Deep South v.2 n.1 (Autumn, 1996)
Further chapters will appear in later issues of Deep South
A Note on the Author
Eduard Limonov (real name: Eduard Savenko) was born and raised in Kharkov, an industrial city near the Russian-Ukrainian border. He attained success as an avant-garde poet in Moscow during the 1970's, and was expelled from the Soviet Union. Living as a penniless refugee in New York, he wrote his first memoir-novel, It's Me, Eddie (Eto Ya, Edichka), which described the Russian-exile experience as a degrading, frustrating struggle with the 'Literary mafia' of the bourgeois United States which led the hero to seek solace in various bizarre sexual escapades. The Russian emigres, usually depicted as noble victims, were scandalized by this version of themselves as decadent, hapless strivers, and Limonov gained a level of fame he had never enjoyed as poet. He has since produced many memoirs, of which the best is perhaps Memoir of A Russian Punk (Podrostok Savenko), which describes his adolescence as a small-time hood in Kharkov. A Young Scoundrel (Molodoi Niigodyaii) follows from that memoir, recounting the transformation of the young Limonov from proletarian tough-guy to avant-garde literary contender.
On the Translator
John Dolan teaches in the Department of English at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. He has published two books of poetry, the more recent of which, Stuck Up, is available from the University of Auckland Press.
"Fyu-fyu...fyu!" A bird whistles three times. The youth Limonov sighs and grudgingly opens his eyes. Sunlight pours into the narrow room from Tevelev Square, through the big window, yellow as margarine. The walls, decorated by painter friends, always delight the just-awakened young man. Tranquil again, the young man closes his eyes.
"Fyu-fyu...fyu!" again calls the bird, then adds, in an angry whisper, "Ed!" The young man throws off the covers, gets up, opens the window and looks down. Beneath the window, by the low wall of the green square, stands his friend Genochka the Magnificent, wearing a bright blue suit, and smiling, head tilted upward, at him.
"You asleep, you son of a bitch? Get down here!" Behind the magnificent Genochka, on the emerald grass, camps a company of gypsies, breakfasting on watermelon and bread, laid out on shawls as on tablecloths.
"Rise and shine, the day is fine!" says a young Gypsy woman near Genochka, and actually beckons with her hand to the young man at the window.
The youth, placing a finger to his lips, indicates the neighboring window and, nodding his head in agreement, whispers, "Right!"--shuts the window and, carefully going to the sliding door which leads to the next room, listens. Rustling and some breathing can be heard from within, and the smell of tobacco seeps from under the door. His mother-in-law is undoubtedly sitting in her classic morning pose, with her tangled grey hair over her shoulders, before her mirror, smoking a cigarette. It seems that she, Celia Yakovlyevna, didn't hear her son-in-law's brief conversation with Genochka the Magnificent, her most fearsome enemy. Now, the young man realizes, it is time to act quickly and decisively.
Taking from the bookcase, the lower part of which has been made into a cabinet, his pride and joy, a cocoa-colored suit with gold highlights shining through the cloth, the young man quickly pulls on his pants, a pink shirt and a coat. At the head of the bed stands a card-table, and scattered over it are pencils, pens, paper, a half-drunk bottle of wine, and an opened notebook. Glancing with pleasure at some half-written poems, the young man closes his homemade notebook and, raising the lid of the table, takes from the drawer several five-ruble notes. He places the notebook in the drawer and closes the lid. The poems will have to wait for tomorrow. Holding his shoes in his hands, he carefully opens the door to the dark hallway. Fumblingly, without turning on the light, he goes past the Amimov's door and carefully places the key in the lock of the door leading out, out of the apartment, to freedom...
"Eduard, where are you going?" Somehow, Celia Yakovlyevna, having heard the metallic sound of the key in the lock, or simply intuitively sensed that her son-in-law was escaping, has come out of her room and is now standing, having turned on the light in the entrance-hall, in her classical pose Number Two. One hand rests on her hip, the other--complete with the diminishing cigarette--by her mouth, her gray, slightly longer than waist-length hair loose, her well-bred face angrily turned toward her escaping son-in-law. The Russian son-in-law of her younger daughter.
"Are you going out to see Gena again, Eduard? Don't deny it--I know it. Don't forget that you promised that today you'd finish the pants for Tsintsipyer. If you get together with that Gena, you'll just...wander around..."
