Theme for a Story by Daniil Kharms

A certain engineer made up his mind to build a giant brick wall across all of Petersburg. He thinks over how this is to be accomplished, he doesn’t sleep nights reasoning it out. Gradually a club of thinker-engineers forms and a plan for building the wall is produced. It is decided that the wall will be built during the night and in such a way that the whole thing is put up in one night, so that it would appear as a surprise to all. Workers are rounded up. The job is divided up. The city authorities are lured away, and finally the night comes when the wall is to be built. Only four people know of the building of the wall. The engineers and workers are given exact orders as to where each should go and what each should do there. Thanks to exacting calculations, they’re able to build the wall in one night. The next day Petersburg is all commotion. The inventor of the wall himself is dispondent. What this wall was good for, he himself never knew.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(1930)

translated by Matvei Yankelevich

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It’s Good That Russia Has No Tsar by Georgy Ivanov

It’s good that Russia has no Tsar,

it’s good that Russia’s just a dream,

it’s good that God has disappeared,

 

that nothing’s real, except the stars

in icy skies, the yellow gleam

of dawn, the unrelenting years.

 

It’s good that people don’t exist,

that nothingness is all there is,

that life’s as dark and cold as this;

 

until we couldn’t be more dead,

nor ever were so dark before,

and no one now can bring us aid,

nor even needs to any more.

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

(1930)

translated by Stephen Capus

Marina by T. S. Eliot

“Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?”

 

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands

What water lapping the bow

And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog

What images return

O my daughter.

 

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning

Death

Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning

Death

Those who sit in the style of contentment, meaning

Death

Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

Death

 

Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind.

A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog

By this grace dissolved in place

 

What is this face, less clear and clearer

The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger –

Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye

 

Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet

Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.

 

I made this, I have forgotten

And remember.

The rigging weak and the canvas rotten

Between one June and another September.

Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.

The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking

This form, this face, this life

Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me

Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,

The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

 

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers

And woodthrush calling through the fog

My daughter.

 

by T. S. Eliot

First published September 25, 1930 in Ariel Poems.