Daniil Kharms







A Fairytale


There once was a man by the name of Semyonov.
And Semyonov went out for a walk and lost his handkerchief.
And Semyonov started looking for a handkerchief and lost his hat.
And looking for a hat, he lost his jacket.
He began to look for a jacket and lost boots.
– Yes – said Semyonov – this is a loss – I shall go home.
Semyonov began walking home – and he got lost.
– No – said Semyonov – I’d rather sit. And he sat down.
And he sat on a stone, and fell asleep.



— tr. Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky




from Northern Tales


The old man did not know why he went to the woods. Then, came back from the woods and yelled:
– The old woman! The old woman!
The old woman fell down. Since then, all rabbits in winter are white.



— tr. Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky




Symphony no.  2


Anton Mikhailovich spat, said « yuck, » spat again, said « yuck » again, spat again, said « yuck » again, and closed the door. To hell with him. Le me tell about Ilya Pavlovich.

Ilya Pavlovich was born in 1893 in Constantinople. When he was still a small boy, his folks moved to Petersburg, he graduated from the German School on Kirchnaya Street. Then he worked in some shop; then he did some other thing; and during the Revolution, he emigrated. To Hell with him. Let me tell about Anna Ignatievna.

Not so easy to talk about Anna Ignatievna. Firstly, I know nothing about her, and secondly, I have just fallen of my chair, and have forgotten what I was about to tell you. So let me tell you about myself.

I am tall, not unintelligent; I dress prudently and with taste; I don’t drink, I don’t bet on horses, but I do like ladies. And ladies don’t avoid me. They smile when I go out with them. Serafima Izmaylovna has been asking me to her place, and Zinaida Yakovlevna implied she would have liked to see me. Then there is a funny business Marina Petrovna, which I would like you to consider. Quite an ordinary thing, but a funny business still. Because of me, Marina Petrovna turned completely bald – bald like a baby’s bottom. It happened like this: I went over to visit Marina Petrovna, and bang! she lost all her hair. And that was that.



— translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky




Blue Notebook no. 2


Once there lived a redheaded man without eyes and without ears. And he did not have hair, so they called him redheaded just so they could have something to say.

He didn’t speak, because he had no mouth. He had no nose either.

He didn’t have any arms or legs. He had no stomach, he had no

back, he had no spine, and he had no intestines of any kind. He didn’t have anything. So we don’t know who it is we keep speaking about.

Thus it’s best that we don’t talk about him any more.



— translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky




The Beginning of a Beautiful Summer Day (A Symphony)


The rooster had hardly crowed when Timofey jumped out of his window onto the roof and frightened every pedestrian on the street at that hour. Khariton the peasant stopped, picked up a stone and threw it at Timonfey. Tmofey disappeared. “Very Smart!” laughed the human herd and someone named Zubov run full speed and rammed his head into  a wall. “Oh!” exclaimed a woman with a swollen cheek. But Komarov gave her a quick slap and the woman run howling to the doorway. Fetelushin walked past and laughed. “Hello little  ball of fat!” Komarov wakled up to him, and hit Fetelushin in the stomach. Fetelushin leaned against the wall started to hiccup. Romashkin tried to spit from the balcony on Fetelushin’s head. At this point, a few doors down, a big-nosed woman was beating her kid with a trough. A fat, young mother was rubbing her pretty little girl’s face against the brick wall. A pretty little dog broke its hind leg, and was rolling around on the sidewalk. A little boy was eating some sort of a revolting thing from a spittoon. At the grocery, there was a long line for sugar. The women yelled and hit one another with bags. The peasant Khariton, having drank some methanol, stood in front of the women, his trousers undone, and said bad words.


Thus began a beautiful summer day.



— translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky




Old Ladies Are Flying


An old lady fell out of the window, because she was too curious. She fell out of the window, and was smashed to pieces.

Another old lady, stared down at the remains of one who was smashed, she stared at them, out of her excessive curiosity, and also fell out of the window, and smashed.

Then the third old lady fell out of the window, then the fourth did, then the fifth.

When the sixth old lady fell out of the window, I got bored watching them and went to Maltsevitsky Bazaar where, it was announced, they gave a woven shawls to the blind.



–translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky






One day Orlov had too many mashed peas and died. And Krylov, hearing about this, died too. But Spridonov died for no reason. And Spridonov’s wife fell off a kitchen cabinet and also died. And Spridonov’s children drowned in a pond. And Spridonov’s grandmother took to the bottle and hit the road. And Mikhailov ceased combing his hair and got ill. And Kruglov sketched a grandama with a whip and went crazy. And Perehvostov received four hundred roubles by wire and became so uptight that they fired him from work.

Good people, they are all my good people, these citizens – but they can’t keep their two feet on the ground.



— translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky















Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government.

Ilya is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) which won the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year 2004 by ForeWord Magazine. In 2008, Kaminsky was awarded Lannan Foundation’s Literary Fellowship

Poems from his new manuscript, DeafRepublic, were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize.

His anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, was published by Harper Collins in March, 2010.

His poems have been translated into numerous languages and his books have been published in Holland, Russia, France, Spain. Another translation is forthcoming in China, where his poetry was awarded the Yinchuan International Poetry Prize.

Kaminsky has worked as a law clerk for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center.

Currently, he teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.




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