Celia Yakovlyevna Rubinshtein is an educated woman. It is awkward for her to say to a Russian young man, who is living with her daughter, that if he meets up with Gena, he will once again get drunk as a pig, and perhaps, like they did last time, his friends will have to carry him home.
"Look, Celia Yakovlyevna...I'm just going down for some thread...then straight back," lies the shorthaired, somewhat puffy-looking poet, embarrassedly putting his shoes on the floor. He slips into his shoes and makes for the door, into the long corridor, bordered on both sides by dining tables, electric ranges and kerosene stoves. The fenced-off compartment with the kitchen and toilet--the priority for all the families who still live in this old building, number nineteen, Tevelyev Square--the corridor serves as a kitchen and the toilet is a communal one. Having passed through the entire row of tables, and inhaled, one after another, the smells of dozens of future lunches, the poet reaches the far end of the and heads down the stairs, taking them three at at a time. "Don't forget about Tsintsiper!" The pointless reminder from Celia Yakovlyevna reaches him. The poet smiles. What a name God gave this man! Tsin-tsi-per! The Devil knows what it is, but it isn't a name. Those two whole "ts"es, plus the completely obscene sound, "iiper"!
Genochka is waiting for the poet by the exit at the path to the Seminary District. There's a suitcase in Genochka's hand. "How much money have you got?" asks the Magnificent One, in place of a greeting. "Fifteen rubles."
"Let's go, quick, or I'll have to wait in line." Gennadii and the Poet walk hurriedly down through the Seminary Quarter, and, reaching the first corner, turn left toward the pawnshop.
The shadows on the street are heavy, dark blue. The sun is yellow as a rich, concentrated film of dyed butter. Without even taking your eyes from the asphalt, you can tell that it's August in Kharkov.
Even while they're several dozen meters away from the massive, fortress-like old brick building, the sharp, strong smell of mothballs reaches the two friends. For a hundred years, mothballs have been the foundation of this district, and it seems that even the old white acacias in this part of the street smell of mothballs. Hurrying along, the two friends go up the steps into a hall. The hall is high, roomy and cold, like the interior of a temple. Squeezing in among the old men and women, they get on one of the lines leading to the pawnbroker's window. The old men and women stare in surprise at the youngsters. It's unusual to see youngsters at a pawnshop in Kharkov. The poet, however, has already been to a pawnshop dozens of times. With Genochka.
"What have you got?" the poet asks his friend.
"My mother and father's plastic raincoats, a suit of my father's, and a couple of gold watches." lists Genochka, smiling. His is a unique smile: malicious and precise.
"You're for it, Gennadii Sergeevich!"
"It's not your problem, Eduard Venyaminovich!" parries Genochka. But, obviously determined that his friend be subjected to a commentary, he adds, "They went off on vacation. For a month. And left me with just 200 rubles. I told them that wasn't going to be enough. And now look what happens; they must pay for wronging their only son."
Genochka goes to the pawnbroker often, with his things and his parents'. He discovered this method of getting money before he met the poet Eduard. He pawns all of his father's things. His papa, Sergei Sergeevich, loves his handsome, stocky, blue-eyed son. Though Papa worries about his son's complete indifference to all human affairs except the quest for adventures and going to restaurants, and worries above all that now that Genadii is 21, worse things than pawnbrokers will befall him. A bad marriage, for example. It's Papa, not Genochka, who pays alimony to Genadii's former wife, and their son--his grandson. Papa Sergei Sergeevich is the director of the "Crystal," the finest restaurant in Kharkov, and of the restaurant trust of the same name, handling many other "trading points."
Genochka, not troubling himself about the things in the suitcase, pushes it through the welcoming slot in the window-cage and impatiently pounds on the patterned ceramic tiles of the floor with the heel of his shoe. They know young Ocharenko quite well in this pawnshop, and the transaction takes very little time. Ten minutes later the friends are already heading down the street, which smells of acacia and mothballs. Genochka has already contentedly placed notes worth sixty rubles in his black leather wallet. And, in another compartment, the pawn ticket. With revulsion.
"Well, where shall we go?"
They're climbing over the stone wall which separates Taras Grigoryevich Shevchenko Park from the Kharkov Zoo. Naturally, they could simply buy tickets--for just one ruble twenty kopeks apiece--but the youths consider it a point of honor not to pay to enter "their" territory. The Zoo is a traditional playground for Ed and Genka, as for all the other members of the "SS": the painter, Vagrich Bakhchanyan; "The Frenchman," Paul Shemmetov; "Fritz" Viktorushka; and Fima, nicknamed "Dog." Every member of the "SS" is in some way out of the ordinary. You couldn't call the "SS" a typical group of young people...
