The Kirschbaum Lectures Cover

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.


“Sy Kirschbaum teaches literature the only way it should be taught: borderline psychotically, in a barely repressed rage, baffled by the line separating himself from his subject matter. As he ushers us from Berlin to the Bible and back, circling dark truths or a permanent breakdown, Seth Rogoff’s dazzling creation conjures marvelous books with a Borgesian flick of the wrist and glosses them with gleeful Nabokovian precision.”

—Adam Ehrlich Sachs, author of The Organs of Sense