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. (What, after all, is your run-of-the-mill scribbler of stories if not an accomplished corruptor of conceptions?) 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: a rehearsal of Hamlet hijacked by an actor who vanishes with the role; the double life of a merry medieval 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. But in this book set in an ominous Soviet Moscow of the 1920s, 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.
“It is now clear that Krzhizhanovsky is one of the greatest Russian writers of the last century.” —Robert Chandler, The Financial Times
“Krzhizhanovsky wanted to perform imaginary experiments with the nature of time and space. Outside, in the streets, the Communist state was busy performing such experiments for real. In response, Krzhizhanovsky’s prose has a recklessly unstable tone in which delighted examination of impossible worlds can slip into ferocious political sarcasm. . . . It is a method for investigating how much unreality reality can bear.” —Adam Thirlwell, The New York Review of Books
“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
The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Translated by Joanne Turnbull, Introduction by Caryl Emerson