In Kharkov the August sun is pitiless. Nonetheless the two young men are wearing suits of the "dandy" style, introduced by Genadii and formerly championed by members of the foundry-workers' guild, and nowadays by the poet, Ed. Usually, once they've made it through the broken glass atop the stone wall, the kids jump to earth among the jungles of the Zoo, weaving through gigantic tussocks of steppe-grass and burdock, nut-trees and other August exuberances, then descending into the ravine by a little path which only they know, passing by an old oak which grows at the bottom of the ravine, and coming up out of the ravine right next to the "Tavern." Its ancient sides, having once been covered with paint which started out as a reddish yellow, lean against each other. The young men's shoes are covered with the pollens exuberantly packed in several years'-worth of Ukrainian grasses--the heavily fertilized, crude, mighty Ukrainian grasses of the field across the way. Genadii is holding a package of bottles. Vodka. In the "Tavern," they don't officially sell spirits.
Climbing up the path after his friend, Ed wipes his face with a handkerchief. From time to time they overtake a thick cloud of midges, which try to draw as many milligrams of blood as they can from their quickly-moving prey. Gena and Ed constantly wave their arms, or the cigarettes they're smoking, to repel the raids. Dripping sweat but unperturbed, they take the path to the summit and go on, along a narrow path between carefully-planted flowers, to the front of the "Tavern." As if greeting their arrival, from the depths of the Zoo sounds the roar of a tiger.
"Zhul'bars," states the poet.
"Sultan." disagrees Gena.
On the open veranda of the "Tavern," all by herself, doing something with the chairs, is "Auntie" Dusya. A big, strong woman in her thirties, with a red Bulgarian face, but still "Auntie." "Hey, look vat showed up! Genochka showed up!" she exclaims joyfully. And why wouldn't she be glad? The dandy, Genochka, gives her more in tips than she gets in a week of serving eggs, sausage with peas, or chicken to visitors to the Zoo.
"If you please, Dusya, put this in the freezer!" says Genka, imitating his father, a former Colonel in the KGB and the Director of a Trust. Like his father, Genka addresses everyone with the formal pronoun. This is his own idea of chic. And Genka doesn't swear, which distinguishes him from Ed's many other friends, who curse non-stop.
"I am certain you have met Eduard Limonov, Dusya...?" Genka stares, with a certain patronizing irony, at Ed.
"Sure, you've had your friend here with you, Genochka..."
"Certainly, Dusya. But since then he's changed his name. Please take note: 'Eduard Limonov.'"
Eduard didn't change his last name, Savyenko. It's just that the "SS" and some other friends--Lyonka Ivanov, the poet Motrich, Tolya Melekhov, were sitting with Ed and Ann in their room, playing, out of sheer boredom, a sort of literary game, and they decided they would live in turn-of-the-century Kharkov and be poets and symbolist painters. And Vagrich Bakhchanyan made a rule that they all had to think up appropriate last names for themselves. Lyonka Ivanov decided to call himself Blanket. Melekhov became Breadman. And Bakhchanyan decided that Ed would be called Limonov. The game ended, they all went home, but the next day, while introducing Ed to a painter-friend from the newspaper "Leninist ____," at the Automatic, Bakhchanyan referred to him as "Limonov." And has called him that ever since. And it turned out that Genka really liked the nickname. All the young "Decadents" in the Automatic now call him Ed Limonov. The nickname stuck, and now even Ed himself doesn't call himself Eduard Savyenko much anymore. He has remained "Limonov." Nobody calls Lyonka Ivanov "Blanket" anymore; nobody calls Melekhov"Breadman" any more; but Ed remains "Limonov." Besides, for reasons even he doesn't understand, Ed himself likes "Limonov." His real name, the very common, ordinary Ukrainian family-name, "Savyenko," always depressed him. So let it stay "Limonov."
The two young men are sitting at a table on the veranda, so that they can look out at the pond, and the swans and ducks swimming around on it. The "Tavern" is definitely the most picturesque restaurant in Kharkov, which is why Genka chose it as his headquarters. From the pond wafts the smell of muddy water. Two workers are lazily pulling a hose and just as lazily starting to sprinkle the heavy flowers.
