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September 10, 2010



Bulgakov and Harms (his name being a pun on the English "harms" and "charms," it's weird to see it spelled with a k) are the only two really great Russian writers of the 20th century. Maybe there's Babel, but probably not. Unfortunately, it seems to be impossible to translate them well into English-the translations always come out affected and contrived.

Justin Smith

I've read that Kharms's pseudonym is inspired by 'Holmes', as in 'Sherlock Holmes'. In any case my transliteration of it here just follows the convention for his name in particular, as well as following the Library of Congress transliteration system for Russian words in general.

I chose this one out of several dozen of his short pieces that I've attempted to translate, because my sense was that it came out fairly authentic-sounding, and avoided the problem of affectation that you mention. It is a serious problem.


Your translation seems good to me. A cultural problem remains-without the context of spending years being beaten over the head with Pushkin and Gogol, it's hard to get how funny this really is.

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