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  Philologica 5 (1998)  
   
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A. A. DOBRICYN

TWO NOTES ABOUT XARMS

 
 
 


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Summary

1. “Cases” als die Fälle. It is very likely that the title of Daniil Xarms’s collection of miniatures, Sluchai (Cases), takes into account and reflects the homonymity of the German der Fall ‘case; fall’. The characters in this collection fall (literally and metaphorically) so frequently that the title Falls could actually be appropriate for it. In this regard one can recall the word play with the root -fall- in the opening lines of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: “1 Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall <= the case> ist <...> 1. 2 Die Welt zerfällt in Tatsachen <= divides into facts>”. Xarms, whose poetic world also “divides into cases” (zerfällt in Fälle), could have put his name to Wittgenstein’s first thesis, thus giving it a slightly different meaning: “The world is everything which is a fall (a case)”.

2. “To-ring-to-fly”: Grammar and Arithmetic. The analysis of the poem Zvonit’letet’ (To-ring-to-fly, 1930) reveals a latent numeric symmetry in its composition: the first part contains 28 lines, the second part contains 28 verbal forms; the number of nouns in both parts (repetitions excluded) is also 28, and so on. It is possible that this “magic of numbers” is intentional: in Xarms’s poetry other carefully calculated works are found (see A. A. Dobricyn’s article in Philologica, vol. 4).

Another feature of the composition is also connected with the distribution of grammatical forms. The subtitle of the poem is Tret’ia cisfinitnaia logika (The Third Cisfinite Logic). Whatever Xarms’s “cisfiniteness” means, it is indisputably contrasted with finiteness. This fact seems to explain the use of the infinitive instead of finite forms of the verbs. Two opposite lines of the lexical-grammatical plot are manifested in the text: one of them is bound up with the verbs, while the other is connected with the nouns and pronouns. In the first half of the poem object personalization takes place: the series of grammatical subjects culminates in a list of the parts of the body, the last of which are the parts of the face; in the second half of the poem an analogous series of grammatical subjects concludes with the personal pronoun my ‘we’. At the same time the series of verbs turns into depersonalized forms: personal forms disappear altogether, to be replaced by infinitives.

 


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