«Life Stories: Original Works by Russian Writers»

Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Andrei Gelasimov, Boris Grebenshchikov, Yevgeny Grishkovets, Alexander Kabakov, Alexander Khurgin, Eduard Limonov, Dmitry Lipskerov, Sergei Lukyanenko, Vladimir Makanin, Marina Moskvina, Viktor Pelevin, Ludmila Petrushevskaya, Zahar Prilepin, Dina Rubina, Dunya Smirnova, Vladimir Sorokin, Vladimir Voinovich, Viktor Yerofeyev, Leonid Yuzefovich

Life Stories:
Original Works by Russian Writers*

* The writers and translators in this volume have donated their creative output to this collective work,
so that all proceeds from its sale might go to benefit Russian hospice care.

// USA: «stories for good», 2009,
paperback, 334 p.,
ISBN: 1-880100-58-4,
dimensions: 232⨉152⨉22 mm


Пора, мой друг, пора! покоя сердце просит —
Летят за днями дни, и каждый час уносит
Частичку бытия, а мы с тобой вдвоём
Предполагаем жить, и глядь — как раз умрём.
На свете счастья нет, но есть покой и воля.
Давно завидная мечтается мне доля —
Давно, усталый раб, замыслил я побег
В обитель дальную трудов и чистых нег.

It's time, my friend, it's time! my heart begs for peace—
Days fly past, and each hour carries off
Another fragment of our life, but together we
Make our plans for life, and lo—in our time we die.
In the world there is no happiness, but there is peace and free will.
Long have I dreamed of that enviable fate—
Long have I, a weary slave, schemed to flee
To a distant abode of labor and pure delight.

Alexander Pushkin


All Alone

An Excerpt • Eduard Limonov

The old woman lay on the couch. She looked like an oversized crust of black bread that had been left in the sun for too long. She was black and, in some places, yellow. Her mouth was half-open, with broken pieces of metal teeth sticking out. Her jaw was held in place by a head scarf, but it didn't keep her mouth shut. The problem was that the old woman had died alone. There was no one with her. She died with her mouth open. The nurse who found her in the morning tried to close her mouth, but by then it had been too late. The old woman looked like the corpse of another old woman which he had seen a long time ago at a body identification center outside Vukovar, Serbia. That old woman, though, had been tortured before she died.

This old woman was his mother. It was his fault that the corpse lay there with its mouth open. If he were a good son, he would have been there with her when she died. He would have held her hand. He would have closed her mouth. But he was a bad son and that was why he only got there in the morning.

He was lucky to be able to come at all. Both Russia and Ukraine were kind enough to let him through the border. They could have easily not let him through, Russia because a court had ruled that he owed Mayor Luzhkov 500,000 rubles and the police could now stop deadbeats from leaving the country, and Ukraine hadn't let him on its soil for the past decade. His name had been on some blacklist or other, along with the names of other enemies of Ukraine, but about six months previously the list had been abolished.

The last time he spoke to his mother was six days ago, on International Women's Day. She managed only three short sentences that made any sense. The rest was the babble of her subconscious. Her last words were «Where's Bogdan?» His mother had lost her mind a couple of months before, but she had not lost her metaphysical connection with her grandson. She asked the right question: «Where is my grandson?» He, her son, had lied to her that his wife and child were staying with the other grandmother in Togliatti, yet the truth was that her only, late-born grandson was who the hell knows where, at the other end of the globe, in Goa, the capital of hippies and druggies. He had been taken there by the wife of the man who now stood over the corpse of his mother. That wife of his had suddenly turned into a werewolf. The old woman's grandson had been there for two months, staying with who knows what kind of people. Besides, his wife was once again pregnant, in her fifth month. His wife's behavior was irrational and therefore a danger to all. The old woman sensed a metaphysical tremor in the part of her no longer functioning brain that was responsible for Bogdan. «Where is Bodgan?» she asked. Not «How is he?», but «Where is he?» It was the right question.

