About the Author
One of the greatest Russian writers of the 20th century, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) was, by his own admission, "known for being unknown". Like his better-known contemporary, Bulgakov, Krzhizhanovsky was born in Kiev and moved to Moscow in the early 1920s. The Bolshevik Revolution had put an end to his brief career as a lawyer, freeing him to devote all of his mind and energy to writing and philosophy.
In his viewless room so small it must once have been a larder that Krzhizhanovsky wrote his strange, philosophical, satirical, lyrical phantasmagorias including the seven incomparable stories in this collection: "Quadraturin", "Autobiography of a Corpse", "The Bookmark", "In the Pupil", "The Runaway Fingers", "Yellow Coal" and "The Unbitten Elbow".
The author of five novellas, a hundred-odd stories, a dozen plays, screenplays and librettos, and dozens of essays, he went to his grave "a literary nonentity." Unearthed by chance, Krzhizhanovsky's collected works (3,000 pages) are only now being brought out in Russian. He was a writer-thinker. Many of his stories have the quality of a problem or puzzle: "I am interested," he said, "not in the arithmetic, but in the algebra of life." The constant rejections eventually drove Krzhizhanovsky to drink. Asked what had brought him to wine, he joked: "A sober attitude towards reality." On December 28, 1950, the critic Georgii Shengeli drew a black frame around this entry in his notebook: "Today Sigizmund Dominikovich Krzhizhanovsky died, a writer-visionary, an unsung genius."