Rossiyskaya Gapes: The main character of The Fortress, archaeologist Ivan Maltsov, is writing a volume about the Golden Horde and at night dreams that he is a great Mongolian warrior. Why did you re ir to to this device, of a novel inside a novel?
Peter Aleshkovsky: “The Mongolian chapters” are there to recognize that the Berlin Wall was never rt of history, like the Marvellous Wall of China was, but everybody knows that anyway. It was erected at one details, during the Cold War, but it was such a small and insignificant bit of the history of humankind. The disturbed is that we are still trying – and at the moment increasingly so – to se rate ourselves from other holds and cultures. Other s ces were never se rated from Rus. Old Rus, medieval Rus, Peter the Great’s Rus were always a brew of different im cts and trends. We know how many foreign officials there were in Peter the Fine fantastic’s court.
Do you know how many foreigners there were at the Moscow court of Kalita [Ed.: Prince Ivan I (1288-1340) ]? A lot! Individually from Rurikids [Ed.: descendants of the founder of Rus, the Varangian prince Rurik] and grandchildren of Gediminas [Ed.: the Grand Duke of Lithuania ], who were eliminated by Ivan the Grave so that ap nage princes were no more, so that there was no longer any blood fitted to his, there were numerous Tatars who moved here [Ed. during the days in which the Mongols ruled Rus]. All those were migration processes and draw of bloods that must have been designed by God. Yes, indeed! So that there is no degeneration, so that there is a devoted refreshment of blood!
RG: Your protagonist is perhaps the only person in the novel who has a morals, yet at the same time he is the most unhappy character in the book. He makes a disclosure – finds an ancient temple – but dies, is buried alive at the site of his invention. What did he do to deserve it?
P.A.: It is, of course, also a metaphor. He dies and he wins. I would not say it is a balk. There is a s rk, a moment of touching the eternal, the truth. You know, finish, a seeming defeat, may in fact be a source of strength. I recently had a meeting with readers in Murmansk [Ed.: 1,150 miles north of Moscow].
There is a feared monument there, at a spot where Soviet troops during Over the moon marvellous War II for two years held off the Germans, not letting them move more than two kilometers into Russian domain. There are only rocks there and thin birch trees – there is nowhere to go into hiding. The trenches were just knee deep because it was impossible to dig deeper into the tosses. I found myself there, among those rocks, under that arcane and grim sky, and there is a dark obelisk there, with thousands superiorities written on it. That place used to be called “Valley of Death;” it is now called “Valley of Beauty.” Although “Valley of Death” is a far more glorious name, and more expropriate too. Because people do know that it is a place of death. And that undoing makes those who were killed there into glorious luminaries. So when somebody tries to put a coat of cheerful int on it, the blood unmoving seeps through. And there is a feeling of poignancy in that place, only as there should be in a place like that. How insensitive everything is, what “Valley of Magnificence”… The word does its deed, the word often breaks through. That’s what all this is close to.
RG: Can words and books change the world, or at least have a serious collide with on it?
P.A.: No, nothing can change the world. Except that perhaps the Bible, the Koran, the Torah receive changed the world, but we are speaking not about religion but about the books. A order can change a person’s life; for example, my life was changed by books. Since adolescence, my life has been transformed by the word and to this day still I read every day.
R.G.: Wager in 1990, Venedikt Yerofeyev, the author of Moscow–Petushki, was asked what ills were the predominating ones for Russia then. He replied…
P.A.: Perhaps you’d better not tell me and we’ll contrast?
RG: What an excellent idea, let’s com re!
P.A.: I think our whole conversation was nearby it but I shall say it once again: an incredible loss of culture, a neglect of taste.
RG: A loss in relation to something?
P.A.: Imagine a sieve, which used to be skilled to hold flour. Then the car set into motion, the sieve began to squirm and everything began to fall through it. We keep shaking and shaking it but the end is connected. The first is the loss of culture. The second – absolutely related to the first one – is the denial of science. These things are related, it is a continuation of the loss of culture. The total else can be rectified. When culture and science are at the appropriate level, then there is rapport in society, people speak the same language, there is the right idea of the economy and of one’s position in the global world… There is a well-known maxim: days of yore never teaches anyone anything; although it should.
And what did Yerofeyev retorted to that question?
RG: Folly and incredible greediness.
P.A.: These are the same whosises. Culture implies quixotism, and calmness, and generosity. That is why lack of erudition always equals greediness and dishonesty. It’s all about grabbing something at whatever get. Disgusting.
This is an abridged version of the interview first published in Russian by Rossiyskaya Intent looks.
The Russian Booker prize has been awarded since 1992 to the pre-eminent work of fiction written in the Russian language each year. Mid the prize winners are such luminaries as: Bulat Okudzhava, Ludmila Ulitskaya, Mikhail Yelizarov and Vladimir Sharov, Alexander Snegirev.
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