Thursday, April 29, 2010

Daniil Kharms and other coincidences

Three completely random links. First of all, a wonderful story by my friend James Warner on Night Train. This story manages to be cynical and heartbreaking at the same time. I googled "Ichiwa Ango" and I think James invented the label. But somebody definitely should steal the idea and design all the pieces James is describing. I'm also convinced that "Ichiwa Ango" is a secret code, and playing around with, it's possible that one of the meanings of it is "a bunch of coincidences." Which kind of makes sense. But then I don't know how to use Japanese dictionaries. Or whether Japanese dictionaries are of any help here.

Second, an online magazine dedicated to studying the work of Raymond Carver, appropriately entitled The Raymond Carver Review. One day I'm definitely going to read pieces published in Issue #2, on Carver and Feminism. It looks exciting.

Third, a review of the work of two Russian-Jewish-American poets in The Tablet: Ilya Kaminsky and Matvei Yankelevich. The best part of the piece are quotes from Yankelevich's translations of Daniil Kharms, who's definitely one of my literary heroes. I mean, how could he not be?? I'm reposting the quotes here, enjoy!

It’s hard to say something about Pushkin to a person who doesn’t know anything about him. Pushkin is a great poet. Napoleon is not as great as Pushkin. Bismarck compared to Pushkin is a nobody. And the Alexanders, First, Second and Third, are just little kids compared to Pushkin. In fact, compared to Pushkin, all people are little kids, except Gogol. Compared to him, Pushkin is a little kid.

And so, instead of writing about Pushkin, I would rather write about Gogol.

Although, Gogol is so great that not a thing can be written about him, so I’ll write about Pushkin after all.

Yet, after Gogol, it’s a shame to have to write about Pushkin. But you can’t write anything about Gogol. So I’d rather not write anything about anyone.

And another piece:

There lived a redheaded man who had no eyes or ears. He didn’t have hair either, so he was called a redhead arbitrarily.

He couldn’t talk because he had no mouth. He didn’t have a nose either.

He didn’t even have arms or legs. He had no stomach, he had no back, no spine, and he didn’t have any insides at all. There was nothing to speak of! So, we don’t even know who we’re talking about.

We’d better not talk about him any more.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a brand new fan of Daniil Kharms. I saw him mentioned in Ian Frazier's new book about Siberia, and had to track him down. Here's my contribution: two more Kharms pieces:

    Anecdotes from the Life of Pushkin
    1. Pushkin was a poet and was always writing something. Once Zhukovsky caught him at his writing and exclaimed loudly: -- You're not half a scribbler!
    From then on Pushkin was very fond of Zhukovsky and started to call him simply Zhukov out of friendship.

    2. As we know, Pushkin's beard never grew. Pushkin was very distressed about this and he always envied Zakharin in who, on the contrary, grew a perfectly respectable beard. 'His grows, but mine doesn't' -- Pushkin would often say, pointing at Zakharin with his fingernails. And every time he was right.

    3. Once Petrushevsky broke his watch and sent for Pushkin. Pushkin arrived, had a look at Petrushevsky's watch and put it back on the chair. 'What do you say then, Pushkin old mate?' -- asked Petrushevsky. 'It's a stop-watch' -- said Pushkin.

    4. When Pushkin broke his legs, he started to go about on wheels. His friends used to enjoy teasing Pushkin and grabbing him by his wheels. Pushkin took this very badly and wrote abusive verses about his friends. He called these verses 'erpigarms'.

    5. The summer of 1829 Pushkin spent in the country. He used to get up early in the morning, drink a jug of fresh milk and run to the river to bathe. Having bathed in the river, Pushkin would lie down on the grass and sleep until dinner. After dinner Pushkin would sleep in a hammock. If he met any stinking peasants, Pushkin would nod at them and squeeze his nose with his fingers. And the stinking peasants would scratch their caps and say: 'It don't matter'.

    6. Pushkin liked to throw stones. If he saw stones, then he would start throwing them. Sometimes he would fly into such a temper that he would stand there, red in the face, waving his arms and throwing stones. It really was rather awful!

    7. Pushkin had four sons and they were all idiots. One of them couldn't even sit on his chair and kept falling off. Pushkin himself was not very good at sitting on his chair either, to speak of it. It used to be quite hilarious: they would be sitting at the table; at one end Pushkin would keep falling off his chair, and at the other end -- his son. One wouldn't know where to look.

    Pushkin and Gogol
    GOGOL falls out from the wings on to the stage and quietly lies there.
    PUSHKIN appears on stage, stumbles over GOGOL and falls.
    PUSHKIN: What the devil! Seems I've tripped over Gogol!
    GOGOL (Getting up): What a vile abomination! You can't even have a rest. (Walks off, stumbles over PUSHKIN and falls) Seems I've stumbled over Pushkin!
    PUSHKIN (Getting up): Not a minute's peace! (Walks off, stumbles over GOGOL and falls) What the devil! Seems I've tripped over Gogol again!
    GOGOL (Getting up): Always an obstacle in everything! (Walks off, stumbles over PUSHKIN and falls) It's a vile abomination! Tripped over Pushkin again!
    PUSHKIN (Getting up): Hooliganism! Sheer hooliganism! (Walks off, stumbles over GOGOL and falls) What the devil! Tripped over Gogol again!
    GOGOL (Getting up): It's sheer mockery! (Walks off, stumbles over PUSHKIN and falls) Tripped over Pushkin again!
    PUSHKIN (Getting up): What the devil! Well, really, what the devil! (Walks off, stumbles over GOGOL and falls) Over Gogol!
    GOGOL (Getting up): Vile abomination! (Walks off, stumbles over PUSHKIN and falls) Over Pushkin!
    PUSHKIN (Getting up): What the devil! (Walks off, stumbles over GOGOL and falls into the wings) Over Gogol!
    GOGOL (Getting up): Vile abomination! (Walks off into wings; from offstage) Over Pushkin!