The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Simon Collinson on Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated by Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov), and published by New York Review Books.
Simon is a bookseller and freelance reviewer based in Adelaide, Australia, and has written reviews various outlets, including the Australian Book Review.
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky—in addition to having one of the coolest and most Z-heavy names I’ve ever seen—and his Autobiography have been hitting a lot of the right button’s lately: in June, it was announced that Autobiography of a Corpse won the 2014 Read Russia Prize, and just a few weeks ago it was announced that the book won the 2014 PEN Translation Prize. Congratulations again to everyone involved! And for everyone else . . . what more recommendation could you really need?
Here’s the beginning of Simon’s review:
One of the greatest services—or disservices, depending on your viewpoint—Bertrand Russell ever performed for popular philosophy was humanizing its biggest thinkers in his History. No longer were they Platonic ideals, the clean-shaven exemplars of the kind of homely truisms that might’ve been found in commonplace books: they had become eccentrics, weirdos, freaks. This was a transformation Russell’s readers might have felt privileged to witness. Then again, they might have been horrified.
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky has done something similar with ideas, both those belonging to Russell’s eccentrics and those roaming about in other fields. Written between 1922 and 1939, the short stories collected in Autobiography of a Corpse wriggle into the liminal spaces between fiction, reality, and the world of ideas: in fact, there’s even a story called “The Collector of Cracks.”
Krzhizhanovsky is fundamentally concerned with how fiction and reality influence each other, and even though his work might reference a who’s who of modern and classical philosophy—Kant, Leibniz, Descartes, Hegel, Spinoza, Fichte, Berkeley—he’s anything but convinced of their ideas’ verity.
For the rest of the review, go here.
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