non-working days in Russia, as you know, was extended until may 11 – and that means that millions of people have continuing to live in four walls. What we shall be after this weeks experience, is not known. Maybe turn into pelicans? What reading the novel of Andrey astvatsaturov “do Not feed or touch the pelicans” included in the long list of “Big books”, it seems that people really like this unusual bird, prone to sacrifice and loneliness. Writer, scholar, associate Professor, SPSU, and for some time – and the Director of the Museum of Nabokov, Astvatsaturov in an interview with “MK” talked about the isolation, the return to yourself and humor in a viral time.
– Your novel “Kunskamera” begins with the words: “the Thoughts that come to mind when you sit locked up, can not be trusted”. What we shall be after this quarantine?
– it is difficult to say. There is probably more competent than me speak for sociologists, historians and economists, because clearly the nature of our life quarantine has a very serious impact. We ejected out of our familiar relations and relationships. People who are used to walking, sitting in cafes, meeting friends, whose work has directly suggested personal contact, on which the present life is very seriously affected. People were in the same space. Family conflicts arise, but quarantine may, on the contrary, to strengthen relations.
– And your life is somehow changed in connection with the isolation?
you can’t say that my life has changed dramatically. I work as well as work to quarantine. Except, I sit at home and spend a little more time with the family. Generally, lectures four days a week, conduct workshops, communicate with their students via the Internet, send them the materials. This also applies to my job at the life organization of a Museum of Nabokov. We are regularly written off and are working very actively, especially in social networks: answering questions of our visitors, communicate with them, invite them to some discussions, issued recommendations in reading, make lists of books and films.
You mentioned the Nabokov Museum. As he adapts to online life?
We, indeed, now exist online, but they work even more than before quarantine. We have organized a virtual tour of the Museum in two languages: Russian and English. Our compatriots and foreign guests can go to the website to see, get acquainted with the exhibits. We hold lectures. Two have already been held: one I read about the writer Henry Miller, and the second art historian Anna Tolstikova on Suprematism – in the footsteps of the exhibition, which at the time we had at the Museum. For may scheduled four lectures. Nina Shcherbak will present the latest, unpublished novel of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Laura”, the film critic Mila Dvinyatin – about the movie On��the shackles and his relationship with the movie as Professor Dmitry Tokarev – about the problem and the contexts of Russian emigration. Finally, my lecture will be devoted to the work of Jerome Salinger.
– your books are a lot of jokes and irony. As far as the humor is relevant in the present viral?
– in General, I think it’s important to speak at once serious and playful. These things are strongly connected. Such a deep game. In the current situation, in my opinion, she has a special way, because too much depression and anguish, and because irony is needed. Maybe not carnival and not fun, but a kind of ironic distance required. Although it is difficult to sneer at this whole situation. The very fact of our isolation paradoxical and surprising, because we are never in such conditions did not exist, had never worked with students online. There are different technical failures, blunders in our work, caused by the imperfection of the Internet space. There are inevitable and comical cases. In fact, the pandemic requires a serious rethinking of our relationships with each other in modern society.
– What, in your opinion, should we rethink?
– you Know, we, and all over the world, the most respected and highly paid people were actors, representatives of show business, singers, comedians, athletes. We now understand that probably the most important people – the others, those who are now saving lives. My buddy, writer, candidate of medical Sciences Mikhail Fominykh fourth day in a row deals with the fact that struggling with the coronavirus in his clinic, constantly on duty. This is a very hard, scary work, he puts himself at risk, but saves lives. I think the most important is to rethink our attitude, for example, to doctors or to those people who, despite coronavirus, are forced to work, forced us to provide food and necessary items to those people who bring them to us, those who are now actively works with volunteers and assists the elderly who are dangerous to go outside. They are, in my opinion, is the most important place in our lives.
– the Hero of your latest novel, “do Not feed or touch the pelicans”, back in Russia, thinks: “We all have to live where they were born and grew up.” How, in your opinion, the current insulation is designed to bring people a sense of home, or, on the contrary, at the first opportunity all rush somewhere far away from home?
– My hero really goes back to Russia, but to explain this decision neither myself nor my friend can not. There is no direct logic, there’s no definitive answer as to why he needs to come out of the comfort zone of space, where provided, where it waits for poverty, problems, heavy, low-paid job. This, I think, very an important motif in my novel. The question “why?” which has no rational explanation. However, the explanation, of course. The sense of home, tradition, the connection with the roots, with the soil – it becomes an impetus to return. Now, of course, people in a shock. They used to regularly travel abroad on business, for pleasure, for scientific contacts – for example, at the conference. I personally broke at least three trips abroad. Not to say that I greatly regret this, but for many it is a shock. Especially for actors, who are touring and making money abroad. There comes a time for a serious rethinking ourselves: what you really need? You can stop to think about it, because it is the loneliness and isolation is a very important existential condition of man. He may return to himself, to be alone, to focus and to think that for him is the most important.
