Moscow: Nikitinskie subbotniki, 1931. Octavo (20 × 15 cm). Original printed wrappers; 31,  pp. Signed and inscribed by the author to title to an unidentified woman. Wrappers and edges professionally restored (paper repairs); else very good. Item #6660
[First edition, signed and inscribed, of the author's only book published during his lifetime].
This treatise on the poetics of titles is the only separate lifetime publication of the Soviet modernist writer, translator, and literary critic Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950). Dubbed “the best-known unknown writer of his generation,” Krzhizhanovsky’s fiction has been compared to Borges and Kafka, Bulgakov, as well as to Gogol and E.T.A. Hoffmann for its philosophical complexity, meta-fictional tendencies, as well as its grotesque and satirical qualities. Although the Soviet censors largely rejected his fictional and critical writing for publication, Krzhizhanovsky was a prolific writer and was well known in the literary circles for his public readings of his fiction, as well as his lectures at the theater section at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Moscow. Nearly forgotten after his death due to the dearth of publications, the Russian poet and writer Vadim Perelmuter discovered Krzhizhanovsky’s archive in 1976 and began publishing his work starting in 1988. A six volume edited and annotated set of Krzhizhanovsky’s work was finally published in Russian in 2001-2010, with the New York Review of Books acquiring the rights to his work in English translation, resulting in four English language publications and belatedly bringing this “unknown” author into the international literary scene.
In the preface to the first volume, Perelmuter notes that the book was published by Evdoksiia Nikitina in a desperate attempt to lend the writer an air of legitimacy and professional stature, because he otherwise might have been deported from Moscow (p. 65-66). He adds that this work remained the only theoretical work on the subject until recently.
Born in a Polish family in Kiev, Krzhizhanovsky studied law, publishing his first fictional story in a Kiev journal in 1918. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s he wrote six books of short stories and five novellas, none of which were published, presumably due to their philosophical complexity and insufficient topicality. Presented with Krzhizhanovsky’s work, Maxim Gorky commented: “the youth will only break their brains against this prose.” Unable to publish his fiction, Krzhizhanovsky supported himself with working as an encyclopedia editor, translator, screenwriter and opera librettist. A handful of his critical essays, such as “Dramatic Devices of Bernard Shaw” (1934) and “Poetics of Shakespeare’s Chronologies” (1936) were published in literary journals. A collection of his stories was finally prepared for a separate publication in 1941, however it stalled due to the start of WWII. This 1931 critical treatise (written in 1925), which reflects on his own fiction as much as it does on the work of others, became the only separate volume of his work published in his lifetime. One of 3000 copies. KVK, OCLC show copies at Maryland, UNC, Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Stanford, Berkeley, National Library of Israel and the Swiss National Library.