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Selected stories (Даниил Хармс)

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Disarmed, or Unfortunate in Love

A Tragic Vaudeville in One Act

LEV MARKOVICH (Bouncing up to the LADY) Let me!

LADY (Keeping him at arms length) Leave me!

LEV MARKOVICH (Bumping into her) Let me!

LADY (Shoving him with her knees) Go away!

LEV MARKOVICH (Gripping her with his hands) Let's, just once!

LADY (Shoving him with her knees) Away! Away!

LEV MARKOVICH Just one thrust!

LADY (Bellowing) No-o.

LEV MARKOVICH A thrust! One thrust!

LADY (Shows the whites of her eyes).

LEV MARKOVICH fumbles around, reaches with his hand for his tool and suddenly, as it turns out, he can't find it.

LEV MARKOVICH Wait a minute! (Feels himself up and down with his hands). What the h-hell!

LADY looks at LEV MARKOVICH with astonishment.

LEV MARKOVICH Well, that's a damn funny thing!

LADY What's happened?

LEV MARKOVICH Hum ... hmm ... (looks around, completely flummoxed).



How a Man Crumbled

– They say all the best tarts are fat-arsed. Gee-ee, I really like busty tarts, I love the way they smell.

Having said this, he started to increase in height and, upon reaching the ceiling, he crumbled into a thousand little pellets. The yard-keeper Panteley came, swept all these pellets up into his scoops in which he usually picked up the horse muck, and he carried these pellets away somewhere to the back yard.

And the sun continued to shine as ever and splendiferous ladies continued to smell just as ravishingly as ever.


<"I didn't go in for blocking up my ears...">

I didn't go in for blocking up my ears. Everyone blocked theirs up and I alone didn't block mine and therefore I alone heard everything. Similarly, I didn't blindfold myself with a rag, as everyone else did, and therefore I saw everything. Yes, I alone saw and heard everything. But unfortunately I didn't understand anything and, therefore, what was the value of me alone seeing and hearing everything? I couldn't even remember what I had seen and heard. Just a few fragmentary recollections, flourishes and nonsensical sounds. There was a tram conductor who came running through, followed by an elderly lady with a spade between her lips. Someone said: '... probably from under her chair...' A naked Jewish girl spreads her legs and empties a cup of milk over her sexual organs, the milk trickles down into a deep dinner plate. From the plate, the milk is poured back into the cup and offered to me to drink. I take a drink: there is a smell of cheese from the milk...

The naked Jewish girl is sitting there before me with her legs apart, her sexual organs stained with milk. She leans forward and looks at her sexual organs. From her sexual organs there starts to flow a transparent and syrupy liquid... I am going through a big and rather dark yard. In the yard there lie high, heaped up piles of firewood. From behind the wood someone's face is looking out. I know: it's Limonin following me. He's on the watch: to see whether I'm going to visit his wife. I turn to the right and go through the outside door on to the street. From the gateway the joyful face of Limonin is looking out... And now Limonin's wife is offering me vodka. I down four glasses with a few sardines and start thinking about the naked Jewish girl. Limonin's wife puts her head on my knees. I knock back one more glass and light up my pipe.

– You are so sad today – Limonin's wife says to me. I tell her some nonsense or other and go off to the Jewish girl.


On the Circle

1. Do not take offense at the following argument, for there is nothing offensive in it, unless one does not consider that the circle may be spoken of in a geometrical sense. If I say that the circle describes four identical radii, and you say: not four, but one, then we have a right to ask one another: why? But I don't want to talk about that kind of description of the circle, but of the perfect description of a circle.

2. The circle is the most perfect flat figure. I am not going to say why in particular that is so. But this fact arises of itself in our consciousness in any consideration of flat figures.

3. Nature is so created that the less noticeable the laws of formation, the more perfect the thing.

4. Nature is also so created that the more impenetrable a thing, the more perfect it is.

5. On perfection, I would say the following: perfection in things is a perfect thing. It is always possible to study a perfect thing or, in other words, in a perfect thing these is always something not studied. If a thing should prove to have been completely studied, then it would cease to be perfect, for only that which is incomplete is perfect – that is to say the infinite.

6. A point is infinitely small and thereby attains perfection, but at the same time it remains inconceivable. Even the smallest conceivable point would not be perfect.

7. A straight line is perfect, for there is no reason for it not to be infinitely long on both sides, to have neither end nor beginning, and thereby be inconceivable. But by putting pressure on it and limiting it on both sides, we render it conceivable, but at the same time imperfect.

If you believe this, then think on.

8. A straight line, broken at one point, forms an angle. But a straight line which is broken simultaneously at all its points is called a curve. A curve does not have to be of necessity infinitely long. It may be such that we can grasp it freely at a glance and yet at the same time remain inconceivable and infinite. I am talking about a closed curve, in which the beginning and the end are concealed. And the most regular, inconceivable, infinite and ideal curve will be a circle.

17 July 1931

On Laughter

1. Advice to humourous performers

I have noticed that it is very important to determine the point at which laughter can be induced. If you want the auditorium to laugh, come out on to the stage and stand there in silence until someone bursts out laughing. Then wait a little bit longer until someone else starts laughing, and in such a way that everyone can hear. However, this laughter must be genuine and claqueurs, in such an instance, should not be used. When all this has taken place, then the point at which laughter can be induced has been reached. After this you may proceed to your programme of humour and, rest assured, success is guaranteed.

2. Where are several sorts of laughter.

There is the average sort of laughter, when the whole hall laughs, but not at full volume. There is the strong sort of laughter, when just one part of the hall or another laughs, but at full volume, and the other part of the hall remains silent as, in this case, the laughter doesn't get to it at all. The former sort of laughter requires vaudeville delivery from a vaudeville actor, but the latter sort is better. The morons don't have to laugh.


On Time, Space and Existence

1. A world which is not can not be called existing, because it is not.

2. A world consisting of something unified, homogeneous and continuous can not be called existing, because in such a world there are no parts and, once there are no parts, there is no whole.

3. An existing world must be heterogeneous and have parts.

4. Every two parts are different, because one part will always be thus one and the other that one.

5. If only this one exists, then that one cannot exist, because, as we have said, only this exists. But such a this cannot exist, because if this exists it must be heterogeneous and have parts. And if it has parts that means it consists of this and that.

6. If this and that exist, this means that not this and not that exist, because if not this and not that did not exist, then this and that would be unified, homogeneous and continuous and consequently would also not exist.

7. We shall call the first part this and the second part that and the transition from one to the other we shall call neither this nor that.

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