Friday, March 28, 2014

Everyone always mistakes everyone for someone else

The Letter Killers Club, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, is a strange little excuse for a novel.

I want to love it, but I don't quite. For such a short novel, it took an amazingly long time to read. It's full of interesting ideas that aren't completely developed, aren't resolved, don't completely gel. The novel is a fantastic cerebral exercise, but it leaves me cold.
A conception without a line of text, I argued, is like a needle without thread: it pricks, but does not sew.
That's how I feel about this book.

The club is a secret society of men known only by nonsense syllables. They are "conceivers" — in the interest of purity, nothing is committed to paper. They meet weekly and tell stories that span genres, subjects, and formats.

But it's the framing story that captivates me — who are these men, why do they meet, what is so subversive in it, why must it be so secret? where is the political element? for it feels like there must be one.

Here are some of the themes strewn across these pages.
I walked quickly — from crossroad to crossroad — trying to untangle my feelings. The evening seemed like a black wedge driven into my life. I had to unwedge it. But how?


I think this is all fairly simple: every three-dimensional being doubles himself twice — reflecting himself outwardly and inwardly. Both reflections are untrue: the cold, flat likeness returned by the looking glass is untrue because it is less than three-dimensional; the face's other reflection, cast inward, flowing along nerves to the brain and composed of a complex set of sensations, is also untrue because it is more than three-dimensional.


And if the hectic youth who mistook our passer for someone else — racing up, then away — had been able to see through eyes to what is behind them, he would have understood once and for all: everyone always mistakes everyone for someone else.


The fewer the managers, the greater the manageability.


[...] you enter facts from the outside, not the inside, you're worse than your bacteria: they eat the facts, you eat the facts' meanings.


Plotlines throw out disputes the way a plant throws out spores: into space, where they germinate.

See also
The Millions: Storytelling is a Deadly Business: Krzhizhanovsky's The Letter Killers Club
The Rumpus: Against an Ethical Machine

No comments: