Daniil Xarms's Philosophical Discourse and its Classical Prototypes

Jamilya Nazyrova, University of Southern California

It is often said that the OBERIUs are natural philosophy poets. This critical common place is based upon the poetic imagery of the early Zabolockij and Vvedenskij. However, there may be deeper and to a certain extent conscious connections between the OBERIU philosophical writings and Greek natural philosophy.

Daniil Xarms' amateur philosophical compositions and his other texts that somehow deal with philosophical ideas and methodologies apparently show that his mind was obsessed with the definitions of the basic metaphysical concepts, such as existence/non-existence, time, space, number, infinity. In spite of being acquainted with contemporary philosophical discourse, for instance, Bergson's, he chose a completely different style for the presentation of his own philosophical deliberations. Xarms's philosophy differs from the prevalent mode of the philosophical writings of the time in that he introduces his arguments in a formal logical manner and he chooses as his subject the nature of the universe, in the spirit of Greek natural philosophy ([O sushchestvovanii, o vremeni, o prostranstve], Odinnadcat' utverzhdenij Daniila Xarmsa). The logic of his argument is centered on a paradox or even candid sophistry of which the author himself was completely aware, as it is evident from his correspondence.

It is proved that among the authors whose writings and/or teachings Xarms knew can be detected Pythagoras, Aristotle and Gnostics. I will investigate to what extent the combination of formal logic strategy and of the topics that characterize classical philosophy of nature is due to the conscious working through the classical material.

I will also analyze the narrative strategies Xarms uses to present metaphysical topics. Xarms' philosophical writings appearto be a borderline phenomenon, which combines the features of diary notes, intellectual stream of consciousness, philosophical treatise, and logical argument. Besides his proper writings in philosophy, Xarms introduces metaphysical content through the non-philosophical compositions: for instance, O javlenijax i sushchestvovanijax. Philosophical concepts may be hidden in the frame of a different discourse type: for example, in his composition for children: Vo-pervyx i vo-vtoryx, in the poem Neteper' and in Balet trex nerazluchnikov. Analyzing the genre fusion producing, I will interpret the involvement of metaphysical discourse as the one of the language creation techniques.

I will also approach the question that obviously follows these observations: what is the mutual relationship between OBERIU avant-garde literary strategies and ancient philosophical practices.