosophical edge, humorous, satirical and even bits of science fiction along with fantasy aspects are found in th
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Сигизмунд Кржижановский

Sigizmund Dominikovich Krzhizhanovsky (Russian: Сигизму́нд Домини́кович Кржижано́вский) (February 11 [O.S. January 30] 1887, Kyiv, Russian Empire — 28 December 1950, Moscow, USSR) was a Russian and Soviet short-story writer who described himself as being "known for being unknown" and the bulk of whose writings were published posthumously.

Many details of Krzhizhan


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