He who stood over the corpse was not only the son of the dead old woman, the father of the kidnapped child, and the husband of the beauty who had turned into a werewolf, but also the head of a banned party, its founder and, for the past 15 years, its irreplaceable leader. He belonged to the party more than to his mother, his wife and his child. True, he had left his mother and father a very long time ago, in 1964, but what about his child? Or his wife? His wife had gradually grown estranged from him. In the end, she literally renounced him, the way wives used to renounce husbands who had been declared enemies of the people. She hardened against him to the point of inexplicable hatred and, finally, took her son and fled to a land without meaning, a place where there were more trivial Russians than gray-skinned Indians. What was she doing over there all that time? He hoped that she would be sensible enough to stay away from drugs—she was pregnant, after all. Yes, he hoped this, while recognizing that it was not in her nature to be sensible.

Yes, the party. Party members died and went to jail for a cause which he had started in prison. They were closer to him than was his beautiful wife, who had turned into a werewolf.

Women—neighbors and nurses—pulled the pillows out from under the corpse. His bodyguards, who had come with him from Moscow, lifted the light corpse of the old woman together with the blanket and carried it downstairs. There, by the front door, a light, flimsy casket rested on two stools. They placed the corpse and the blanket into the casket. They tucked pieces of the blanket under the old woman. The old woman's head rolled to one side and a pillow was called for. They ran upstairs to fetch a pillow. The funeral bus waited patiently. Several old women and men came over and leaned over the casket. As was customary, they received sweets from a bowl.

While they were fetching a pillow, he looked around and smelled the air. Spring had already arrived and the smell was damp, like between a woman's legs after she had been impregnated. The building was the residence of poor people, common people—the entire suburb of New Houses was the same. His parents had lived there for forty years. What did they do all those years? They ate, they bought clothes, they planted potatoes and they continually fixed the roof, since their apartment was on the top floor. Yuck. What a repulsive life they led, a life without events. What a smart kid he had been to run away from his hometown without so much as a backward glance, not knowing why, but following his instinct. What a clairvoyant he was, what a genius, to have run away. How well he had arranged everything. It started to rain. It wasn't raining hard, and they didn't cover the old woman's face.

They brought down a pillow and placed it under the old woman's head. It took a long time to arrange her head, which refused to lay straight. When she was alive, his mother hadn't worn headscarves, but now she had on two: one on her head and the other supporting her jaw. She would have objected to scarves, had she been arranging her own funeral. She wore hats, but a hat would look odd on a corpse. His mother wore lipstick and nail polish until her last months. In the clinic where he had spent the night, there was a bottle of nail polish next to the night table. Had she been arranging her own funeral, his mother would have certainly put on lipstick and painted her nails.

«Are you finished?» asked the bus driver. He was also the only undertaker and gravedigger. Some 13 15 people, including him—the old woman's son—his three bodyguards, a colonel friend of his and another friend, a connected local businessman who had spent an impressive number of years behind bars, the nurse and the neighbors, conceded that they indeed were finished. The driver took out the casket top from the back of the bus and covered the old lady. There were two nails prepped on both sides of the casket top. Very skillfully, at an appropriately tragic, measured pace, the undertaker drove the nails into the casket. He drove them in with style, not with small neurotic taps but confidently and sternly, several precise strikes for each. The knocking of Fate. The sound of Destiny. His bodyguards lifted the casket and slid it into the bus. He tried to offer a hand to 76-year-old Aunt Valya, to help her into the bus, but the driver halted him sternly:

«Not from here. A bad omen. Enter through the side door.»

They entered the bus. His bodyguards, the nurses, Aunt Valya, two neighbors, one of whom had swollen feet. The rest piled into the connected man's Chevrolet. The driver started softly and drove competently, brushing aside space.

He stared at the casket, in which the physical body of a woman who gave birth to him 65 years ago flowed away. She had called on his 64th birthday, but by the time he turned 65 she had forgotten who he was. When he called her to congratulate her on Soviet Army Day, she mumbled something unintelligible into the receiver and then suddenly said:

«Tell him his father is dead.»

«Mom, it's me, your son,» he said. «Father died four years ago.»

«Yes, yes, make sure you tell him,» she replied, and he hastened to put an end to the conversation. It was disconcerting to be staring into the depth of her abyss.

