Book Beat’s Reading Group Selection for January is Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s surreal The Letter Killers Club. The Reading Group will meet on Wednesday, January 25th in the Goldfish Teahouse (117 W. Fourth, in downtown Royal Oak) at 7pm. Books are discounted 15% at Book Beat (26010 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park, MI).All are welcome!
Set in an ominous 1920’s Russia, The Letter Killers Club is a secret society of self-described “conceivers” who, to preserve the purity of their conceptions, will commit nothing to paper. The logic of the club is strict and uncompromising. Every Saturday, members meet in a firelit room filled with empty black bookshelves where they strive to top one another by developing ever unlikelier, ever more perfect conceptions. The members of the club are strangely mistrustful of one another, while all are under the spell of its despotic President, and there is no telling, in the end, just how lethal the purely conceptual—or, for that matter, letters—may be.
“SK’s The Letter Killers Club is a monumental literary discovery, a gem buried in the Soviet Archives and only unearthed in 1976. With its daring experimentalism and acid commentary on state power, the book still stands as a work of revolutionary power.” –full review from The Driftless Area Review
“I am interested not in the arithmetic, but in the algebra of life.”-Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
One of the best foreign translations of the year comes naturally again from the New York Review of Books. The Letter Killers Club will be our second book discussion on SK since his brilliant Memories of the Future short story collection.
“A Russian writer whose morbidly satiric imagination forms the wild (missing) link between the futuristic dream tales of Edgar Allan Poe and the postwar scientific nightmares of Stanislaw Lem… an impish master of the fatalistically fantastic.”
—Bill Marx, The World
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovky was the Ukranian-born son of Polish emmigrants. In 1920, he began lecturing in Kiev on theater and music. The lectures continued in Moscow, where he moved in 1922, by then well known in literary circles. While clerking for an attorney Krzhizhanovsky began writing, and would do so steadily for close to two decades. His philosophical and phantasmagorical fictions ignored injunctions to portray the Soviet state in a positive light. Three separate efforts to print collections were quashed by the censors, a fourth by World War II. He died in 1950, largely unpublished in his native country. Not until 1989 could his work begin to be published.