"Well, what shall we have to go with our vodka, Comrade Limonov?" Genka takes off his jacket and drapes it over the back of the chair. He rolls up the sleeves of his immaculate white shirt and loosens the knot of his tie.
"Maybe some chicken?" Uncertainty can be heard in the poet's voice. He's gotten used to deferring to the more elegant, experienced and self-assured Genka on this sort of question.
"Dusya, what's good today?" Genka turns to "Auntie" Dusya, who has once again come up on the veranda.
"Oh, Genochka...it's still so early; how..." Dusya twists her frace into a pitiful frown. "The cook still isn't here; we only open at noon. I could get you a little snack, and, if you want, I could make eggs with sausage. When the cook gets here, he can make you Chicken Kiev..." Suddenly, a peacock cries out, long and loudly. As if at this signal, the whole Zoo begins to cry, roar and howl.
"Well, what do you think, Ed? Should we have some eggs with sausage?"
"Dusya, make us some fried eggs with sausage. Six eggs each. With salt, but without lard--the way I like them. Bring them in the frying pan. And more vegetables, please--tomatoes, cucumbers..."
"Do you want your cucumbers pickled, boys?"
"Of course, Dusya, pickled. And a couple of bottles of cold lemonade. To wash them down with."
"I'll pour you a little decanter of vodka, shall I?" Dusya glances at Genadii's face.
"No thank you. It would be warm. Bring us two wineglasses and put a bottle on ice, please, Dusya."
The waitress leaves the veranda.
"Wonderful--eh, Ed?" Gena's fond gaze is directed toward the pond. Directly across the pond is the peacocks' aviary. Far away , among the cages, looms the huge bulk of an elephant. A draft suddenly wafts to the veranda the smell of dung and the nauseous smell of some musky beast. "Magnificent!" --And Gennadii's handsome face beams with tranquil delight. This is what he wants from life: a beautiful view, cold vodka, chatting with a friend. Even women are second-rate to Genadii. It's been a year since the beautiful Nonna, whom everybody thought he loved, appeared in his life, but even Nonna couldn't drag him away from his drinking sprees in the company of the "SS," from his trips to a restaurant called the Monte-Carlo, from strolling down Sumskii Street with Ed, from the pleasures of wasting time. Ed Limonov looks with pleasure at his strange friend. Genka seems to have absolutely no ambition. He himself has admitted more than once that he doesn't want to be a poet, like Motrich and Ed, or a painter, like Bakhchanyan. "You'll paint and write poems; I'll bask in your success!"laughs Genka. Celia Yakovlyevna and Anna consider Genadii to be Ed's evil genius--they think he makes Ed squander money on drink, and takes him away from Anna. But this view of theirs is explained, actually, by jealousy. It's true, of course, that now and then Ed spends, with Genka, the money they've made sewing pants. Not often. But he doesn't go out drinking with Genka all the time. In any case, the miserly sums--ten, twenty rubles--he spends with Genka don't compare to the amounts squandered by Genka. And that phrase, "squandered on drink" somehow doesn't capture the Magnificent Genadii Sergeevich's style. The last time they went carousing at the Monte-Carlo--an out-of-town restaurant in Pesochin, watering hole for the high officials and KGB elite of Kharkov-- Genka went first in one taxi, showing the way, and Ed followed in another taxi, and behind him came another taxi, empty, which Genka hired solely for the style of it, to make up a a cavalcade. In his youth, Sergei Sergeevich had been a regular at the Monte-Carlo--until his stomach ulcer. Gennadii inherited the place from his father. The staff knows Genadii Sergeevich well, and always gives him the best table. Until he met Genka, Ed had only read of "best tables" in books. At the Monte-Carlo, the chickens wander around right outside the window of the best table, and you can pick the one you want and they'll make chicken tabak from it. The paradox of the Monte-Carlo consists of the fact that the truck drivers eat in the big room, right next to a big highway. But at the best tables, it's the good life...
Auntie Dusya brings them their snacks, vodka, lemonade and, for each of them, a sizzling-hot frying pan full of fried eggs. Genka gazes with pleasure at the heavily-laden table. With one hand he raises the wine-glass of vodka, and with the other his glass of lemonade. "Come on, Ed!--Let's drink to this magnificent August day, and to the animals of our beloved Zoo!"