And now her final journey. Apparently, he felt the same way common people feel on such occasions, but because he wasn't quite a common person, he didn't feel it deeply. Not to tears. Not to goose bumps. Had he been drunk the night before, the odd tear might have flowed over his eyeball, causing him to blink it away, but he hadn't had an occasion to drink much. Even more than sadness (and he was indeed sad) he felt a sense of accomplishment, because the corpse had been successfully removed from the apartment and he was now going directly to where corpses were meant to be, to the crematorium-columbarium. He had almost completed what he came there to do.

He briefly reviewed the years they spent together. There was no sadness there. There was his young father and he, a remote and probably unpleasant child, even though he was undeniably smooth and, as they liked to say now, charismatic. It was the same way Bogdan, his late-born son, was likely to turn out—a stranger to all, yet seductive at the same time... He noted that a piece of carnation stuck out from under the cover of the casket. And a piece of blanket, a camel-hair blanket of the kind they no longer made. The blanket would be burned along with her and would mix with her ashes. There would be very little ash. His mother had shrunk to just thirty-odd kilos by the end. All of a sudden he felt relieved. A strange biological freedom intoxicated his lungs. It's all over, I'm all alone. All alone. All alone. Like a deep sea diver whose cables have been cut, I can swim wherever I want.

«Where are you going to swim?» he parried in an inner debate. «Why now? You have been free from them for a long time. You cut all the cables a long time ago. The old woman who died in a Ukrainian town was but an episode in your kinetic life. You have buried kids, what does the death of an old woman mean to you? Only last December you stood in a snow-covered cemetery in Serpukhov, outside Moscow. The coffin of a party comrade was lowered into the frozen earth. He was not even 23 years old. He had been killed by the police because he was a member of your party. They had cracked his skull open with a baseball bat. At the cemetery, you sobbed silently, you sniffed softly to make sure no one noticed. There were reporters there, after all. You couldn't really cry, could you, the iron leader of a banned organization? You sobbed. Yes, you did sob. No one heard you. But now, you're bringing nothing but old memories to the crematorium.»

His bodyguards were silent. The women yakked nonstop about the price of cremation, which had risen, and then shifted to price increases in general. Russian women—and Ukrainian women, too—are highly effective when they come into contact with death. They know all the customs and they aren't squeamish about washing the body of a dead person and dressing it. When he and his bodyguards arrived from the train station, an entire female platoon had been busy in the tiny kitchen, tapping a tattoo with their knives, preparing salads. The corpse lay already all dressed and packaged.

They required neither asking nor hurrying. Without a thought of payment, only because they enjoy life of which death is an integral part, they gladly wash, dress, slice, cut, boil potatoes and prepare herring. By the time he got to the apartment, they had already bought ten bottles of vodka and some wine. He stared at them in amazement, as though they were some unknown tribe. Can it be that Russian women disdain everyday life and only like parties? Death is a party of sorts, too. Would they have liked to have a funeral every day?

«Damn,» he stopped himself. «You talk nonsense, as usual. You have always been a crazy kid. Remember how the girls at school thought you were nuts. But things turned out just as Erasmus of Rotterdam once said: He who is not taken seriously almost always wins.' In the end, it was you, crazy eyes, who triumphed over those girls, the young philistines. But even back then, while they appeared to disdain you, some of them were secretly in love with you.»

Meanwhile, the bus arrived at the crematorium. The women were showering compliments on Valentina, whom he had called Aunt Valya since he had been a child. She was around 80 years old, but was full of life and vigor—her hair dyed blonde. A year ago, she had still been working at the same plant where she had started as a young girl after getting out of college.

The crematorium-columbarium was quiet. The crematorium looked like a somewhat awkward hangar built of concrete and glass. It could have been used to fix or park airplanes. But the columbarium had been planted with lines of short arborvitae, juniper bushes and blue firs, which would eventually grow tall and create an even more pleasant environment for the dead, emit even tarter smells, and cast even deeper, bluer shadows. As he stared out the window of the bus, he knew that it had its boulevards and avenues, and that on one of them an urn with the remains of his father, a man with an angry face, had been installed into a stone slab. When the old woman was cremated, an urn with her remains, mixed with the ashes of her blanket and clothes, would be placed next to the remains of the man she loved.

