Kharms, Daniil 1905(?)-1942 (Daniel Charms, Daniil Charms, Daniil Dandan, Daniil Harms, Daniil Ivanovich Iuvachev, D. Kharms, Daniil Ivanovich Kharms, Kharms Shardam, Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

views updated

Kharms, Daniil 1905(?)-1942 (Daniel Charms, Daniil Charms, Daniil Dandan, Daniil Harms, Daniil Ivanovich Iuvachev, D. Kharms, Daniil Ivanovich Kharms, Kharms Shardam, Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

PERSONAL:

Born January 12, 1905 (some sources say 1906), in St. Petersburg, Russia; died of starvation while being held in a Russian prison hospital, February 2, 1942, in Leningrad, Soviet Union; son of I.P. Iuvachev (father; a Soviet intellectual); married Esther Aleksandrovna Rusakova (divorced, 1932); married Marina Vladimirovna Malich, 1934. Education: Attended Leningrad Electro-Technical College and the Leningrad Institute of the History of the Arts.

CAREER:

Writer, novelist, poet, and children's book author. Association of Real Art, founder. Military service: Served in the Russian Red Army.

MEMBER:

All-Russian Union of Poets, Soviet Writers Union.

WRITINGS:

Falle, S. Fischer (Frankfurt on Main, Germany), 1970.

Russia's Lost Literature of the Absurd: A Literary Discovery. Selected Works of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky, edited and translated by George Gibian, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1971.

12 Povarov, Malysh (Moscow, Russia), 1972.

Izbrannoe, edited and introduced by George Gibian, Jal-Verlag (Wurzburg, Germany), 1974.

Sobranie Proizvedenii, K Presse (Bremen, Germany), 1978.

Golubaii ai Tetrad: Dlii aii Soprano, Chteti sija, Skripki, Violoncheli, Dvukh Fortepiano Trekh Grupp Kolokolov (1984) (title means "The Blue Notebook: For Soprano Reader (Reciter), Violin, Cello, Two Pianos, and Three Groups of Bells"), Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers (London, England), 1984.

Prologo Per Daniil Kharms: Per Violino Solo (1982), Suvini Zerboni (Milan, Italy), 1984.

Polet V Nebesa: Stikhi, Proza, Dramy, Pisma, Sovetskii Pisate (Leningrad, Russia), 1988.

The Plummeting Old Women, introduction and translation by Neil Cornsall, afterword by Hugh Maxton, Lilliput Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1989.

Iz Doma Vyshel Chelovek: Khorovoi Ti si; ilk Na Stikhi D. Karmas, Sovetskii Kompozitor (Moscow, Russia), 1991.

Menii ai Nazyvaii uit Kaputi si inom: Nekotorye Proizvedenii aii Daniila Ivanovicha Kharmsa, MP "Karavento" sovmestno s firmoi "Pikment" (Moscow, Russia), 1993.

The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down the Hill, translated by Jamey Gambrell, illustrated by Vladimir Rdunsky, North-South Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Ochen Strashnaii ai Istorii ai, Sovii aiizh Bevo (Tula Russia), 1994.

Daniil Kharms, A.O. Viktori (Moscow, Russia), 1994.

Incidences, Serpent's Tail (London, England), 1994, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2007.

First, Second, translated by Richard Pevear, pictures by Marc Rosenthal, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1996.

Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenii, Gumanitarnoe agentstvo Akademicheskii proekt (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1997.

The Man with the Black Coat: Russia's Literature of the Absurd, edited and translated by George Gibian, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1997.

Sborishche Druzei, Ostavlennykh Sudboi ui: A. Vvedenskii, L. Lipavskii, Ii Ai. Druskin, D. Kharms, N. Oleinikov: chinari V Tekstakh, Dokumentakh I Issledovanii aiikh: V Dvukh Tomakh, Ladomir (Moscow, Russia), 1998.

It Happened Like This: Stories and Poems, translated by Ian Frazier, pictures by Katya Arnold, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1998.

Ti Siirk Shardam, Kristall (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1999.

KHARMSiada: Anegdoty: Komiksy Iz Zhizni Velikikh, LIK (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1999.

O Ii aiivlenii aikh I Sushchestvovanii aikh, Izd-vo Azbuka (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1999.

Dnei Katybr: Izbrannye Stikhotvorenii ai, Poemy, Dramaticheskie Proizvedenii ai, Gulei ai (Moscow, Russia), 1999.

Povest, Rasskazy, Molitvy, Poemy, Sti sieny, Vodevili, Dramy, Stati, Traktaty, Kvazitraktaty, Kristall (St. Petersburg, Russia), 2000.

Zhizn Cheloveka Na Vetru: Stikhotvorenii ai Pesy, Izd-vo Azbuka (St. Petersburg, Russia), 2000.

Sborishche Druzei, Ostavlennykh Sudboi ui: A. Vvedenskii, L. Lipavskii, Ii Ai: Druskin, D. Kharms, N. Oleinikov: chinari V Tekstakh, Dokumentakh I Issledovanii aikh: V Dvukh Tomakh, Ladomir (Moscow, Russia), 2000.