"Right!" agrees Ed, and they gulp down the burning vodka. And instantly start drinking the lemonade. And grab the pickled cucumbers and eat the fried eggs, burning themselves...
"Well, Ed, did you get a good scolding from Celia Yakovlyevna yesterday?" Genka has decided to take a break for a smoke, disengaging himself for the purpose from what's left of his eggs.
"I swear to God, I'm fucked if I can remember!" laughs the poet. "I remember getting out of a taxi, and grabbing the doorknob, and then...it all goes blank, I can't remember a thing. What time was it, anyway? Two o'clock?"
"What do you mean, two? It was still early. You passed out early last night. But Fima and I carried on drinking at the airport.
"No way I passed out." The poet is offended. "I hadn't slept at all the night before, I was writing til dawn. Of course you're going to be tired after a whole night without sleep. You yourself threw up yesterday."
"I throw up a lot." agrees Gyenka calmly. "That's how the Romans did it. They'd throw up, then come back and drink some more."
"That Celia Yakovlyevna caught me right at the door. 'And where are you going,' she says, 'Eduard?'"
"And what did you say to her, Eduard Venyaminovich?"
"Out for some thread, Celia Yakovlyevna, I'm going to the store.' With my shoes in my hands. I wanted to get out without being heard."
"For some thread!" guffaws Genka. "Limonov went out to buy some thread!"
"Naturally Celia didn't believe me. But how is an intellectual woman going to argue with her Russian son-in-law? 'Then how come you've got your shoes in your hand, you drunk, if you're going for some thread? It's not a criminal activity, going for thread...'"
"She'd be ashamed to catch you in a lie. That's what comes of culture and education. A Russian mother-in-law would storm through the whole building, tear your sleeve off, dragging you back inside. It's a good thing you're living with a Jewish family...and Anna?"
"Yesterday Anna slept--and snored. She just opened her eyes and said, 'You got drunk with Genka again, you damned alcoholic!' and went back to sleep. And today I slept, once she went out."
"You need to get Anna some kind of gift." Genka frowns. "Ed, heading toward us are the first representatives of the goat-herd, who have already completed their morning excursion to the Zoo."
A family is coming to the "Tavern." Two children--boys of around ten--dressed, in spite of the heat, in blue wool thermal pants. The pants are too long; the cuffs, dragging on the ground, are gray with dust. The mother is powerfully built, surprisingly old for a mother with children of this age. Her hands and feet stick out awkwardly from her too-tight, too-short, white-and-blue polka-dotted dress. The father--who undoubtedly works in one of the many factories in Kharkov--is wearing a fake-silk yellow shirt and black trousers, sandals over bare feet, and carries in his hand a string bag. and in it something covered with torn-up and, for some reason, wet newspaper.
The morose children are the first up the steps. The mother after them. Having helped them climb onto the veranda, the father puts his foot on the first step. Genka stands up and sraightening his tie, assumes a stern look: "Comrades, comrades, entry prohibited! The restaurant is closed to the public today. Today is the All-Soviet-Union Convention of Bengal-Tiger trainers. Entry restricted to those with letters of invitation!"
The family leaves silently and submissively, dragging their string bag behind them. Ed even begins to pity the goat-herd family. "Why'd you do that to them?" he asks his friend. "Hell, they'd've drunk their lemonade, taken some sandwiches, and gone..."
"There's always noise from the goat-herd, Ed. Did you direct your attention to the children? Like little old men. Can you imagine how they would have gobbled, chomped?"
"You can't get rid of all of them...Now somebody else will show up."
"Dusya, please place on all the tables on our side of the restaurant a "Reserved" sign."
"Oh, Genochka, we don't have any signs like that!" whines Dusya. From beneath her feet, a big green grasshopper suddenly leaps, landing on the next table. This is the countryside; what do they know about signs? There's not even a toilet; visitors run to the ravine.
"In that case, write 'Reserved' on some pieces of paper, and put them on each table. Of course, your labor will be compensated."
Dusya goes off to obey her orders. Her obedience is explained not only by the fact that Genka passes her a five-ruble or ten-ruble note as she leaves, but by the fact that the little Zoo restaurant belongs to the restaurant network of his Papa, Sergei Sergeevich, and in this network Papa is Tsar, Papa is God. True, Papa has sternly forbidden Gennadii to abuse his official position to get better treatment, but the power-hungry Genka can't resist the temptation to "abuse" it. Power--that's what Genka loves, Ed suddenly realizes. Power is Genka's ambition. Genka wants to brandish enormous power.