«What the hell did she love him for?» he thought bitterly. They were bad for each other precisely because he had even less vitality than she. He had his talents, he had an ear for music and could play the guitar and the piano like a virtuoso—not just a few chords, but seriously. Yet, neither of them spurred the other to conquer the world. They gave birth to him, but they never thought he would turn out to be a conqueror. Basically, they couldn't understand him, didn't believe in him and were deeply offended and dumfounded when, in 1989, his books began to be published in Russia for the first time and he was welcomed back like a big man. Journalists took an interest in him and, in the apartment his mother had just been carried from, the telephone never stopped ringing. Back then, his mother remarked to him darkly: «Your father is such a good man. Why is it that no one takes an interest in us?» A tear rolled down her cheek. He was no longer as principled as he had been when he was an unknown—he had already been spoiled by fame, so he hastened to reassure his mother with a meaningless phrase: «This is the kind of work that I do.» But he thought in amazement: «They treat me like a stranger. They envy me. Yet, I'm their son. How come they don't feel that my victory is their victory, too?» It was then that he understood for the first time that everyone competes with one another, fathers compete with their children and women compete with men. Even his beautiful wife, the most beautiful wife on earth, began to compete with him like a guy. That's how things always were. He thought of her interview published in a mass-circulation paper more than a month ago, in which she got all puffed up and declared: «I'm the main breadwinner in the family.» To say nothing of the grotesque exaggeration of her achievements (he had supported the family while she was pregnant and then breast-fed the baby, and after that he gave her money every day, whenever she asked, because that year she barely worked a few weeks, even though her work as actress-performer did pay better than his, a creator's), he was shocked by this division of the family into two, with her being the breadwinner and him supposedly contributing very little. And she would drag all this out into a yellow newspaper? Had she changed as a result of some crisis of consciousness? She was about to turn 34. But she had begun to turn strange a year earlier, at 33. It was then that she went to Goa for the first time, in order to «restore herself,» as she had put it.

The bus stopped and they exited. It was raining. The bus with the old woman's casket drove off to unload the casket at the back entrance, at the door reserved for the dead and the staff. Before leaving, the driver had said that they would soon see the old woman and would be able to pay their respects.

«Go over there,» the driver pointed to the main entrance and the rather ugly industrial doors. The passengers of the bus of the dead, they headed for the doors. Along the way, in an open space in front of the crematorium paved with slabs, they were joined by the passengers of the Chevrolet. One of the women, the one with swollen feet, was leaning on a stick. His bodyguards helped her to the industrial doors of the crematorium, just as they had helped her down the steps of the bus.

Once they entered, they found themselves in a kind of vestibule or foyer, bare and unadorned except for signs such as, «Wait Here to Be Invited to the Hall of Last Respects,» «You Will Be Called» and several others written in the same stern spirit of discipline and order.

They stood there like parentheses around a subordinate clause, on one side the colonel, the connected man and the old woman's son and on the other his bodyguards and the women. The woman with swollen feet said that she liked cremation and wished to be cremated herself. She even had money set aside for it. Her relatives would be close by and would come to visit her and it would not cost much. Aunt Valya was also leaning toward cremation. They spoke in an everyday tone of voice and even smiled when they felt it was appropriate. The youngest woman, the nurse who had found his mother dead, had left them for a while and had driven away with the driver. She had the death certificate. Now she returned, saying that, in the old lady's apartment, somewhere in a drawer, they would need to find documents confirming that the niche at the columbarium had been purchased for two. Otherwise the old woman's remains would not be placed together with the remains of her husband, and her photograph would not appear next to the photograph of the angry old man.

«We'll have to find it,» she said to the old woman's son.

A short compact man with closely cropped hair wearing a black suit now came out and invited them to the Hall of Last Respects. The old woman's son found the Hall impressive. It was a semi-dark, slightly damp room with a tall ceiling and proportions large enough to ensure that a handful of mourners felt orphaned and insignificant. The casket stood on a platform by the far wall. The old woman lay in it. She once had been his mother. The funeral director ushered them to the side of the casket. He went to the other side and climbed the dais, which was draped with pine branches, wreaths and ribbons. The funeral director made a speech, which was as competent and appropriate as it was standard.

