Unrecognized and unrealized in the homeland. Published in the prestigious “new Yorker” stories more than any American writer. Knowing how to live well, but constantly needing. A fine stylist, but reduced to the level of anecdote. All of this is — Sergei Dovlatov, who is 4 September, would have turned 75.
Dovlatov’s important. Photo: Izzy Shapiro
…Need, say, a new Babel, that sang your Brighton beach
Unlike me Dovlatov lived Russian-speaking community life, wrote about her and wrote for her. From him I learned not only local news but also hilarious stories from the life of immigrants. Remember the story about his neighbor, whom Serge asked as he settled down in America: “I’m not yet settled. Still working…” all Sereinig complaints of emigration that it is necessary to closely RUB shoulders with those who in St. Petersburg close to shit would not sit down, that emigration was for him, as a writer, food supply, breeding ground. He didn’t have to go to Brighton to Brooklyn, because 108th street, the main emigrant route to our Queens, where we were neighbors and met every night, was so essential to the writer the type of linguistic environment. However, in Brighton it is also often the case, bringing out the stories, anecdotes, characters and voice pearl. And therefore defended their characters and readers from their literary colleagues: the Jews of the Jews, although he himself was a half-breed (Jew Armenian spill as called him the wittiest of us vahrich Bakhchanyan). And those in-denial reaches right up to the pogrom of appeals:
…need, say, a new Babel,
so sang your Brighton beach.
You will be rewarded — where daym, where Nickel!
I personally think one
Babel is not needed, and Denikin!
Well, at least Makhno.
If Brodsky came to America existing, established and self-sufficient poet, leaving his main poetic achievement in Russia, and here his literary career rushed up, per aspera ad astra, but poetic destiny derailed, then Dovlatov, it was exactly the opposite: in America, he finally became a writer and after shock delay at the start of the immigration of the life and literary career of literary fate, coinciding, went up the hill.
Half a dozen new books and two prepared, but released after his death, is after the absolute blackout at home. A dozen of translated publications in prestigious American journals, and in “the new Yorker”, the arbiter of literary destinies in America, Dovlatov has become not just desirable — persona grata, but a regular author — record 9 stories for several years! The phenomenon itself is unprecedented: Kurt Vonnegut, not printed in this magazine not one word, admitted that he envied Dovlatov, and according to Sergei, even Brodsky, who recommended it in “the new Yorker” did not expect that he will have to court, and also had a thing for him, consider routine there publications. This is not to mention the first translated books international writers conference in Lisbon and Vienna, edited the “New American”, Freelancerbay at the radio “liberty” systematic newspaper articles, solo literary evenings in new York and across America — while in Russia was one in which Serge read the stories, and I did the opening remarks.
Dovlatov was a dock on the immigration part, and I turned to him sometimes for help. It so happened at that time. I was called by the unfamiliar woman said that she likes my writings, and offered to meet. I asked Serezha does not know who is.
“Congratulations,” he said. — Her attention — the figure of fame. It is offered to everyone who, from her point of view, quite well-known. Sex for her autograph to each celebrity there, she signed. Through her vagina took the whole literature of migration, and now, in connection with the publicity, expands their sexual activity due to the immensity of our country, not forgetting about emigre. You here called. A collector!
Resist the retelling of such jokes not to displace the memoir genre in the direction of gossip, but who knows where one ends and the other begins. In the “Notebooks” Dovlatov find: “Brodsky said that he loves metaphysics and gossip. And he added: “in principle, one and the same.”
At the beginning of words of a quiet convict
I could see — and remember — Dovlatov different. Is not always fun. Sometimes dark, troubled. For various reasons — family, or money, or more precisely, non-monetary (“liberty” has reduced allocations for freelancers — basic income Dovlatov). Upset by all the filth that it brought down Igor Efimov. Was upset that the break with the Weil—Genis, which was in his retinue, and was — according to Ann — “traitors”. Not for me to judge, and not too much interest, both because of what these literary Siamese twins suddenly pulled away from each other and even stopped to chat. It is now about Sergei, which was taken too much to heart.
