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  Philologica 4 (1997)  
   
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A. A. DOBRITSYN

A “SONNET” IN PROSE: THE CASE OF XARMS

 
 
 


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Summary

The genre of a poem in prose became familiar to European literature a long time ago. However, Daniil Xarms invented something unprecedented: namely, the sonnet in prose. It is known that “the poem in prose” is a content-rich notion par excellence (first and foremost, it informs the reader about the author’s lyrical mood). Xarms’ sonnet in prose is, par excellence, a phenomenon of form. This short (or even tiny) story consists of 14 sentences, and it is the same number as the number of lines in a sonnet. Moreover, from the point of view of their content, these sentences naturally form two “quatrains” and two “tercets”: the thematic composition of Xarms’ Sonnet accurately corresponds to the classical scheme of a sonnet (thesis — its elaboration — antithesis — synthesis). Also, the very first sentence of Sonnet contains exactly 14 words, while the whole number of words in this piece is 196, that is 14 squared. Thus, the absurdity of Xarms’ Sonnet by no means lies in the inadequacy of its title. Much more paradoxical is, so to speak, the contradiction between the “quantitative” character of its form and the “qualitative” character of its content: it is most likely that the work, the characters of which do not know how to calculate properly (they do not remember if 7 goes after 8 or vice versa), was itself calculated very carefully.

 


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