The speech explained that such and such person (he used the old woman's name and patronymic) was being taken from us, or rather was leaving us and going to the next world, and that we mourned her departure. Still, the semidarkness, the skillfully cast light and the impressive size of the room imbued his speech and the simple ritual with a larger meaning.

When he finished, the funeral director asked whether anyone wanted to say anything. Nobody expressed such a wish and so the funeral director said:

«Then, let us go up and say goodbye. Please pay your last respects to the deceased.»

The old woman's son was the first to approach the body, which he did as though it was a routine task for him to pay his last respects to the dead. He was light on his feet, dressed in a black coat and a black sweater, gray-haired, looking like the devil only knows what kind of polar explorer or Captain Nemo. He came up to the casket, leaned over and kissed the scarf on the old woman's forehead.

He whispered: «So you have died, Mom. Rest in peace. Forgive me for being a bad son.» The old woman lay with an otherworldly, inhuman face, like a chunk of mined ore or a broken mammoth bone in the snow. He walked away and was followed by Aunt Valya wearing a scarf on her dyed head, who said goodbye to her girlfriend. The old woman's son didn't hear what she had said to her.

«The farewells are over,» said the funeral director. He picked up the casket top and covered the old woman, his mother. Funeral music sounded. Just as skillfully as the driver an hour ago, the funeral director drove confident nails into the casket. Boom. Boom. Now he drove them in all the way to their heads.

The casket suddenly began to ride upward from the platform, heading toward an opening in the wall curtained off by red velour drapes. The casket stumbled momentarily at line of the drapes, and then crushed them, disappearing with a second or third nudge into a space where it could no longer be seen by the mourners. Behind it, the drapes returned to their original position. The music stopped.

«The ceremony is over,» said the funeral director.

They headed for the exit, the limping old lady with her bad feet, Aunt Valya, the other women, his bodyguards and the passengers from the Chevrolet. Once outside, in the rain, he thought that at least this problem, the one that had oppressed him for several years, turning into a nagging pain every New Year's, had now been resolved by Nature. «No person, no problem,»1 he thought bitterly. «My mother, who oppressed me by her very being, is gone. But another mother, my son's, lingers on,» he admitted to himself.

They piled into the same bus and the same driver drove them, now recklessly, back to New Houses. The old woman's son thought that at least he had accomplished his task. He could now go back to Moscow, but the moral duty to the women—the nurses and the neighbors who took such an important part in the funeral (in fact, who had arranged everything)—had to be fulfilled. A banquet awaited them, the most pleasant part of the ceremony of death, the pagan rite of sating the mourners and filling them with alcohol.

Actually, his mother was the oldest and the most enduring character in his life, a life rich in people and adventures. And the fact that she had finally physically departed this life changed nothing in an already established order. In reality, he had long since erased both his father and his mother from among the living. Even though he wrote to them from prison, replying to their letters, it was only a formality. It was in prison that he summed up his attitude to family when he wrote his treatise, Monster with Tearful Eyes. In the years that passed since then, he had no reason to alter his views. When he came out of the labor camp, responding to pressure from a lawyer friend—who had traditional values—and taking along a couple of bodyguards, he drove in the man's car to see his parents. At the border, at the Goptivka checkpoint, Ukrainian border guards scurried nervously to and fro when they recognized the famous goatee and eyeglasses. In the end, he discovered that he had been banned from entering Ukraine long ago, that there had been two decrees by the Security Council of Ukraine on this subject, one dated November 1999 and the other March 2003. By March 2003, he was already in jail—awaiting sentencing—so that the rationale for the Security Council of Ukraine's decree, whatever it was, was either false or absurd. But whom could he complain to? No one. His passport was stamped with a statement that he was banned from entering Ukraine until July 25, 2008, and there was nothing to be done except turn around. «You should thank us that we didn't arrest you for 72 hours. After all, you were trying to cross the border,» a Ukrainian officer told him by way of a farewell. «Thanks,» he replied.