Ii Uimor Nachala XX Veka, Izd-vo Olma Press (Moscow, Russia), 2003.

V Maske Kharmsa, Alexandria (New York, NY), 2004.

Sluchai I Veshchi, Vita Nova (St. Petersburg, Russia), 2004.

Sto, Zapasnyi vykhod/Emergency Exit (Moscow, Russia), 2005.

Drei Chore Nach Gedichten Von Daniil Charms (title means "Three Choruses on Poems by Daniil Kharms") Sikorski (Hamburg, Germany), 2005.

The Blue Notebook, 3rd edition, Ugly Duckling Presse (Brooklyn, NY), 2005.

Publisher of Ezh (later called Chizh), a literature journal for children.

ADAPTATIONS:

The story "Maskin zabil Koskina" was adapted to film, 1995; the story "Contsert dlya Krysy" ("Concert for a Rat") was adapted to film, 1995; the story "Pad a Vypadavajici stareny" was adapted to film, 1999; the story "The Old Woman" was adapted to film by Duane Andersen, 1999.

SIDELIGHTS:

A tragic figure in Soviet letters, Daniil Kharms was a poet, dramatist, and short-story writer who stood as a "representative of avant-garde trends in the Soviet literature before Socialist Realism was declared the only acceptable form of artistic expression," commented a biographer on the Kirjasto.sci.fi Web site. During his lifetime, Kharms was known as a children's writer, with an example of his poetry or one of his absurdist short stories occasionally appearing in an underground literary magazine. Most of Kharms's other works were suppressed, destroyed, or stored in private archives, where they "were rediscovered in the late 1960s," stated the Kirjasto.sci.fi Web site reviewer, further noting that "today his fame rests chiefly on his experimental, absurd prose pieces.

Born Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov in 1905, Kharms was the son of a revolutionary who later became a pacifist and writer. Though he attended college, he did not graduate. Kharms became associated with the literary avant-garde in his home city of Leningrad, participating in poetry readings and other activities. He was granted membership in the All-Russian Union of Poets in 1927, and that same year helped form a loose association of experimental writers and poets called Oberiu. "Their publicity antics, including a roof-top appearance by Kharms, caused minor sensations," reported a biographer on the Literaria Web site. The group staged performances of some of Kharms's dramatic works. However, the movement was doomed in a Soviet Union that was increasingly falling under Stalinist influence and becoming less tolerant of frivolous activities. Under mounting hostility from the public and the press, the group disbanded.

For his part, Kharms "experimented with structure and technique" in his early poems, "trying to create new meanings through sounds alone. Later his writing in general moved toward stylistic simplicity," the Kirjasto.sci.fi Web site biographer wrote. He continued to eke out a living writing children's books, even as "avant-garde art came into conflict with the official cultural policy, which aimed at centralized control," stated the Kirjasto.sci.fi Web site writer. In 1931, Kharms was arrested and imprisoned, accused of anti-Soviet activities. After spending several months in exile, he returned to Leningrad. By 1938, Kharms had been banned from publishing; even his children's works were deemed unfit for other Soviets to read. Entries in Kharms's notebooks, including lines such as "My extermination has begun," suggest that he realized he was not likely to survive the Stalinist period. Arrested again in 1941, he was declared mentally ill and incarcerated in a prison hospital. There, during the siege of Leningrad in 1942, it is believed that Kharms died of starvation.

A number of Kharms's stories, poems, and children's works still exist, and have been published for receptive Western audiences. "Kharms's stories are truly odd, as in: at first you think they're defective. They seem to cower at the suggestion of rising action, to blush at the heightened causality that makes a story a story. They sometimes end, you feel, before they've even begun," commented George Saunders in the New York Times Book Review. Incidences contains a collection of Kharms's stories, rescued from obscurity and presented for a modern audience. "With remarkable precision and fluid language, the stories capture everyday tension" of life within a violent, paranoid Soviet society, bound to the unwavering rule of Stalin, remarked Erik Burns in a New York Times Book Review piece. Kharms "was a very funny writer, his humorous effects often achieved by the employment of non sequiturs and irony. Frequently he wrote about absurdity in mundane events, such as shopping or going to work," observed Harvey Pekar in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. However, Pekar also noted that his work "also has brutal, almost sadistic qualities. His stories are full of violence and death, of people getting smashed to bits." Small snapshots of an oppressed life, Kharms's stories in Incidences "constitute a puzzlingly beautiful monument to a minor master," stated reviewer John Shreffler in Booklist.

Many of Kharms's works for children survive and have been reprinted in recent years. First, Second unfolds with the "fun of a cumulative folktale," commented Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman. Beginning with the singing narrator, a group of ten friends gradually gathers together. But not all of them are the same; one is a very tiny man. Another is a giant. Yet another is a donkey, and another an elephant. As the story unfolds, the friends work to solve problems of height, stature, speed, and other characteristics so that everyone can travel together, without problem or discomfort. The tall man fits best on the elephant; the tiny man travels agreeably on the back of a small dog. The narrator rides the donkey. With a "mixture of farce and nonsense and common sense," the friends resolve their problems in a silly story with a practical message, Rochman noted.

