Once there was a redheaded man
August 31, 2006 2:40 AM   Subscribe

Once there was a redheaded man without eyes and without ears. He had no hair either, so that he was a redhead was just something they said. He could not speak, for he had no mouth. He had no nose either. He didn't even have arms or legs. He had no stomach either, and he had no back, and he had no spine, and no intestines of any kind. He didn't have anything at all. So it is hard to understand whom we are really talking about. So it is probably best not to talk about him any more. Note that the last two links are in Russian. [This is a copy of a post by Daniel Charms, at MetaChat.]
posted by misteraitch (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I believe the lib.ru collection of English translations has some stories that aren't in any of the other links.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:30 AM on August 31, 2006

Four illustrations on how a new idea dumbfounds a man that was not ready for it

The Writer: I am a writer!
The Reader: And I think you are crap!
(The Writer stands there for a few minutes shocked by this new idea, falls dead. He is carried away.)

The Painter: I am a painter!
The Worker: And I think you are crap!
(The Painter went pale as a canvas, and shaking like a little leaf, suddenly dies. He is carried away.)

The Composer: I am a composer!
Ivan Rublev: And I think you are crap!
(The composer, breathing heavily, dies. He is carried away.)

The Chemist: I am a chemist!
The Physicist: And I think you are crap!
(The Chemist didn't say another word and falls heavily on the floor.)

(Contemporary english internet translation: "meta.")
posted by maryh at 6:13 AM on August 31, 2006

the quonsar: "i just like to say smock"
the Optimus Chyme: "and i think you are crap"
(the quonsar, shocked, pale, and breathing heavily, says "smock smock smock")

posted by quonsar at 6:18 AM on August 31, 2006

I tossed him in the water and called him Bob.
posted by clevershark at 6:19 AM on August 31, 2006

I threw him in the leaves and called him Russel.
posted by Balisong at 6:22 AM on August 31, 2006

I've loved Kharms ever since I discovered him; he's at one and the same time the funniest and cruelest of writers. His stories are like little exercises for language students, full of repetitions and simple dialogue, except that people keep dying and going mad and disappearing. Read "Father and Daughter" in Wolfdog's link; the deaths and burials and resurrections are unnerving enough, but the real sting comes at the end:

And their neighbors, as soon as they hear this laughter, immediately put on their coats and go off to the cinema. And one day they went off like that and never came back again. Seemingly, they were run over by a car.

Note the date: 1936. You do the math, and figure out which car ran them over.

Here's a description from Solomon Volkov's irresistibly gossipy St. Petersburg: A Cultural History:
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.
"I used to be a very wise old man. Now I am not quite right; you may consider me even not to exist at all..."
posted by languagehat at 6:36 AM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thanks, this is fabulous. He was unknown to me before now, which is a bit embarrassing.
posted by OmieWise at 6:50 AM on August 31, 2006

"My bald redhead has no nose."
"Your bald redhead has no nose?"
"Nope, no nose."
"How does he smell?"
"He can't; he has no nose!"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:42 AM on August 31, 2006

Mmm... Kharms... one of those writers it is a delight to stumble upon. My downstairs neighbor used to publish a literary magazine which devoted one issue to Daniel. It was a wonderful discovery.
posted by Kattullus at 10:26 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

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