Dovlatov was a journalist for a while. The main passion was literature, in the field where he was not just a workaholic. As our common countryman Viktor Sosnora — “at the beginning of words of a quiet convict”. Dovlatov was a fine stylist, his prose is transparent, ironic, compassionate — I would call it sentimental, discarding adhering to the word negative. Sergei loved different writers — Hemingway, Faulkner, Zoshchenko, Chekhov, Kuprin, but as an example for myself, thought the prose of Pushkin, and, perhaps, the only contemporary Russian writers slightly closer to the sample. That’s why put into circulation acmeists the word “cladism” seemed the most appropriate to his piece, hand prose. I told him about it, the word he liked, even though I had to explain its origin from the Latin clarus — clear. Sometimes, though, his stylistic purism converted to Puritanism, proofreader prevailed over a stylist, but is manifested rather in criticism of others than in their own prose, a style which penance was to face. He has spoken against the “couple of days” or “half past one”, and I really felt for him when he gave completely the “second half”:
And not laziness to you?
Dovlatov reads his stories in Leningrad. Photo: from the archive of Vladimir Solovyov
Called at night to find my friend or General publishing error. Or what I thought was a mistake, because it happened naturally and he be wrong. Gave me a slap on the wrist that I use the word “menstruation” in the singular, but only plural. I was taken aback. Fifteen minutes later he called back and apologized: confused “period” with “periods”. I remember an absurd argument about the “diatribe” — I have used it in the conventional sense as an example of the railings, and he insisted on the original: created by the cynics a small literary genre of the sermon. Or about where to do the accent with American names: I said “Boston” with the accent on the first syllable, and radio “liberty” adhered dictionary-shovels pronunciation with the accent on the last, and Sergei and his comrades have accused me of Americanization of the Russian language.
Due to the early death, however, his pedantry did not have time to turn into meticulous. Partly, perhaps, his language purism was associated with the work on radio “Liberty” and surrounded by family: wife, mom and even my aunt were all professional proofreaders. However, the main reason lay in the Sergei’s heritage: like many alcoholics-the chronicle, he was afraid of the chaos within himself, contrasting him self-discipline and consistency. I saw him drunk — I just grabbed him early when good opened a bottle vodyary.
His mother scolded: “don’t you dare appear in front of Lena in a
Once Seryozha the whole day continuously calling me from Brooklyn from Ali Dobris, this gorgeous blonde in the body — blondes, but in a good way, someone compared it to Nastasia Philipovna: Sergei crawled to her like a beast wounded animal into the hole. “Only Russian woman can do this… kind, affectionate, in their own Board!” — praised it to the skies his Brighton forgiving and accepting what is polubowny for a rainy day. I broke down and in response to the praises of a Russian woman told banality: “the Horse at full tilt will stop, into a burning log hut will enter” — and bit his tongue. But on the other end came the laughter, and Sergei slowed down the tone, pathos, and responded with a joke on Nekrasovskaya metaphor. Some do not remember, but do not want to lie: so many jokes about this trio — the galloping horse, a burning hut and Russian women.
And Nora S., his mother is Armenian, born in Tbilisi, even the day before his death, warned: “don’t you dare appear in front of Lena in this form”. But before Aley — in any. Remember, then, telling me of his tormenting hallucinations, Serge contributed something new to art history when he said that Bosch, with its apocalyptic visions, probably was too drunk.
What can I say, Serge himself was not a gift, but at home he was kept in a black body, and he bucked, rebelled, fought. It was ruled in the house of Nora S., woman is smart, sharp-tongued, cranky and bossy. And at the same time deeply unhappy, poor, almost a beggar, one dress on all occasions, she complained: no stake, no yard, no place to rest my head — so closely, in communal, and so miserable all the time lived in poverty, barely interrupted, the house is empty. Remember, Yunna Moritz, which he was sheltered at home, while his family was in the country, complained to me that his fridge is empty, some stale burgers — had it for a month and a half before his death.