It Happened Like This: Stories and Poems is also a collection of Kharms's children's stories, an assortment of "deeply absurdist pieces" representing ten examples of the author's short fiction, stated GraceAnne A. DeCandido in a Booklist review. In "Have You Been to the Zoo?," two friends have an improbable and divergent conversation about the animals they saw there. Sonya disappoints Boris when she tells him that everything he wants to write in "Let's Write a Story" has already been written and collected in a book called It Happened Like This. Though the stories are "not for all children," the book's humor and illustrations "will surely speak to some," DeCandido mused.

The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down the Hill is a somewhat longer story for children in which title character finds himself careening out of control down a hill. Worse, Will picks up a number of passengers when he runs into them, one after another. Among his dismayed but temporary traveling companions are a dog, a fox, a hare, a hunter, and, at the bottom of the hill, a bear, whose massive body stops Will's slide and scatters the animals on Will's sled into the snow at the foot of the hill. Horn Book Magazine contributor Lolly Robinson felt that the book would be a "good candidate for reading aloud" to children captivated by the story, word repetition, fast pacing, and strong illustrations.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1994, John Shreffler, review of Incidences, p. 1761; April 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of First, Second, p. 1445; December 1, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of It Happened Like This: Stories and Poems, p. 664.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1996, review of First, Second, p. 192.

Comparative Literature, winter, 1997, Craig Brandist, "Deconstructing the Rationality of Terror: William Blake and Daniil Kharms," p. 59.

Horn Book Magazine, March-April, 1994, Lolly Robinson, review of The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down the Hill, p. 191; September-October, 1996, Lauren Adams, review of First, Second, p. 580.

Modern Language Review, July, 1995, Neil Carrick, "A Familiar Story: Insurgent Narratives and Generic Refugees in Daniil Kharms's ‘The Old Woman,’" p. 707; January, 1998, Neil Cornwell, "The Rudiments of Daniil Kharms: In Further Pursuit of the Red-Haired Man," p. 133.

Moscow News, July 23, 1993, Mikhail Zolotonosov, "Collected Works by Daniil Kharms Are Ready for Publication," p. 12.

New York Times Book Review, September 25, 1994, Erik Burns, "In Short: Fiction," review of Incidences, p. 24; December 9, 2007, George Saunders, "Soviet Deadpan," profile of Daniil Kharms.

PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, May, 2001, Branislav Jakovljevic, "Lapa, the Manuscript Play: Introducing Daniil Kharms," p. 75.

Paris Review, summer, 1995, review of poems, p. 15; winter, 1995, "Daniil Kharms," profile of Daniil Kharms.

Publishers Weekly, August 23, 1993, review of The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down the Hill, p. 70; March 11, 1996, review of First, Second, p. 62; November 23, 1998, review of It Happened Like This, p. 69.

Reading Teacher, February, 1998, review of First, Second, p. 427.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1994, Harvey Pekar, review of Incidences, p. 228.

Russian Review, October, 1998, Hilary L. Fink, "The Kharmsian Absurd and the Bergsonian Comic: Against Kant and Causality," p. 526.

School Librarian, May, 1994, John Sigwald, review of The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down the Hill, p. 54.

School Library Journal, February, 1994, Lynn Cockett, review of The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down the Hill, p. 88; April, 1996, John Sigwald, review of First, Second, p. 112; February, 1999, Denise Anton Wright, review of It Happened Like This, p. 108.

Slavonic and East European Review, January, 1991, R.R. Milner-Gulland, review of The Plummeting Old Women, p. 147; July, 1994, Graham Roberts, review of Incidences, p. 521; October, 1994, Neil Carrick, "Daniil Kharms and the Art of Negation," p. 622.

Time, December 9, 1996, review of First, Second, p. 79.

Times Literary Supplement, December 9, 1994, Zinovy Zinik, review of Incidences, p. 20; August 7, 1998, Zinovy Zinik, review of The Man with the Black Coat: Russia's Literature of the Absurd, p. 12.

Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1999, review of It Happened Like This, p. 59.

World Literature Today, summer, 1990, Ludmila Prednewa, review of The Plummeting Old Women, p. 487.

ONLINE

Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (January 8, 2008), Joshua Cohen, review of Incidences.

City Lights Books Web site,http://www.citylights.com/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Daniil Kharms.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (January 8, 2008), filmography of Daniil Kharms.

Kirjasto.sci.fi,http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Daniil Kharms.

Literaria Web site,http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8926/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Daniil Kharms.

Serpent's Tail Web site,http://www.serpentstail.com/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Daniil Kharms.

Sevaj.dk,http://sevaj.dk/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Daniil Kharms.

About this article

Kharms, Daniil 1905(?)-1942 (Daniel Charms, Daniil Charms, Daniil Dandan, Daniil Harms, Daniil Ivanovich Iuvachev, D. Kharms, Daniil Ivanovich Kharms, Kharms Shardam, Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article