The red-haired man
In 1922, punctuating a long, wordy war with Ezra Poundover James Joyce’s Ulysses, (George) Bernard Shaw wrote this:
Irish talent, when it is serious, belongs to the big world and must behave itself accordingly.
Shaw died in 1950 after falling off a ladder while trimming a tree on his property at Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire, outside of London. He was 94. His last words were, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”
It is funny how many people, on learning that I’m Irish, presume I must therefore have an opinion on Shaw. As it happens I do, but the likelihood of any Irishman having one is up there with, I don’t know, a Ukrainian with something to say about Daniil Kharms, because, as accomplished individuals from different civilizations, comparing their politics and sense of humor would be, er, absurd.
Kharms, we recall, was arrested twice for spreading "libelous and defeatist mood" after the Germans blockaded Leningrad.
According to the NKVD report, he said:
"If they give me a mobilization order, I will punch the commander in the face, let them shoot me, but I will not put on the uniform and will not serve in the soviet forces, I do not wish to be such trash. If they force me to fire a machine gun from rooftops during street-to-street fights with the Germans, I would shoot not at the Germans, but at them, from the very same gun."
To avoid execution, Kharms simulated insanity. The military tribunal ordered him to be kept in the psychiatric ward of the Kresty prison due to the severity of the crime. He died of starvation February 2, 1942 during the siege of Leningrad.
These men of letters came to mind after reading an interactive article about erasing Russian culture in Ukraine, along the lines of "the complete removal of Russian culture and history [from Ukraine].
That’s crazy, I thought, until I traced the quote to Cambridge University’s TikTok opinion page and associate professor of whatever Rory Finnin, the Ohio native whom we remember for an unfortunate hagiography of Ukraine’s top pop star appearing in the The New Yorker in 2015.
Keeping this in mind, and testing out Substack’s poetry block feature, we present to you The Poem of the Day, listening to the late Ryuichi Sakamoto.
“The Red-haired Man” by Daniil Kharms
There was a red-haired man who had no eyes or ears.
Neither did he have any hair, so he was called red-haired theoretically.
He couldn't speak, since he didn't have a mouth. Neither did he have a nose.
He didn't even have any arms or legs. He had no stomach and he had no back and he had no spine and he had no innards whatsoever. He had nothing at all!
Therefore there's no knowing whom we are even talking about.
In fact it's better that we don't say any more about him.
Recall how Phase 2 [ of Russia’s war with Ukraine] began, with a comparison of the attempt to sink the ProPatria after the outbreak of war in a previously peaceful kingdom. The ship’s name came from part IV of Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.
James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Winter, 1986), pp. 127-136 (10 pages)
Кобринский А. А. Даниил Хармс. — М.: Молодая гвардия, 2009. — 508 с. — (Жизнь замечательных людей)