Today I Wrote Nothing: the selected writing of Daniil Kharms is one of the most interesting and strangest books you could possibly ever read. It is a collection of short stories, poems, plays, and one song written by Daniil Kharms who lived in Stalinist Russia, which is one of the suggestions of why his stories are so absurd.
The collection is broken up into four sections. The first section is titled Events, and hold some of Kharms’s best short stories and plays, which by today’s standards would be known as micro-fiction. Length wise, the pieces can run from a few sentences to a paragraph to a page, but are never usually longer than that.
The second section is considered Kharms’s longest piece. Titled The Old Woman this story is approximately 26 pages long. It tells of a man who answers his door one day and finds an old woman standing outside. The old woman comes in, bosses him around, and then dies in his chair. At first infuriated by the predicament, the narrator leaves the house to figure out how to deal with it. Not only is this story strange, it is utterly hilarious. Kharms’s choice of words will leave the reader baffled, but unable to stop laughing.
The third section is titled The Blue Notebook. It is a collection of 29 short stories written in a blue notebook. Personally, my favorite is Blue Notebook Number 10 (which is actually in the book twice). If there’s any tale you choose to read, I suggest to read that one.
Finally, the fourth section is Other Writings, and like the first section it houses several different short stories and plays. However, this section also houses some poetry and one song, which aren’t as strange as the fiction, but can get there.
The back cover of the book recommends Kharms’s works to fans of George Saunders, John Ashbery, Diane Williams, and Martin McDonagh, but I would definitely add Franz Kafka and Nikolai Gogol to that list as well. Just like Kharms, Kafka has some very strange short stories, and Gogol is actually mentioned several times by Kharms throughout the collection.
Overall, Today I Wrote Nothing is a witty and hilarious read. Kharms’s works are intriguing and will make the reader stop and think at some points as he sheds light on thoughts we tend to keep in the dark.
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