Vladimir Glotser is considered the most important expert on the life and work of Daniil Kharms. He has been collecting the reminiscences of the friends and contemporaries of the great Russian poet for more than fifty years. Included in his collection are the recollections of his closest friends and lovers, like those of the artist Alisa Poret. None of the interviewees remain alive today, which makes this book, replete with many previously unknown photos, a unique literary document.
The testimonies of the artists, actors, writers and translators who accompanied Kharms during the various stages of his life combine to produce a portrait of a very exceptional person. He was a misanthrope, an absolute dear, a notorious womanizer, and passionate husband, a tragic figure, hidden behind the mask of a clown. Many of the anecdotal episodes related about his life recall his absurd poems and prose.
He could make people laugh just by showing up in his old-fashioned knickerbockers and spats, brocade jacket and waistcoat with his ubiquitous pipe in his hand. He thought nothing of standing on a chest of drawers in a top hat reciting his poetry or shocking someone with his intense dislike of children, although he had written some wonderful poems for them. He had invented a “Gramma” in the courtyard of his building with whom he spoke German every day, and when he thought that her time had come, he arranged a symbolic funeral for her.
Even when he was being interrogated by the KGB he remained true to himself. He advised the interrogator to remove the mat in front of the door, because his silhouette was being projected on it, which made it difficult for him to concentrate on the task at hand. And in answer to the question of why he visited his friends on the Petrograd side of the river so often, he answered that they intended to dig a tunnel under the Neva to the Smolny Cloister [where a school for young ladies of nobility had been housed before the Revolution, but which afterward became the headquarters of the Bolsheviks]. And why was that, asked the interrogator in the expectation of learning some great secret. Kharms replied that they had wanted to see if some of the noble young ladies were still there.
Kharms himself admitted freely that he was only interested in “nonsense … only in things that had no practical reason.” Half a century later, this “nonsense” is considered world literature.
From the foreword by Vladimir Glotser: “He was and is undoubtedly a writer whose life and fate will be no less interesting than his works. He thought that it was no less important to ‘create a life for himself’ than it was to write poems. It was not for nothing that his closest friend Alexander Vvedenskij said: ‘Kharms does not create art, he is art in and of himself.’”