1. Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse Wins the 2014 PEN Translation Prize


    NYRB Classics is pleased to announce that Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov, has won the 2014 PEN Translation Prize.

    Each year, the PEN Translation Prize is awarded for a book-length translation of prose into English. This year’s Translation Prize judges were Ann Goldstein, Becka McKay, and Katherine Silver. Here is an excerpt from the judges’ citation:

    Fantastical, hallucinatory, and wildly imaginative, the book is rich in linguistic playfulness—part metafiction, part exploration into the farthest reaches and minutest details of reality…Joanne Turnbull, in collaboration with Nikolai Formozov, has produced a compellingly readable translation that is also inventive, that improvises when necessary and consistently insinuates a strangeness and beauty of other worlds, both literary and real…With her notes and her translation, [Turnbull] effectively offers us Krzhizanovsky’s genius—unrecognized and suppressed during his lifetime—rather than drawing attention to herself and her own considerable resourcefulness and artistry. This is a rare and welcome conjunction of a literary text that allows the art of translation to shine and a translator who has brilliantly met the challenge.

    To read the rest of the judges’ citation, visit the PEN website.

  2. Three NYRB Classics Shortlisted for the PEN Translation Prize


    This episode did not put an end to my pursuit of city solitudes, though I did promise myself and them one thing: never entrust these stolen essences to a pencil.

    —Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, “Seams” from Autobiography of a Corpse, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov


    There was only one human soul, the soul that did not lose faith as it suffered anguish and torment among the scree and vineyards of Palestine, the soul that remains equally human and good in a little village near Penza, under the sky of India, and in a northern yurt—because there is good in people everywhere, simply because they are human beings.

    —Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook, translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler


    I was already reckoning in consulate time, a kind of planetary time in which you equate earthly days with millions of years because worlds can burn in the time it takes a transit visa to expire.

    —Anna Seghers, Transit, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo


    Please join us in congratulating the translators of Autobiography of a Corpse, An Armenian Sketchbook, and Transit on advancing to the short list of the 2014 PEN Translation Prize. Winners will be announced later in the summer. To read more about the 2014 PEN Literary Awards click here.

  3. Translation Domination (PEN Literary Awards)

    The longlist for the  2014 PEN Literary Awards was announced yesterday and there are THREE (!!!) books from NYRB Classics on the Translation Prize longlist. Congratulations to everyone nominated and MANY thanks to our excellent translators for making this a banner year for us (even if we don’t take home the prize). Here are all ten books on the list:

    Shantytown by César Aira (New Directions), Chris Andrews
    Twists and Turns in the Heart’s Antarctic by Hélène Cixous (Polity), Beverley Bie Brahic
    An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman (New York Review Books), Elizabeth & Robert Chandler
    The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Knopf), Margaret Jull Costa
    Transit by Anna Seghers (New York Review Books), Margot Bettauer Dembo
    Kafka: The Years of Insight by Reiner Stach (Princeton University Press), Shelley Frisch
    The Dinner by Herman Koch (Hogarth), Sam Garrett
    The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Yale University Press), Jeffrey Gray
    The Emperor’s Tomb by Joseph Roth (New Directions), Michael Hofmann
    Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (New York Review Books), Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov

    A wave across the office to Martin Filler, whose Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II was longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and is published by New York Review Books.

    And another one across town to Other Press and David Margolick. Margolick’s biography of John Horne Burns, Dreadful, is on the list for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

  4. Best Translated Book Award for Fiction Longlist Announced


    Many congratulations to Joanne Turnbull, whose translation of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s  Autobiography of a Corpse made Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award Fiction Longlist.

    Congratulations also to four other nominated translators that NYRB has had the honor of publishing in the past:

    Damion Searls, for his translations of Elfriede Jelinek’s Her Not All Her and Christa Wolf’s City of Angels, Or the Overcoat of Dr. Freud

    Edith Grossman, for her translation of Antonio Muñoz Molina’s In the Night of Time

    Anna Moschovakis for her co-translation of Marcelle Sauvageot’s Commentary

    Margaret Jull Costa* for her translation of Javier Marías’ The Infatuations

    *Margaret Jull Costa will be translating the NYRB Classics edition of Benito Pérez Galdós’ novel, Tristana, on sale October 2014.

  5. greenapplebooks:

    We’re really into NYRBs.

    Is there an award for best bookstore staff recommendation? Because Green Apple Books would take it year after year.

    Here’s a close-up of their Moravagine recommendation and it is a sight to behold.

  6. Read Russia + Krzhizhanovsky: Tonight, 6:30PM


    Tonight! NYRB and Read Russia are teaming up to celebrate the publication of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse. NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank and translator and critic Liesl Schillinger will discuss Krzhizhanovsky’s life and dazzling body of work.

    The event will take place at 2nd Floor on Clinton and begins at 6:30PM. We promise you, New Yorkers, that this will be worth braving the snow/rain/slishy-sloshy mix.

    RSVP and find more information here.

  7. Listening to Corpses

    An old Indian folktale tells of a man forced to shoulder a corpse night after night—till the corpse, its dead but moving lips pressed to his ear, has finished telling the story of its long-finished life. Don’t try to throw me to the ground. Like the man in the folktale, you will have to shoulder the burden of my three insomnias and listen patiently, till the corpse has finished its autobiography.

    —from the title story of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse. The NYRB Classics book club on Goodreads is reading Autobiography of a Corpse during the month of December, so if you want to think more about what it means to listen to a corpse (or what it means when a pianist’s fingers run away, or how past lovers live on in our minds—literally), join in!

    P.S. This story makes a really nice companion to Zadie Smith’s recent article in The New York Review of Books, "Man vs. Corpse."