"Genka, why don't you join the Party and become an important man--say, District Administrator?"
"Are you kidding, Ed? That's so fucking depressing--making a career as a communist. It's bad enough that it ruined most of my dad's life--crawling on his knees."
Even the fact that Genya swore testifies to his aversion to a Communist career. Genka is indifferent to ideology, Genka has no political views. What Genka wants from life is the "high": pleasure, adventure, romance. And what kind of "high" is there in wearing a hole in your trousers sitting at Party meetings? Genka's favorite film is "The Adventurers" with Alain Delon and Lena Ventura in starring roles. That's what Genka loves--treasure-hunting, gunfights, expensive restaurants, crystal, cognac, candlelight, champagne... Ed remembers Genka's dilated pupils after the film. They watched "The Adventurers" twice--Genka, Nonna, as beautiful as Genka, and Ed. Genka is as handsome as Alain Delon, "The Beautiful One," Bakhchanyan calls him. He's blond, six feet tall, light-blue eyes, a straight nose, a noble bearing. After "The Adventurers," they drank and wandered around for a few days, and were arrested one night on the runway-area of the Kharkov Airport while trying to get into a jet transport. What they wanted on the jet will remain an insoluble mystery, but it is worth noting that "The Adventurers" begins with Alain Delon flying through the Arc de Triomphe.
"Let's do it, Ed!"
"Let's do it." Ed looks fondly at his friend.
"They're drinking, the scoundrels!"
Anna Moiseevna has appeared at the very moment when Dusya had refilled the young men's wineglasses. She is standing on the grass by the veranda, her bright eyes angry. Her robust body is covered by a crepe-de-chine dress. There are green, black and white flowers on Anna's body. She has a purse in her hand. Her graying hair is tied back in a tight chignon. Her turned-up nose gives her face a pert look.
"Ganna Miseyevna!" The idlers call out amiably. "Come over here and have some chicken kiev with us!"
"Scoundrels! Aren't you ashamed! Drinking vodka since early in the morning!" scolds Anna, but she goes around the edge of the veranda and up the staircase. A few representatives of the Proletariat, who have forced their way onto the veranda, stare inquisitively at the scene.
"You scoundrel! Deceiving Celia Yakovlevna, a poor Jewish woman, yet again! 'He went for some thread!' The simplehearted Celia Yakovlevna, child of another era--the angel who married my father...Celia Yakovlevna doesn't know what it is to lie! She trustingly believed that absurdity! 'For some thread, he went'!
"Fine--hit me! Give me a slap in the face!" The poet melodramatically turns his profile to his girlfriend and offers his cheek.
Gennadii Sergeevich becomes elegantly cordial.
"Pardon us, Ganna Moisyevna, for the love of God, and be kind enough to share this humble meal with us!" Genka takes Anna's hand and kisses it. Then, without releasing her hand, with his free hand he shifts the table and eases Anna into place at the table. Though she is still angry, she sits down.
"Dusya--please, set a place for Anna Moiseyevna...Anna Moiseyevna, it's my fault that your husband is here. Finding myself feeling somewhat lonely and depressed this morning, I deceitfully lured Ed away from his family, heedlessly seeking only personal and egotistical self-satisfaction..."
"The poor Jewish woman..." Anna Moiseyevna starts up her usual dramatic monologue, but provokes no reaction on the faces of Genka or the poet... "I ran right home...not a crumb in the house...'Eduard went off to get some thread,' Mama announced, bewildered...'He went off at nine o'clock, Mama!' I said, 'It's eleven o'clock--he went off drinking!' 'No...maybe he'll come back?' timidly suggested Celia Yakovlyevna, still believing in you..." Anna stared angrily at the poet. He bowed his head humbly, and Genka gestured to him with his eyes and his hands, "Just put up with it. Let her talk."
"You didn't even leave the poor Jewish woman a ruble for food, you scoundrel!" Anna continues, "Meanwhile, we've spent all of her pension. I don't have any money--you know perfectly well I don't get anything in advance...after the account showed a gigantic overdraft, Gennadii"--Anna appeals to Genka. Genka nods sympathetically. "There was some hope that the young scoundrel would finish Tsintsiper's pants today and get ten rubles for them, and Celia Yakovlyevna could go down to Blagovyeshchenskii market and get some food... But the young scoundrel ran off..."
