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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kharms' Way

A dream of Daniil Kharm’s ‘Professor’s Wife’:

And she dreamed that Lev Tolstoy was coming towards her, holding a chamber-pot in his hands. She asked him: – What’s that, then? – and he pointed to the chamber-pot, saying: – Here, I’ve really done something and now I’m taking it to show the whole world. Let everyone see it – he said.

The professor’s wife also had a look and saw that it seemed no longer to be Tolstoy, but a shed, and in the shed was a hen.

The professor’s wife tried to catch the hen, but the hen hid under a divan, from which it crawled out, now in the form of a rabbit.

The professor’s wife crawled under the divan after the rabbit and woke up.

She woke and looked around: she really was lying under a divan.

{Quotation ends}

‘What big cucumbers they sell in stores today!’ Kharms exclaims after one of his characters beats another to death with a cucumber for the crime of propelling some airborne snot in his direction.

‘There was a redheaded man’, begins another tale. But this redheaded man had no hair. He had no mouth or nose either. Or arms or legs. In fact he wasn’t there. ‘We’d better not talk about him any more.’

An old woman goes tumbling past the window, shattering to pieces when she hits the ground. Then another, and another, until six have gone kersplat! against the ground, at which point Kharms’ narrator gets tired and goes to the market.

‘Art is a cupboard!’, ‘We are not cakes!’ Kharms would announce to his Leningrad audiences at performances of the OBERIU (the ‘Union of Real Art’ he helped to found).

Kharms claims to have been born twice, having nipped back inside after the first time (in 1905) before re-emerging.

His cult of Blok, Malevich and Klebnikov. Malevich’s inscription on a book he presented to Kharms: ‘Go and stop progress.’

His death in a psychiatric hospital during the siege of Leningrad, of presumed starvation.

Matvei Yankelevich’s excellent new edition of his selected writings, Today I Wrote Nothing, from Ugly Duckling Presse, whom the vigilant among you will remember were responsible for the recent edition of Ivan Blatný’s work too.

‘And that’s it, more or less.’

1 comment:

Mark Granier said...

That photo, what a face!

Thanks for these. I love the one about the red-headed man whom "we'd better not talk about" any more. One of those perfectly deployed ordinary phrases that (I imagine) will stay with me, like Larkin's "useful to get that learnt."