The Letter Killers Club

The Letter Killers Club

Paperback New York Review Books Classics

By (author) Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Translated by Joanne Turnbull, Introduction by Caryl Emerson

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  • Publisher: NYRB Classics
  • Format: Paperback | 144 pages
  • Dimensions: 124mm x 201mm x 8mm | 159g
  • Publication date: 23 February 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 159017450X
  • ISBN 13: 9781590174500
  • Sales rank: 106,966

Product description

A New York Review Books Original. Writers are professional killers of conceptions. The logic of the Letter Killers Club, a secret society of "conceivers" who commit nothing to paper on principle, is strict and uncompromising. Every Saturday they meet in a fire-lit room hung with blank black bookshelves to present their "pure and unsubstantiated" conceptions: a rehearsal of Hamlet hijacked by an actor who vanishes with the role; the double life of a medieval merry cleric derailed by a costume change; a machine-run world that imprisons men's minds while conscripting their bodies; a dead Roman scribe stranded this side of the River Acheron. The overarching scene of this short novel is set in Soviet Moscow, in the ominous 1920s. Known only by pseudonym, like Chesterton's anarchists in fin-de-siecle London, the Letter Killers are as mistrustful of one another as they are mesmerized by their despotic president. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky is at his philosophical and fantastical best in this extended meditation on madness and silence, the word and the soul unbound.

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Author information

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) was an ethnically Polish Ukrainian-born short-story writer whose work was largely unpublished, though he was active among Moscow's literati in the 1920s. He died in Moscow but his burial site is unknown. Joanne Turnbull has translated a number of books from Russian, including Andrei Sinyavsky's Soviet Civilization and Ivan the Fool, Asar Eppel's The Grassy Street, and Andrei Sergeyev's Stamp Album. She lives in Moscow. Caryl Emerson is A. Watson Armour III Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University.

Review quote

A quirky, exploratory novella. Glasgow Herald Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov have impressively captured the philosophical, pithy, occastionally folksy and profoundly poetic character of Krzhizhanovsky's prose Times Literary Supplement