By EW Staff
August 24, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Man With the Black Coat

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Aimee Bender recommends The Man With the Black Coat by Daniil Kharms & Alexander Vvedensky (Northwestern University Press, $17.95)

I’ve been reading a wonderful gem by the Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms. It’s a collection of mostly tiny shorts he wrote in the ’20s and ’30s before he was arrested and eventually died in jail. The stories are brief but piercing–about a man who stuffs a dish of butter in his mouth while his wife isn’t looking and then sells it to his neighbor. Or a town that is confused when they can’t remember which came first, 7 or 8. Each piece is often just a page or two, but they linger with a kind of dusky delight and also brim with the incredible stubbornness of work that insists on being funny and joyful while butting against a point in history that was anything but.

Aimee Bender is the author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and An Invisible Sign of My Own, which Anchor Books published in paperback last month.

The Man With the Black Coat

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