Born in St Petersburg in 1905, Kharms suffered through Stalinist rule for much of his life. Eventually he was arrested, imprisoned and killed by Soviet soldiers in the Gulags aged just 36. The shortness of Kharms' life parallels the brevity of his absurdist writings, some of which stretch to little more than a paragraph. One exception is The Old Woman, an obscure, brilliant and slyly political novella written in the 1930s. Carrying echoes of Beckett and Ionesco in its deadpan narrative, which follows the story of a struggling writer who cannot find peace with himself, The Old Woman is perhaps the finest work by one of the great avant-garde Russian authors. An old lady is standing in the courtyard and holding a wall clock in her hands. I walk past the old woman, stop and ask her, 'What time is it?' 'You look,' the old woman says to me. I look and see that the clock has no hands. 'There are no hands,' I say. The old woman looks at the face of the clock and says to me, 'It's a quarter to three.'
Part of Manchester International Festival