  8. Form No. 11111

    This whole story would have remained hidden under the starched cuff and sleeve of a jacket, if not for the Weekly Review. The Weekly Review came up with a questionnaire (Your favorite writer? Your average weekly earnings? Your goal in life?) and sent it out to all subscribers. Among the thousands of completed forms (the Review had a huge circulation), the sorters found one, Form No. 11111, which, wander as it would from sorter to sorter, could not be sorted: On Form No. 11111, opposite “Average Earnings,” the respondent had written “0,” and opposite “Goal in Life,” in clear round letters, “To bite my elbow.”

    —the opening of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s story “The Unbitten Elbow,” from the collection Autobiography of a Corpse, which hit shelves today! Maybe a certain New York Review of Books should run a similar questionnaire…

    Also, just a little reminder:

  9. The “Rogue” Writer

    This confession—shall I call it?—is written to keep myself from brooding, to get down to what happened in the order in which it happened. I am not content with myself. With this pencil and exercise-book I hope to find some clarity. I create a second self, a man of the past by whom the man of the present may be measured.

    —from Geoffrey Household’s thriller Rogue Male. These are all good reasons to write, whether or not you are on the run from a vicious dictator’s secret police.

    The NYRB Classics Goodreads Book Club is currently reading Rogue Male (and developing a lot of tantalizing theories about the reliability of this self-proclaimed “confessor” in the discussion forum). Next month’s pick is Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse. This is super exciting. Don’t hesitate to join in the fun.

    Lastly, please do watch all or part of this clip from the 1976 film adaptation of Rogue Male, starring Peter O’Toole:

  10. Check out the Fall Preview from Writers No One Reads

  11. "I do not begrudge the sun.": Bringing Krzhizhanovksy Into the Light


    Human love is a frightened thing with half-shut eyes: It dives into the dusk, skitters about in dark corners, speaks in whispers, hides behind curtains, and puts out the light.

    I do not begrudge the sun. Let it peek—so long as I am there too—under the unsnapping snaps. Let it peep through the window. That doesn’t bother me.

    Yes, I have always been of the opinion that for a love affair midday suits far better than midnight.

    —the opening of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s story, “In the Pupil,” which will be published by NYRB Classics this December in the original story collection, Autobiography of a Corpse.

    Krzhizhanovsky’s work was considered so subversive that much of it was too inflammatory to even show to a publisher. His philosophical and boundlessly imaginative stories completely ignored injunctions to portray the Soviet state in a positive manner and, as a result, never even saw the light of day until 1989.

    Autobiography of a Corpse, newly translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull, will be the third book by Krzhizhanovsky in the NYRB Classics collection, which already includes the author’s surreal novella The Letter Killers Club and another story collection, Memories of the Future. We can’t think of a better way to end Banned Book Week than to celebrate his courageous, phantasmagorical work.

  12. “And an invented person makes the greatest impression, naturally, on the seemingly not-invented, real person who, upon finding his reflection in a book, feels replaced and redoubled. This person cannot forgive his feeling of double insult: here I, a real, not-invented person, shall go to my grave and nothingness in ten or twenty years, whereas this fabricated, not-real “almost I” shall go on living and living as though it were the most natural thing in the world; more unforgivable still is the awareness that someone, some author, made you up like an arithmetic problem, what’s more he figured you out, arrived at an answer over which you struggled your entire life in vain, he divined your existence without ever having met you, he penned his way into your innermost thoughts, which you tried so hard to hide from yourself. One must refute the author and vindicate oneself. At once!”


    From Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s short story “Someone Else’s Theme,” collected in Memories of the Future.

    Thanks to biblioklept.org for alerting us to this excellent excerpt.

  13. Bubbles over a drowned man

    Writers, in essence, are professional word tamers; if the words walking down the lines were living creatures, they would surely fear and hate the pen’s nib as tamed animals do the raised whip.

    —from Sigizimund Krzhizhanovsky’s The Letter Killers Club, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull. It’s the Goodreads book club pick for May. 

  14. 'The Letter Killers Club' in Bookforum

    Certain writers are too weird to fully belong to their own time. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky—a Soviet writer obsessed with Kant and Shakespeare, whose own life barely rippled beyond a small coterie of Muscovite writers before his death in 1950—is among them. Krzhizhanovsky wrote philosophical works of fiction that veer between chattiness and, in the fine translations of Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov, unexpected elegance. They are tales of bodies suspended between life and death, of an animated Eiffel Tower that rampages across Europe, and of towns where dreams are made literal. To read these stories is to be buttonholed by a slightly mad but unfailingly interesting stranger desperate for a sympathetic ear. In Krzhizhanovsky, we find the aphorisms of a dime store philosopher and the polyphony of a schizophrenic.

          -  from a review of The Letter Killers Club, the recently published Krzhizhanovsky novel translated by Joanne Turnbull, in Bookforum. The collection of his short stories, Memories of the Future, is also mentioned in Jacob Silverman’s review.

  15. Letter Killers Club reviewed in Full Stop

    According to Zez, any idea committed to paper is committed to death. To preserve ideas in their purest form, they are spoken. And so, every Saturday Zez and six companions, called ‘conceivers’ and referred to only by nonsense syllables, gather in a room filled with empty bookshelves as one member holds the floor to tell his ‘conception.’ The reader is invited into this world as leader Zez brings the nameless narrator — a literal stand-in for the reader — to the Club as an observer. Thrown into this environment, the narrator is as amazed as he is puzzled, and it is hardly surprising when he learns that the dynamics of the room are not all well and that there is another reason for drawing this eighth armchair around the fire.

     - from a review of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Letter Killers Club in Full Stop. We’re impressed at such a concise and clear introduction to such a strange book.