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A selection of Daniil Harms’ poems for children ‘A very terrible event’ has been published

The children’s book publishing house “Liels un mazs” publishes a selection of poems for children by the Russian poet Daniil Harms (1905–1942), compiled and cooled by Kārlis Vērdiņš, but illustrated by Reinis Pētersons.

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According to the publishers, Harms wrote for both adults and children, but for many years he was called a children’s writer because his works were forbidden to be published by adults.

Harms’ poetry brings to children the same “literary madness and challenge” that his work has in general: “master of the absurd”, “elements of surrealism”, “futurism”, “happening” – such terms are used because it is difficult to formulate Harms precisely “Games with language and poems dynamic, funny stories make his children ‘s poetry easy to understand and easy to keep in mind. Cooling these works in Latvian, Kārlis Vērdiņš tried to preserve Harms’ inimitable joy and abomination of the game,” the publishers write.

The book also gives an idea of ​​the historical context of this poetry, it contains many things that would seem completely unthinkable today: harshness, violence, militarized Soviet patriotism, but reading it shows how it all turns ironically. In his poems, Harms asks us: can a game be fun if someone else has to suffer because of it? Should life be sure to deceive the strongest and subdue the weakest? Should every boy dream of becoming a tanker or a border guard to find and destroy real or imagined enemies?

The artist Reinis Pētersons combines important aspects of his talent in the interpretation of Harm’s poetry: the mastery of black and white drawing, the ability to use historical stylization and the paradoxical sense of humor. The artist’s work is one of the ways in which the reader can come to a sense of the historical context of Harms’ poems, which is related to the stylistics of Soviet children’s magazines of the 1920s and 1930s.

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