Olga Sonkin On:
An Unexpected Bender | The Cashier by Daniil Kharms
Kharms, who was unlucky enough (or perhaps lucky enough) to live through an historical era of shifting governments, ideologies and world wars, sees in all these one thing and one thing only: the absurd. And perhaps there is no other way of seeing reality – especially at a time in which stating one’s opinion could lead to imprisonment, exile and even death – through the eyes of someone who was imprisoned and whose works were barely published only because he dared to be different. Kharms wrote a lot about day-to-day life in Soviet Russia during the 1930s, and there may have been no better way of describing that life than through his grotesque writing.
The two stories appearing here focus on sex and death but include no psychological insights, neither profound nor shallow; sex and death are just as absurd as all the other components of life. The cashier who isn’t actually a cashier dies and the people around her are busy trying to hide her death – isn’t that something we do every day of our lives? Try to conceal the fact of death from ourselves? The second story describes an orgy, but there is nothing sexual about this orgy; it is a no-choice orgy that is the result of an unfortunate sequence of events which led to sexual contact between three people who happened to be in the same place at the same time.
The violence is a mundane violence that lacks any heroic air; petty people argue over petty matters – what more could one expect? After all, how could they interpret the