The Plummeting Old Women
The Plummeting Old Women by Daniil Kharms is a collection of stories, incidents, dialogues and fragments that forms an important part of the buried literature of Russian modernism now revealed under glasnost. These texts are characterized by a startling and macabre novelty, with elements of the grotesque, fantastic and child-like touching the imagination of the everyday. They express the cultural landscape of Stalinism – years of show trials, mass atrocities and stifled political life. Their painful, unsettling eloquence testify to the humane and the comic in this absurdist writer’s work.
The translator Neil Cornwell gives a biographical introduction to his subject, enlarged upon by the poet Hugh Maxton in a contextual assessment of the writing of Flann O’Brien, Le Fanu and Doyle, and of their shared concerns with detective fiction, terror and death. Daniil Kharms (1905-42) died under Stalin. Along with fellow poets and prose-writers of the era – Khlebnikov, Biely, Mandelstam, Zabolotsky and Pasternak – he is one of the emerging experimentalists of Russian modernism.