By then, his father had already taken to his bed. He simply got bored with life. He was not ill, he just chose to stay in bed and let his wife take care of him. Life became difficult for her. When they neared Belgorod, riding in the lawyer's Lexus, the lawyer—a traditionalist—said that he would leave the old woman's son at a hotel and drive and bring the old woman to Belgorod. Meanwhile, his father would spend half a day in the care of the bodyguards. He was so kind, that lawyer. Had it not been for his idea, the old woman's son would have driven back to Moscow with a clean conscience. A cruel man, he could never understand this kind of sentimentality. No one had ever taken pity on him, neither the women he loved, nor the authorities, nor his enemies and rivals, of course. Hadn't they made an honest attempt to cross the border? What else could he have done?

The lawyer brought his mother over. She turned out to be a crooked, stooped old woman with a walking stick. She was very happy to see him, cried a little at various moments and described to him the physiological details of his father's condition—how she had hurt her back lifting him and how he would wet his bed if she didn't get there in time. He listened to all these horrors and considered going back to Moscow as soon as possible, where a friend had lent him a huge, bourgeois apartment, where he stayed with a 21-year-old girl who had welcomed him back from prison. The lawyer took his mother back and in the evening he and the lawyer sat at an outdoor restaurant, since it was July, and about them walked young girls smelling of young flesh. Less than a month had passed since he had emerged from the camp. Life was a holiday for him. He ate a kebab, chased shots of vodka with beer the way he liked it, used foul language and felt happy. For no reason at all, just because he had spent two and a half years behind bars.

They went up to the apartment on the top floor. Tables had been set up in the large room and food was ready to be served. Two women and two bodyguards had stayed behind. «Back so soon?» those who had stayed behind asked. «We didn't expect you back so soon. Some things aren't ready yet.»

There was the usual fuss that precedes a banquet. Where is the bread? Where are the soup plates? What shall we dump the potatoes into? Common womenfolk hold men in far greater respect than educated women. He reached this uncomplicated conclusion when they placed him, the colonel and the gray-haired, connected man at the head of the table and served them vodka and food while scurrying about arranging the table and, whenever they needed it, exploiting younger men—his bodyguards. He had not been in the company of common people for so long that he kept making new discoveries, one after the other. It turned out that they had a well-defined sense of hierarchy. They had promptly arranged themselves into a small tribe, recognizing the authority of those who had more experience, knowledge and skill. In his own small family there was no such natural hierarchy, he thought bitterly. Nor was it now possible to re-establish such a hierarchy. Since last fall, the monster-werewolf who had taken residence in a beautiful actress would reach for her cell phone whenever tempers flared even slightly and would emit an ugly cry: «I'm calling the cops.» She had just acted the role of a businesswoman who put her husband behind bars because he allegedly raped her, which was why she sounded so convincing. Unwilling to tempt fate, he would call his bodyguards and leave.

How had it started? («Pass the pickles, please.» «Excellent pickles!») How had she managed to turn into a werewolf? «I should spend some time thinking it over,» he promised himself and stood up. They wanted him to say something about the deceased and were clinking their forks against the shot glasses.

He began by admitting that he had been a bad son, that he had left his parents early in life and lived abroad for a long time and that, after 15 years of separation, he came back to find his parents aged. He said that his parents didn't believe in his abilities, but nonetheless they helped him in those distant years when, as an adolescent, he set off to conquer Moscow. They used to send him 25 rubles every month, addressed to «General Delivery» at the Central Post Office on Kirova—now Myasnitskaya—Street. He added something else and then said again that he was a bad son to the deceased. They drank. He sat down again.

Aunt Valya, whose turn it was to speak after him, because she had known his mother for fifty years if not longer, began by defending him. It wasn't good for the son of the deceased to speak like that about himself. His mother understood that he had a different destiny, and others around her understood it, too. Nobody expected him to spend his entire life by his mother's side. Even when he was a child, they saw that he was a different kind of man, a man unlike them.

