A year ago or so, a phrase suddenly popped in my head – “Memories of the Future”. I had no idea where it came from or what made me think of it. It just appeared.
As I often do on such occasions, I decided to google it just to find out that somebody else had already thought of this phrase and coined it as a title for a short story some 80 years ago.
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky . I know, you have no idea how to even begin to read this name. He was born in 1887 in Ukraine to his Catholic Polish parents and later on moved to Moscow in 1922. His breathtaking philosophical stories, full of surrealist imagination and irony, had never been published in his lifetime. They were considered too unorthodox to bypass the censorship. The editors consistently rejected his fiction on the account that it was “untimely” or did not submit to the demands of socialist realism. As Krzhizhanovsky himself joked, he was known for being unknown. His writings remained unearthed, stacked up in a lower berth in the State Archives, until around 1975 and were first published some 15 years later.
So I decided to buy a collection of his short stories, which carried the same title: “Memories of the Future”.
A character in one of the stories of Krzhizhanovsky says, “If a title is right, the whole text will hang on it, like a coat on a peg”. Apparently, Krzhizhanovsky was, too, obsessed with titles – he even published a book on the art of composing titles (the only book of his to have been published in his lifetime).
I was shocked I had never heard of him before. His writing is so good that you want to extend the pleasure of reading; you want to savor it. There were some stories and images that I will never be able to get out of my head. The Eiffel Tower on an escape, a man getting lost in an ever-expanding space of his small room, a character in a story running away from an author, literary critics being defined as beings with a poor sense of identity who seek to hide away their non-existence, a passenger getting on the wrong train and ending up in a place where night is day and the backs of all facts have been broken. It reads like a mixture of Borges and Kafka, yet it definitely carries its own authentic feel and mood.
I live in such a distant future that my future seems to me past, spent, and turned to dust. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
I am still startled that I discovered him by complete chance. Or perhaps it was not a complete coincidence since I have been for some time drawn into themes that have something to do with temporal dimension, the sense of passing time and memories.
In the end, Krzhizhanovsky was right: his writing, considered “untimely” in his own lifetime, becomes contemporary now.