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Aburdist Beauty Born in Gulag Misery

kharms1211.gifFile this one under arts & culture. From the New York Times: Let us consider Daniil Kharms, the Russian writer often described as an absurdist, largely unpublished in his lifetime except for his children’s books, who starved to death in the psychiatric ward of a Soviet hospital during the siege of Leningrad, having been put there by the Stalinist government for, among other reasons, his general strangeness. Kharms gave flamboyant poetry readings from the top of an armoire, did performance art on the Nevsky Prospect — by, for example, lying down on it, sometimes dressed as Sherlock Holmes — and was a founder of the Union of Real Art, an avant-garde group also known as Oberiu. His brilliant, hilarious, violent little stories, written “for the drawer,” are now being discovered in the West through translations by Neil Cornwell (collected in “Incidences”) and by Matvei Yankelevich, whose anthology “Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms” (Overlook, $29.95) has just been published. 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.