The Kirschbaum Lectures

by Seth Rogoff

Sy Kirschbaum, renowned for his translations of major European writers like Jan Horak and Anton Grassfeld, has arrived at the college to teach a course called Introduction to Literature. He’s come from the Czech countryside, where he’d been undergoing treatment by Dr. L. Hruška for a psychological breakdown connected to the seventeen-year-long process of finishing Horak’s epic novel of Cold War dissent. Standing before a group of disoriented but enthralled students, facing down an increasingly tyrannical dean, Kirschbaum embarks on a twelve-week journey into his past and toward the heart of his literary life, 1990s Berlin, where art and dreams surged with the raw energy of utopian aspirations. Sy’s lectures cross treacherous narrative terrain and spiral toward the shocking revelation of an unhealed wound, from which literature itself, in its infinity of interwoven forms, seems to pulsate.