This is a bookshelf where authors can speak about their own works selected
for a UTokyo Grant for Academic Publications (UTokyo Jiritsu Award for Early Career Academics).

A self-portrait of Kharms and a picture of hand-written poetry


Richi no mukou (Beyond Rationality - Daniil Kharms’s Poetics and Methods)


OZAWA Hiroyuki


368 pages, 127x188mm, hardcover




March, 2019



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Richi no mukou

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This book is a comprehensive revision of the first doctoral dissertation in Japan to discuss the Russian poet and novelist Daniil Kharms (1905-1942). Kharms developed his poetry under the influence of the Russian Avant-Garde, particularly the poetry of zaum (a transrational language/concept), a notion that emerged from Russian Futurism. Previous studies have often regarded Kharms as a writer who entered another stage of absurdity. From this perspective, the contemporary Russian Avant-Garde—especially the Russian Futurism tradition by which that Kharms was greatly influenced—is perceived as an overcoming of the past.
However, against this background, the present book redefines Kharms within the context of the Russian Avant-Garde and reveals the overarching image of his poetics. That is to say, he did not transform from a futuristic poet into an absurdist writer, but rather in his own way attempted to achieve a new Russian Futuristic poetry.
This book draws out how Kharms’ movement between various practices attempted to transcend human rationality, while at the same time trying to change styles and genres in his creative process throughout his writerly career.
In terms of result and method analysis, this book introduces new innovations to the study of Kharms.
One of the achievements of this book is a renewal of our understanding of Kharms's literary position. As mentioned earlier, critics have stated that Kharms transformed from an Avant-Garde poet into an absurdist writer, and they have also emphasized the shift in his poetics. However, this book proves that he did not lose contact with Russian Avant-Garde (especially Russian Futurism) poetry, but instead further developed it and succeeded in finding consistency in his poetics.
This re-evaluation was made possible, first, by grasping at the conceptual level the method of zaum—which was invented by the Russian Futuristic group—and, second, by dividing the concept into “phonetic zaum” and “semantic zaum.” By following these two procedures, I was able to prove that Kharms consistently pursued the basic principle of zaum by transcending human rationality through overturning the axis of his “phonetic zaum” to that of the “semantic zaum” and thus changing the literary genre.
In contrast to “phonetic zaum,” which represents newly coined words, “semantic zaum” are phrases or sentences created from everyday vocabulary that break the semantic connection by deviating from conventional combinations of words. “Semantic zaum” has long been a subject of neglect in Russian Avant-Garde studies. Starting in this century, however, “semantic zaum” has been re-evaluated as an important concept/method inherited from the Russian Avant-Garde and bequeathed to the next generation. This book is an unprecedented attempt to apply the latest literary research to a close reading of Kharms’s complete creative output.
Thus, thanks to its attempt to apply analysis methods and the latest research knowledge in the study of its subject, this book stakes out a unique position within Kharms studies around the globe.

(Written by: OZAWA Hiroyuki / March 26, 2020)

Related Info

Kharms! Harms! Charms!   
Related Book:
Daniil Kharms, Verbal Machines: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, ed. and trans., Ozawa Hiroyuki (Tokyo: Michitani, 2019).