He did not spare, and the other was not spared
In all respects I remained Sereja in debt — in debt as in silks! He published me in “New American”, reduced “liberty” and “the New Russian word” (my return to the Russian land I owe him), helped me to master driving skills, wrote me a protective article, hosted and treated more frequently than I did, gave me different things, the darkness had a lovely service and even offered to lace up my shoes and instantly be cured of gonorrhea, which I was not what Sergei was very surprised
— What is something you sterile, Volodya…
Autograph Dovlatov in memory of Soloviev.
A month before the death of Serge called me and told about the debate on radio “Liberty” about my feverish St. Petersburg confessions “Three Jews” and bluntly asked:
— If you do not want to give, tell me — I’ll buy.
He went to pick up a copy of the novel, which indirectly took part: gave good advice the publisher on the cover design and saw an advance copy before the author, when was the new York publisher Word about their own books “Branch” and “the Notebook”. He called me and said that I was waiting for disappointment, and the thing — in any. The next day I rushed to the publisher — and indeed, in Korean typography (the cheapest) for some reason decided that “Three Jews” twice, and made the appropriate spine. In the end, on the back of big book title and author’s name on the fold. Serge comforted me: the book is more important than the author. In this case, and so it proved. While his two books did not live — was released posthumously.
It so happened that “Three Jews” were the last of the books he read. Posthumously she came in his reviews. First, from the publisher Larissa shenker — that I have read the book in one gulp. Then from his widow: “unfortunately, all the truth,” he said, having read the novel. Yes: unfortunately. I would have preferred to be in Leningrad, everything went quite, quite differently. Then, however, and no “Three Jews” would not be my masterpiece, as many believe. And none of Russia left: none Dovlatov or Joseph Brodsky, no Lena.
And Serge was up. Stood the heat of August, he came straight from the hairdresser and Panama has not been removed — I think that haircut makes you stupid. Us, he was caught in a pre-departure chores — we were preparing for our usual in this tropical new York time throw to the North:
— You can afford a vacation? “he ejaculated. — I can’t.
And in fact could not. Living life to the fullest and burned, even when adjusted for traditional Russian disease, which is brought to the grave of Vladimir Vysotsky, Shukshin, Yuri Kazakov, Venechkom Erofeev. Heart can not withstand such loads, and Dovlatov spent the way, whatever you do — wrote, drank, loved, hated, but at least the guests from Russia took — the whole was laid. He did not spare, but the other was not spared, and bending under the weight of large and small business, it was inevitable to their end. This very successful posthumously Russian novelist spent your entire life chasing the feeling of failure, and he himself was called “a bitter loser”. And he was walking away from life, completely entangled in it.
His irritability and anger is partly due to his disease, he explained to them of desperation and forced sobriety, darkness of the soul, and even insanity. But isn’t depression an appropriate response to life? And alcoholism? I realized the futility of talking with him about himself. He once said:
— You want me to give a lecture about the dangers of alcoholism? Who started to drink, will drink.
He was close literature Dating back through hundreds of generations copyright to the stories told at Neanderthal fires, for which the narrator was not allowed to work and not to fight his own comparison of the unpublished letters. Alas, unlike the Neanderthal bards Dovlatov until the end of his days had to work and fight to earn their daily bread, and his stories, published in “the new Yorker” and published in several languages, did not bring him sufficient income. By the way, the royalties from “the new Yorker” — 3 thousand dollars (in different ways, corrects me Lena Dovlatova) — he shared half with translator Anna Friedman. That was the deal — Anya translate for free, at your own risk.
Serge, of course, was being disingenuous, calling himself a literary average. Do not take his word for it. Humility is worse than pride. Really knew his worth. This is the secret of Dovlatov. However, his self-esteem is closer to the truth and to the future place in literature than the current kitschy image. Alas, we tend to under – or, conversely, to overestimate his contemporaries. The share of Dovlatov dropped both. Yes, face-to-face person can not see.