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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A Fable by Daniil Kharms

One short man said: “I would give anything if only I were even a tiny bit taller.”

He barely said it when he saw a lady medegician standing in front of him.

“What do you want?” says the medegician.

But the short man just stands there so frightened he can’t even speak.

“Well?” says the medegician.

The short man just stands there and says nothing. The medegician vanishes.

And the shortman started crying and biting his nails. First he chewed off all the nails on his fingers, and then on his toes.

—–

Reader! Think this fable over and it will make you somewhat uncomfortable.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

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

(1935)

translated by Matvei Yankelevich and Eugene Ostashevsky

Meet The Family by R. S. Thomas

John One takes his place at the table,

He is the first part of the fable;

His eyes are dry as a dead leaf.

Look on him and learn grief.

 

John Two stands in the door

Dumb;  you have seen that face before

Leaning out of the dark past,

Tortured in thought’s bitter blast.

 

John Three is still outside

Drooling where the daylight died

On the wet stones; his hands are crossed

In mourning for a playmate lost.

 

John All and his lean wife,

Whose forced complicity gave life

To each loathed foetus, stare from the wall,

Dead not absent. The night falls.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)

The Businessman and the Artist: A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there lived a very poor artist on the roadside from the country to the city. Everyday a very rich businessman would pass him by as her went to work from his country home to his city office.

The car would drive past noisily each day and the fumes from the exhaust would dirty the air outside the roadside shack where the artist lived and worked every day.

One day the businessman stopped and looked at the artist’s wares.

“How much do these cost?” asked the businessman.
“They are free to whomsoever wants them” said the artist.
“I’ll take them all then!” said the businessman.

The next day the businessman came again and again there were pieces on display outside the artist’s home.
“How much will these cost?” he asked again.
“Free to whomsoever wants them” said the artist.
So again the businessman took the lot.

Each day the businessman would take the artist’s works for free and every day the artist would make more because he believed in art for art’s sake.

Every day the businessman, without the artist’s knowledge, would promote the artworks and impress upon people that they were worth something and ensured them one day they would be worth more. He would sell them for lots and lots of money but he never gave the artist a penny. Each day the artist would create more pieces just for the sake of art itself for people to enjoy but never ask for payment not even a penny.

Each and every day this continued for a long, long time. The businessman would arrive in his car and ask “How much do these cost?” and each and every day the artist would reply “Free to whomsoever wants them” before the businessman would take the lot.

The businessman got more and more rich and more and more greedy. The artist got more and more poor ad more and more sick. More and more people wanted the artworks so the businessman sold them more and more and not one penny did he give the artist.

One day the businessman approached the artist and asked “How much will it cost for you to produce more?”
“I can only produce so much a day” said the artist.
“But people want more so you must make more!” demanded the businessman.
“I cannot do that”, replied the artist, “each piece takes the time it takes to make. I can make no more than I already do.”
“But you must” insisted the businessman. “People want these artworks. I can give them so you need not leave your home”.
The artist considered this and accepted what the business man said.

So the artist made more and more art each and every day for free while the businessman made more and more money selling them for more and more money. More and more the artist struggled to keep up with demand and more and more the businessman pushed the artist to produce even more and more art pieces for him to sell.

One day the businessman arrived in his car and saw no artwork. He looked at the road and there were no artworks. He looked in the doorway of the roadside shack where the artist resided and found no artworks. He looked behind the curtain that separated the bed of the artist from the rest of the room and found no artworks.

What he did find was the artist. The artist was dead. Dead from overwork. Dead from exhaustion. Dead because he could not keep up with the demand the businessman placed on him.

The businessman was very sad. What would he do? The source of the artwork was gone. What could he do? If someone found out the artist was dead they would tell the people who owned the artworks he had sold them? What should he do? He went and made sure to collect everything the poor artist owned and hid it away so no one would find it.

So the artist was dead. The businessman told everyone he knew the artist was dead. They were all very sad too that the artist was dead.

Then the businessman told everyone he knew that he had the last works of the artist. He showed them to his investors, he showed them to those who bought the others and he showed them to important people in order to impress them with how cultured he was. He showed them to whomsoever wanted to look and admire them. But they could not have them!

No, because these were the last works of the artist and so very, very, precious they were! They were, after all, the pension investment the businessman now had made for his retirement! He would keep them for himself and no one would ever, ever, own them except him as long as they became more and more valuable over time.

When he was very, very, old he would take them out of the dark, cold, lonely vault where he had stored them and he would sell them. By then they would be very, very, valuable and only then would he sell them to whomsoever wanted them, if they could afford them, and he would live happily ever after.

The end.


😦

An Edward Gorey kind of story…

A cautionary tale to not give away your talent for free as people will not appreciate it and only expect more of you. The artist paid for his artistry with his life and the businessman paid for his business acumen with his humanity. A rather dark, if realistic, morality lesson then. More akin to the German Marchen (wonder tale) albeit without any fantastical elements present. A morality tale perhaps is the most astute term to use. or an Aesop like fable… It’s a vignette… let’s leave it at that.

I did not edit it very well and went overboard with the repetition we nowadays expect in classic fairy tales.
I dreamt this up years ago but only now have I bothered to write it down. This is the first and likely only draft of this story.

Opinions? Comments? More than welcome.