The different kind of man, in the mean time, attempted to figure out what there was in him that he got from his parents. Nothing, it turned out. Even when he lived with them, he hadn't been raised by them, but by books about travels and adventure, then by special books about history and by books of poetry. Now his character consisted of several distinct strains. One was the working habits and opinions of a hard-working writer. Up early, work at the writing desk, physical exercise, walks, one meal per day. Ascetic habits, of course. Then, when he became a Soldier, those ascetic habits stood him in good stead. His soldiering years and the time he spent at war honed his character. Decisiveness, courage, ability to make do and enjoyment of life were traits they built or uncovered in him. When he became the head of a radical party, a revolutionary and a leader, he had to get used to surveillance and eavesdropping, to prosecutors and judges. When he did time, prison became part of him forever. If you do time, you can never again be completely free of prison. It follows you for the rest of your life. In short, it was a very complicated character that sat at the head of the table next to the colonel. An insatiable sex fiend, too, but that was something few people knew, he thought, sneering, even though many suspected it.

He brilliantly if obscenely proved it before the evening was over. He declared to his mother's nurse his desire to sleep with her, grabbed her breasts and asked if he could pull out her tit. His bodyguards looked the other way in embarrassment. Old Nadya, a former neighbor, stared at the scene without blinking an eye.

He had taken a notice of that nurse the last time he came. He saw her briefly in the corridor (they were about to leave by then), and he got the sense of her feminine tidiness, and goodwill toward him, and a certain nervous excitement when he was near her.

Yet, he didn't carry his shameful conduct to the end. His infallible iron health kept him from getting completely drunk. He controlled himself and made sure that the nurse and her girlfriend got home, ordering his bodyguards to walk out with them and put them in a taxi. He gave the key to his bodyguards and lay down in the small room on a broken down old bed. His father had died there four years ago. His mother had died yesterday, in the large room. This room smelled of dust, old things and, faintly, of mothballs, the usual smell of the old. His father's guitar hung on the side of the armoire that bulged with old things. The bottom peg that held the strings in place had long since come unglued because of the heat, and the strings reared up like the depiction of a wave in a Japanese print. He thought that now he was indeed all alone in the world. There had been a time when that was what he dreamed of. But now he didn't like it much.

Translation by Alexei Bayer

1 An infamous quote attributed to Stalin.




Eduard Limonov (pen name for Eduard Veniaminovich Savenko) was born in Dzerzhinsk, in 1943, into the family of a military officer. In 1967 he moved to Moscow, where he became part of the literary group Konkret. In 1968 a samizdat collection of his poems, «Kropotkin and Other Poems» («Kropotkin i drugiye stikhotvoreniya»), was published. In 1974, he emigrated to New York, worked in over a dozen jobs, including as a mover, a waiter and a servant. Beginning in 1979, he became a professional writer with the publication of his scandalous book, «It's Me, Eddie» («Eto ya — Edichka»), and a collection of poems «Russian» («Russkoye»). In 1980, having ruined his relations with every sector of the Russian emigration, he left New York to live in Paris where, in 1987, he received French citizenship, joined the editorial board of the newspaper «L'ldiot International» and was published in the extreme right wing publication «Shock du Moi». He moved back to Russia in 1992 and created the National Bolshevik Party, unifying leftist radicals. His provocative and largely autobiographical works include «The Executioner» («Palach», 1986) and «Murder of a Sentinel» («Ubiystvo chasovovo», 1993). His articles and essays are published regularly in the newspaper of the NBP, «Limonka». Over time, the writer has moved away from literary work to spend most of his time in politics and journalism. In 2001 he was convicted of weapons possession and creation of illegal armed groups and sentenced to four years. While in prison, he wrote «Imprisoned by Dead Men» («V plenu u mertvetsov»), «Russian Psycho» («Russkoye psikho») and «The Holy Monsters» («Svyashchenniye monstry»). In June 2003, Limonov was granted early release and returned to politics and journalism.



Alexei Bayer was born in Russia but has lived in New York since 1974, where he is an independent economist and writer. Over the years, his fiction has appeared in various U.S. literary journals, including in «KR Online», a Kenyon Review web project. He translated several of Andrei Gelasimov's stories into English. His own collection, «Eurotrash» (OGI, Moscow, 2004), was translated into Russian by Gelasimov.


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