The central figure of Oberiu was twenty-two-year-old Daniil Yuvachev, who took the pseudonym Kharms (according to one version, forming it from the English words "charm" and "harm"). A poet, prose writer, and playwright, Kharms stylized himself as the classic Petersburg eccentric. Tall and long-haired, looking, as one of his friends said, like both "a puppy of good pedigree and the young Turgenev," Kharms strolled around Leningrad in an unusual getup for a Soviet city: a British-style gray jacket, vest, and plus fours tucked into checked socks. The image of "mysterious foreigner" was completed by a starched collar, narrow black velvet ribbon on his forehead, thick walking stick, pocket watch the size of a saucer on a chain, and crooked pipe.
Kharms insisted that he was a wizard and frightened friends with stories of his strange magic powers. His apartment was filed with books on black magic, satanism, chiromancy, and phrenology, as well as a book for interpreting dreams, for Kharms was very superstitious. He would return home if he met a hunchback on the street, and drank milk only if all the windows and doors were shut tight and the smallest cracks were stuffed with cotton. In Kharms's bedroom, which was full of wires and springs stretching in all directions, on which bounced occult symbols and all sorts of demons and imps made of paper, stood an ancient harmonium on which the wizard host liked to play works by his beloved composers Bach and Mozart. (Kharms used to show off an old medallion depicting a severe-looking man in a powdered wig, telling people that this was a unique portrait of "Ivan Sevastyanovich himself," that is, Johann Sebastian Bach.)...
At the literary evenings of the 'oberiuts,' as the members of Oberiu were called, the heavily powdered Kharms would be wheeled out on the stage on top of a huge black lacquered wardrobe, from which he would begin reciting in a singsong his intentionally infantile verses:
Once granny waved
and the steam engine instantly
served the children and said:
eat your mush and trunk.
[Kak-to babushka makhnula
i totchas zhe parovoz
detyam podal i skazal:
peite kashu i sunduk.]...
Akhmatova... said, "He managed to do what almost no one else could, write the so-called prose of the twentieth century. When they describe, for instance, how the hero went out into the street and suddenly flew up into the air, no one else can do that convincingly, only Kharms.
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