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Posts Tagged ‘Franz Kafka’

The Known Unknown: On Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

November 15, 2013 | by

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky on holiday in Italy in 1912.

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky on holiday in Italy in 1912.

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky was born in Kiev to a Polish-speaking family on February 11, 1887. At university, he studied law. In 1912, age twenty-five, he traveled through Europe, visiting Paris, Heidelberg, and Milan—for the young Krzhizhanovsky was the pure apprentice intellectual. After the First World War, and the 1917 Russian Revolution, he returned to Kiev, where he taught at the Musical Institute and the Theatrical Conservatory. In 1922, age thirty-five, he left Kiev for Moscow, where he lived for the rest of his life. In Moscow, Krzhizhanovsky wrote articles and gave lectures, in particular at Alexander Tairov’s Drama Studio. He also worked as a consultant to Tairov’s Chamber Theater. Meanwhile, he wrote novellas and stories, which were never published—either due to economic problems (bankrupt publishers) or political problems (Soviet censors). Twenty years passed in this way until, in 1941, with Krzhizhanovsky now fifty-four, a collection of stories was finally scheduled for publication—but then the Second World War intervened, preventing even that collection from appearing. In May 1950 he suffered a stroke and lost the use of speech. He died at the end of the year. (His works—almost all of them unpublished—were stored by his lifelong companion, Anna Bovshek, in her apartment: in her clothes chest, under some brocade.)

Almost no one knew that Krzhizhanovsky was writing fiction, since the state never allowed its publication. They knew him in other guises—as a lecturer on theater, or essayist, or occasional playwright. In 1939, Krzhizhanovsky, despite his restricted publication history, was nevertheless elected to the Writers’ Union—which meant that posthumously he was eligible for the process of “immortalization.” In 1953, Stalin died, and three years later Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” to the Twentieth Party Congress instituted a revisionist anti-Stalinist thaw. In 1957—the same year as Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago—a commission was set up to examine Krzhizhanovsky’s literary legacy. It lasted two years and was then disbanded, having drafted a publishing plan that was never implemented. Then, in 1976, Vadim Perelmuter, a poet, literary historian, and essayist, discovered Krzhizhanovsky’s archive. He had to wait until 1989 and the full thaw of perestroika before he could publish one of Krzhizhanovsky’s stories. Between 2001 and 2008, Perelmuter finally edited a handsome five-volume edition of Krzhizhanovsky’s works. Read More »


Frost Papers Recovered, and Other News

October 4, 2013 | by


  • New York’s Center for Jewish History is opening the David Berg Rare Book Room, which will feature, amongst others, Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, and Emma Lazarus.
  • A Vermont man has pleaded guilty to stealing (and selling) a number of Robert Frost’s personal papers, which he ran across when a desk containing the papers was donated to the nonprofit where he works. The fine is a whopping one hundred dollars.
  • The French government approved a law yesterday that will prevent Amazon from shipping discounted books for free. The measure is designed to protect embattled independent bookstores.
  • How to draw a hare.


    Kafkaesque Toilet Paper, and Other News

    August 15, 2013 | by


  • Kafka cameos in a Charmin toilet paper commercial; one of those incontinent bears is a fan, apparently.
  • “But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the Führer wished it. That, so far as I can see, is the direction in which we are actually moving, though, of course, the process is reversible.” In a 1944 letter, George Orwell explains his reasons for writing 1984
  • The literally question is, in fact, more complicated than it seems; its misuse (this is known as a contronym) has been going on for centuries.
  • Pioneering Swedish crime writer Maj Sjöwall says contemporary Scandinavian thrillers are are “not about police work and crime, but very much about love and relationships—like girls’ books.”


    Live Like William Blake, and Other News

    July 16, 2013 | by


  • The picturesque West Sussex cottage where William Blake lived, sometimes nude, from 1800–1803 (the period during which he wrote “Jerusalem”) is on the market for £650,000. The agent says, “The original part of the cottage has been altered little in its essential features. The rooms in which William Blake lived retain enormous character and the dining room was at this time the site of his printing press.”
  • Reading (along with writing and doing puzzles) improves cognitive function in old age, a study shows.
  • In which writers such as Emma Straub and Matthew Specktor discourse on their favorite literary streets.
  • Google’s Kafka doodle was not remotely Kafkaesque, Twitter feels.
  • July 17, obviously, is Take Your Poet to Work Day. Herewith, handy cutouts of several bards. Blake not included (but that’s probably a good thing).


    Announcing Our Summer Issue!

    May 28, 2013 | by


    The proofs of our Summer issue just arrived at Twenty-Seventh Street from the printer. This afternoon is our last chance to catch any mistakes. You always find a few typos—and we have more names to spell-check than usual, because this issue contains more stories, poems, and interviews than any in recent memory. 

    Some of these writers are regular contributors, including Lydia Davis—with her first publication since she won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize for fiction—and David Gates, whose new story is a favorite of his and ours. Others are writers we’ve been waiting to publish for a while, namely Ben Lerner, whose first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, is one of the best debuts we’ve seen in the past few years, and Kristin Dombek, whose essays in n+1 electrified us. The newly translated stories by Robert Walser are from his groundbreaking 1904 collection, Fritz Kocher’s Essays. This book (which won the admiration of Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin) made me feel for the first time that I understood what all the fuss is about.

    Still others, including Emma Cline, Gillian Linden, and the Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli—translated by the likes of Jorie Graham and Mark Strand—are new to us and will probably be new to you. We look forward to saying, You read them here first.

    Plus, three interviews.

    Two are devoted to the art of literary biography. Michael Holroyd’s lives of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw, among others, revolutionized the study of Bloomsbury and Edwardian literary history.


    I am a great believer in private life, which is quite unfashionable now—to be a celebrity is the thing, or you are nothing. But I believe in private life for the living, and I think that when one is dead one should be a little bit bolder, so that the rest of us may have some record of how things actually were. Otherwise we will be left with well-meant lies, which add to the difficulties of life and lead to real misunderstanding.

    Hermione Lee’s biographies of Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton are just as influential.


    What is it like to write a death scene?


    It depends how they died. Some cynical biographer said to me, Make sure it’s a good death. Make sure you’re not picking someone who just declined. 

    Finally, we have an Art of Fiction interview with the Nobel laureate Imre Kertész. It is, according to Kertész, the last interview he will ever give. Luisa Zielinski’s probing, sensitive questions explore the reasons that Kertész—ten years after he survived the Holocaust—decided he had to write.


    Look, I don’t want to deny that I was a prisoner at Auschwitz and that I now have a Nobel Prize. What should I make of that? And what should I make of the fact that I survived, and continue to survive? At least I feel that I experienced something extraordinary, because not only did I live through those horrors, but I also managed to describe them, in a way that is bearable, acceptable, and nonetheless part of [a] radical tradition … Perhaps I’m being impertinent, but I feel that my work has a rare quality—I tried to depict the human face of this history, I wanted to write a book that people would actually want to read.

    Subscribe now!



    How to Win at Moby-Dick, and Other News

    May 1, 2013 | by


  • Moby-Dick: Or, the Card Game takes to Kickstarter.
  • Related: Emoji Dick.
  • Rules for literati. “These rules can be summed up with the overarching theme of Act Like a Normal Person.”
  • How to procrastinate, Kafka-style.
  • Braveheart, and other movies based on poems.