– the Main character of your novels, in General, one and the same person – you yourself, that is, Andrey Astvatsaturov. The reason for this constancy in the desire of soul-searching, or it is a kind of therapeutic effect?
– Interesting question. Generally in the literature and the United States, and Western Europe attended this important genre as autobiography, or some notes and sketches in which the main character acted as though the author himself. Examples of this are many. The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, book by Henry David Thoreau, “Walden, or Life in the woods”: it’s about nature, but at the same time and about himself. And there is quite a rich tradition, when the author takes certain autobiographical model, and builds his narrative. In the twentieth century, these were done by Louis-Ferdinand céline, Henry Miller, whose novels he is the main character; in Russia this technique was used Dovlatov, who in all his texts appears as the author and narrator, and Limonov wrote books only about themselves. I, in a sense, caught in some trap, because now would have to write a novel in the third person, but still a character that is modeled, does not let me go.
So, despite the similarity of name, it’s still not you?
This pseudoattribute, a game that aims to simulate a version of my own personality a bit different, because I have not visited the thoughts that visit my character. Sometimes I did not commit those acts, which made my hero, or made them completely different. I thought I’d like to do, or thought about what might think, and in this sense, built your character, but here there is an element of a documentary. You are beginning to trust. You like to tell about themselves, about their problems, although in reality it is not so, but there is the illusion of authenticity, as if there is no fiction, but pure reality. On the one hand, the text is very similar to our daily lives. On the other, it raises and entirely different vision, which shows that a life in which we are similar to some text. It often is two-dimensional, she is two-dimensional. I have some of the characters are such quotations from the works of my friends, or there is some kind of reality, referring to the texts of my colleagues, with whom I conduct a dialogue in his novels. That’s why I use myself as one of the actors.
In recent years more often say that non-fiction replacing fiction. You have the feeling that people are more interesting to read about the real characters, what about fictional characters?
– Yes, of course, and I have talked about this repeatedly. However, I would not say that the interest in non-fiction superior to the interest of literary fiction. This show and sale of my books. Furthermore, no work of non-fiction sold out such copies, as the novels of Eugene Vodolazkin, Guzel Agenoy, Zakhar Prilepin, Dmitry Bykov, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Strategy fiction – synthesizing strategy non-fiction – analytical. A writer who rests by these powerful synthetic grips, begins to create a biography, an essay or essay collection. It is part of the literary space and context, the ability to comprehend social and historical situation. In this sense, non-fiction is to literary history fiction, so this component of culture is extremely important. Well, that major historical and literary studies is awarded in the framework of the major awards, and not only the “Big book”. For example, at the time, Dmitry Bykov received the award “national bestseller” for a book on Pasternak.
But back to the pelicans. In the novel you compare them with humans, beautiful in flight, their imaginations and funny on the ground. Today’s isolation is, in my opinion, even more makes us like pelicans, right?
I Think much more than before. I probably foresaw this state, because right now we are deeply distanced from each other. We moved our lives in social networks, where it is not so difficult to simulate your own way. There we present as simulated avatars. Avatars seem to communicate with each other. People can’t see your face, hear your reservations. You build your Internet it very consistently, strictly, modeling your own way, and in this sense occurs virtualization and distance people from each other. We no longer understand how to communicate with our friends, colleagues and loved ones with whom we do not have the opportunity to see each other regularly online. Because of the distance we ne can control the space in which you exist. Before some illusion of control persisted.
it Turns out that man is not the master of your own life?
This is one of the motives of my novel. In it the character says that the world is not your personal space, it’s something that’s conceived and designed by someone else, and the world from you seriously slipping. You’re trying to understand, to comprehend, but it’s not your project. You try to scream, because the world is not developing as you want, people don’t react like you want them to react. This situation, I think there is now a growing life is not our personal project, we are currently not able to control the situation at all. We are helpless before the virus because locked in their spaces. We are dependent on doctors, from the decisions taken by officials in respect of quarantine. They will decide what to do: can we walk or can’t. We are dependent on those people who bring us food from volunteers and couriers. This moment of lack of control over reality has intensified fundamentally.