Daniil Kharms

Translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

Daniil Kharms was known as one of the most innovative 20th century Russian authors. He perished during the time of Stalin’s terror.

from Northern Tales

The old man did not know why he went to the woods. Then, came back from the woods and yelled:
     –      The old woman! The old woman!
The old woman fell down. Since then, all rabbits in winter are white.

Symphony no. 2

Anton Mikhailovich spat, said “yuck,” spat again, said “yuck” again, spat again, said “yuck” again, and closed the door. To hell with him. Le me tell about Ilya Pavlovich.
     Ilya Pavlovich was born in 1893 in Constantinople. When he was still a small boy, his folks moved to Petersburg, he graduated from the German School on Kirchnaya Street. Then he worked in some shop; then he did some other thing; and during the Revolution, he emigrated. To Hell with him. Let me tell about Anna Ignatievna.
     Not so easy to talk about Anna Ignatievna. Firstly, I know nothing about her, and secondly, I have just fallen of my chair, and have forgotten what I was about to tell you. So let me tell you about myself.
     I am tall, not unintelligent; I dress prudently and with taste; I don’t drink, I don’t bet on horses, but I do like ladies. And ladies don’t avoid me. They smile when I go out with them. Serafima Izmaylovna has been asking me to her place, and Zinaida Yakovlevna implied she would have liked to see me. Then there is a funny business Marina Petrovna, which I would like you to consider. Quite an ordinary thing, but a funny business still. Because of me, Marina Petrovna turned completely bald – bald like a baby’s bottom. It happened like this: I went over to visit Marina Petrovna, and bang! she lost all her hair. And that was that.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Summer Day (A Symphony)

The rooster had hardly crowed when Timofey jumped out of his window onto the roof and frightened every pedestrian on the street at that hour. Khariton the peasant stopped, picked up a stone and threw it at Timonfey. Tmofey disappeared. “Very Smart!” laughed the human herd and someone named Zubov run full speed and rammed his head into  a wall. “Oh!” exclaimed a woman with a swollen cheek. But Komarov gave her a quick slap and the woman run howling to the doorway. Fetelushin walked past and laughed. “Hello little  ball of fat!” Komarov walked up to him, and hit Fetelushin in the stomach. Fetelushin leaned against the wall started to hiccup. Romashkin tried to spit from the balcony on Fetelushin’s head. At this point, a few doors down, a big-nosed woman was beating her kid with a trough. A fat, young mother was rubbing her pretty little girl’s face against the brick wall. A pretty little dog broke its hind leg, and was rolling around on the sidewalk. A little boy was eating some sort of a revolting thing from a spittoon. At the grocery, there was a long line for sugar. The women yelled and hit one another with bags. The peasant Khariton, having drank some methanol, stood in front of the women, his trousers undone, and said bad words.

     Thus began a beautiful summer day.

Old Ladies Are Flying

An old lady fell out of the window, because she was too curious. She fell out of the window, and was smashed to pieces.
Another old lady, stared down at the remains of one who was smashed, she stared at them, out of her excessive curiosity, and also fell out of the window, and smashed.
Then the third old lady fell out of the window, then the fourth did, then the fifth.
     When the sixth old lady fell out of the window, I got bored watching them and went to Maltsevitsky Bazaar where, it was announced, they gave a woven shawls to the blind.



Katie Farris is the author of BOYSGIRLS (Marick Press) and co-translator of collections of poetry of Polina Barskova (Tupelo Press) and Guy Jean (Marick Press). Her work appears in Virginia Quarterly ReviewVerseThe Literary Review, and elsewhere. 

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press) and co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins).