There lived a redheaded man

Daniil Kharms c.1930. Photographer unknown. Wikimedia.

Born in Russia in 1905, Daniil Kharms was a leading absurdist famed for the surreal poetry, short stories and plays he composed during a life of repeated misfortune that ended with him starving to death in prison in 1942. He best described his creative outlook in 1937, when he wrote, “I am interested only in nonsense; only in that which has no practical meaning. Life interests me only in its most absurd manifestations.” Thankfully, this extended to the many diary entries that peppered his notebooks. This is just one.

The Diary Entry

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 didn’t have a nose either.

He didn’t even have arms or legs. He had no stomach, he had no back, no spine, and he didn’t have any insides at all. There was nothing to speak of! So, we don’t even know who we’re talking about.

We’d better not talk about him any more.

January 7, 1937

Further Reading

There exist two books that I know of, and can vouch for, in which Daniil Kharms’ diary entries can be found (in English). Both titles are excellent:

Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writing of Daniil Kharms, translated and edited by Matvei Yankelevich.

“I am a Phenomenon Quite out of the Ordinary”: The Notebooks, Diaries, and Letters of Daniil Kharms, tranlsated and edited by Antony Anemone and Peter Scotto.

This entry was excerpted from Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms. English translation copyright © 2007, 2009 by Matvei Yankelevich. Used by permission of The Overlook Press, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

One response to “There lived a redheaded man”

  1. Thanks for these precious nuggets

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