The "texts" of Russian artist and thinker Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) were so many and varied and often unique (narrative, dramatic, philosophical, poetic, mathematical, pictographic, diagrammatic, musical, biographical) that they defied categorization—and, thus, thorough study or appreciation—through much of the twentieth century. This book, the first in English to view Kharms’s oeuvre in its entirety, is also the first to offer a complete, inclusive, and coherent understanding of the overall project of this artist and writer now considered a major figure in the modernist canon of Europe.
The book follows Kharms’s development as a creative thinker, inquiring into the nature of Kharmsian nonsense, the ontological status of the OBERIU object, writing as performance, Kharms’s gestural language, his "language machines," and his ideas of order, number, infinity, and chance. Reading every paper trace (as well as extant memories) of Kharms’s activities as part of a large project of world creation, Branislav Jakovljevic situates him in a twentieth-century effort—exemplified by Kafka, Beckett, Artaud, Malevich, and Khelbnikov, among others—to go beyond an interpretation of meaning circumscribed by rational and logical thought. Examining texts that could conceivably be called "literary" as well as sketches, diagrams, hieroglyphs, photographs, and unclassifiable others, Jakovljevic’s study is the first to provide a properly broad perspective on this creative thinker’s farranging, far-reaching, and finally comprehensive achievement.
"Several keys to understanding Kharms’s oeuvre are offered here. By drawing in discussions of a broad range of Western thinkers, Jakovljevic brings Kharms to the English-language reader in a familiar and exciting context, making a strong case for Kharms’s inclusion in the international avant-garde canon as both artist and thinker."— Matvei Yankelevich, Hunter College