Hello, back again with another entry in this series. Not sure it needs a preamble, except to say it was predictably longer than a week between the first and the second installment. Quelle surprise! Oh well. Here it is, and we’re still in the realm of the super short stuff…
I wanted to do a Kharms story and it was either this or Tumbling Old Women – that’s the one about a series of old women falling from their windows. It begins:
Because of her excessive curiosity, one old woman tumbled out of her window, fell and shattered to pieces.
Daniil Kharms was a Russian absurdist active in the first half of the 20th century – he wrote stories, plays and children’s fiction and was arrested and exiled for anti-Soviet activity before dying of starvation in a psychiatric ward during the siege of Leningrad. His short stories are ridiculous and fizz with manic energy and a refusal to bend to logic.
Here’s his short story Events (found in Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms):
There will follow very little analysis, because I don’t know how to analyse it. The whole thing is perfect. It’s short and hectic, a relentless list of people whose sanity is being constantly chipped away at by inconveniences. It gathers momentum pretty quickly and makes no attempt to explain why the death of Orlov seems to prompt this domino effect – or even if the series of deaths are connected. Each of them is ridiculous
fell from the cupboard
and very funny.
Our instinct is to look for meaning as each of the characters inevitably breaks down – as readers we are always looking to interpret everything, to search for meaning, whereas Kharms makes me think of this quote from Rene Magritte:
When people ask, “What does this mean?” they are afraid. They express a wish that everything should be understandable.
We cannot hope to understand Orlov, Spiridinov, Mikhailov, Kruglov or Perekhryostov – like them this Kharms piece is is giddily unanalysable. I don’t necessarily want to understand it, only enjoy it. And I do enjoy it, every time I read it – I cannot explain exactly why.
Next time – we finally leave Eastern Europe and head to America, to Berlin.