Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's Autobiography of a Corpse

I wanted to love this book, really.  It's a collection of short stories written by a Kyiv-born author in the 1920s and 1930s, so the irrational side of me that wants to celebrate all things Ukrainian right now was prepared to drive this review.  Unfortunately, the uneven quality of the stories leads me to write a different kind of review than I had intended.

Krzhizhanovsky offers a number of interesting scenarios and ideas in the stories, but in several stories he doesn't develop them in a way that grabs the reader and keeps him or her interested.  The opening story "Autobiography of a Corpse" is a curious tale about a man who rents a small room and soon after receives a manuscript (left at his door anonymously) that is an autobiographical account of the life of the person who lived in the room before the current tenant.  The story works, primarily because Krzhizhanovsky creates an interesting tension between the tenant and the narrator of the autobiography.  Other stories in the collection don't work as well.  The premises of "The Runaway Fingers" (the hand of a concert pianist escapes from his arm and flees down the street) and "Yellow Coal" (a man discovers that anger can be turned into an alternative energy source) are intriguing, but not, in the end, compelling. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sending the link - I have a feeling that ultimately I'll agree with you... except I didn't even find the first story particularly interesting!