Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) mainly made a living writing children's books in Leningrad. He also wrote poems and absurd short stories, often published in underground magazines, after the avant-garde literary societies that Kharms was associated with were banned by the Stalin regime. Only two of his poems “Incident on the Railway” (1926), and “The verse of Petr Yashkin” (1927) were published during his lifetime.

 In 1931 Kharms was convicted of anti-Soviet activity and spent a year in prison and exile in Kursk. In 1937 his children's books were confiscated by the authorities, and deprived of his main source of income. Kharms was often on the brink of starvation in the following years. The blue notebook was written during this period.

 In August 1941, shortly before the siege of Leningrad, Kharms was arrested a second time, accused of "spreading defeatist propaganda". During the trial Kharms was declared non compos mentis and was incarcerated in a military prison. In February 1942, while Leningrad was ravaged by famine, Kharms starved to death in prison.





The blue notebook 


by Daniil Kharms






There lived a redheaded man who had no eyes or ears. He didn`t have hair either, so he was called a redhead arbitrarily. He couldn`t talk because he had no mouth. He had no nose either. He didn`t even have arms or legs. He had no stomach, he had no back, he had no spine, he head no innards at all. He didn`t have any-thing. So we don`t even know who we`re talking about. It`s better that we don`t talk about him anymore.


January 7, 1937






We`ve died on the fields of the everyday.

No hope is left to lead the way.

Our dreams of happiness are naught-

Now poverty is all we got.


April 1, 1937





This is how hunger begins:

In the morning you wake lively,

Then weakness,

Then boredom,

Then comes the loss

Of quick reason`s strenghth,-

Then comes calm,

And then horror.







And a little fish flashes in the river`s cool wave,

And  little house stands far far away,

And a barking dog barks at a herd of cows,

And Petrov rides a barrow racing down the hill,

And a little flag flutters on top of the house,

And nourishing grain grows ripe in the field,

And the dust shines like silver on every leaf,

And the flies with a whistle fly everywhere,

And young girls lie in the sun to get warm,

And the bees in the garden buzz over the flowers,

And the geese are diving in shadowy ponds,

And the day passes by its usual labors.



Excerpts from the Blue Notebook, Ugly Duckling Presse, NY 2003


Translations by Matvei Yankelevitch




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