Monday, September 16, 2013

Stories behind my books: The Visit by Vadim Babenko

Stories behind my books: The Visit
by Vadim Babenko

In 2000, just at the turn of the second millennium, I finally had to go to Russia on private business. Moscow had changed – it was not as I had left it. It had endured redistributions of power, periods of poverty and an emergence of new riches, followed by acute crisis, which again left many in ruins. In 2000 the capital, like the rest of the country, felt pretty good. Oil was rising in price, life was stabilizing, and the ruling regime firmly held all the strings. Even the crime had abated – in the city one could now safely walk down the streets. So I did just that – I wandered around Moscow, trying to sense its spirit.

And sense it I did. That same “imperceptible something” the Russian programmers had brought to Washington, DC made itself felt there. The invariable Russian soul, which almost hadn’t changed at all over the last fifteen rough-and-tumble years, was identifiable – for those who troubled themselves to look for it. Whether its presence was detectable to others, I didn’t know. Maybe it was, but I saw this invariable spirit had a difficult path to trod. Clearly, it didn’t belong on the list of modern Russia’s values.

I took a month-long layover in Moscow. I even got a job as an instructor at a tennis club – out of curiosity and in the interest of research. Soon it became obvious: that “imperceptible something” was waging a desperate battle without long-term chances. In Moscow, against a rising, insolent, and durable consumer society that had stalwart priorities. In the provinces, against indifference and fatigue, and the scalding despair of people trampled by the authorities for a decade and a half.

This was a confrontation of talented, thinking individuals versus the gray masses who despised any extraordinariness. A struggle between amazing inner goodness, some kind of penetrating insight of mind, and boorishness, complete disrespect toward anything personal and truly human. I thought I should write about that in due time. At that moment – in 2000 – I was not yet ready.

I started visiting Russia every year – in Moscow, in the provinces, at its different extremities. And each year it all got steadily worse there. Richer, better fed – but increasingly boring and gloomy. The gray masses were confidently on the offensive. The ruling regime – a regime of the most comprehensive dullness – crushed all beneath it. I felt even more strongly that I had to write about this – while the “imperceptible something” still hadn’t disappeared entirely.

When the book was written and published in Russian, the criticism flew at me from all sides. They accused me of all manner of transgressions – particularly of writing about the country without living in it. They labeled me a nostalgic immigrant with a biased viewpoint who was attempting to create an image of Russia “for export.” I did not justify myself and explained nothing. I knew what I wanted and what I had managed to achieve. I knew I had captured and put into words only the smallest fraction of what truly remained in that great land. A lot of things I wasn’t able to grasp; they slipped away, as they have from others. But at least I made the attempt.

A Simple Soul
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – PG13
More details about the author and the book


Post a Comment