"Ganna Miseyevna," says Genka quickly, while Anna gathers her strength for the next part of the monologue, "Be be good enough to accept from me a humble offering"--he takes a tenner from his wallet and pushes it toward Anna.
"We don't need your money, Gennadii Sergeyevich," proudly declares Anna, who nonetheless looks at the tenner with some interest.
"Take it, Ganna Miseyevna! After all, it was I who took Ed out into the countryside, away from Tsintsiper's pants! It follows that I should pay the forfeit."
"What?" Anna Moiseyevna stares questioningly at the poet. "Well, I'll take it...After all, we have nothing. Not so much as a crumb in the house."
"Don't you dare..." spits out the poet. He curses himself for neglecting to leave Celia Yakovlyevna at least five out of the fifteen rubles left. Now Anna has the right to lecture him on morality and call him a young scoundrel. Normally Anna's a little scared of her poet, although she's six years older than he is. And weighs perhaps twice as much as the poet.
"Take it! You'll use it somehow or other!" With the help of an agile motion, the tenner ends up in Anna Moiseyevna's hand, and, from there, disappears into her purse.
"Have a drink, Anna Moiseyevna, a little vodka!" Genka himself pours Anna a glass, out of the bottle of Stolichnaya Dusya left with them the last time. "Have a drink and forget your cares!"
Anna can no longer resist; she smiles. "Scoundrel, you've been drinking for three days! And never once thought of the poor Jewish woman, wasting away in a newspaper kiosk. You could at least have taken the time to invite the Jewish woman to the restaurant." Anna frowns and sips carefully at the vodka, unlike Genka and the poet.
"How in the world did you find us, Anna Moiseyevna?" Genka doesn't hide his pleasure and delight. He likes it when things happen. They've already gotten a bit bored, just the two of them making small talk; but now, voila, an unexpected appearance by Anna Moiseyevna.
"Genulik!" Anna looks at Genka with undisguised condescension. "Everybody knows that you and the young scoundrel are the only ones in the whole city with chocolate-colored suits with gold thread. First I went to the "Theater Club" and they told me they'd seen you this morning going down Sumsky street. I went to the "Lux," and you weren't there. You weren't at the "Three Musketeers," either. I ran around to all your hangouts, and at the "Automatic," Mark told me that the young scoundrel, accompanied by you, Gennadii Sergeevich, had gone down into Shyevchenko Park. 'Where would people like you go, at this time of the year, when Nature is unbelievably flourishing, and the chesnuts are ripe, and the smell of flowers fills the air, and the world is making love endlessly?' I asked myself. Anna Moiseyevna sighs. Elaborate oratory is her weakness. Very often she inserts in her speech verses by living or deceased poets. "'People like Genulik and the young scoundrel can only go to the "Tavern," and Dusya.' I said to myself, and came running here. Anna Moiseyevna has stopped, pleased with herself. "And here, if you please, I am. I'm not going to work!" She announces, after looking at her little watch."What's the point!" she exclaims, staring defiantly at her "husband." "I'll tell them I got sick."
"You could be the Sherlock Holmes of the KGB, Anna Moiseyevna," Genka says approvingly. "Yes indeed."
"Lyonka Ivanov says Sherlock Holmes was a cocaine addict. That in between cases, he snorted cocaine." observes the poet, after gulping some vodka.
"Lyonka Ivanov is a meshugginah," Anna declares authoritatively. "They even kicked him out of the Army for being a meshugginah."
"No way. Lyonka himself wanted to get out of the Army. When Lyonka came home on leave, already a sergeant, Viktorushka taught him what to do. The smartest thing is to pretend to be crazy. Viktor told Lyonka, and when Lyonka returned to his unit, he did exactly what Viktor suggested. At lunch time he went to the cafeteria, put a bowl of porridge on his head, stuck cutlets under his sergeant's epaulettes, and in this costume went running out of the dining hall...another time he went into the hall where the soldiers were watching a film and ripped the screen off the wall...but all just so he could get home; actually Lyonka's saner than me or Genka," Ed ends his apologia for Ivanov.
"Ed, I think Anna's right; Lyonchik Ivanov really is crazy." disagrees Genka. "Not dangerous, but pretty brainless. Have you noticed his expression?"
"Oh--then who's sane? Is Ganna Miseyevna sane?" Ed laughs scornfully.
"I tried to do away with myself once. But you, Ed--lots of times!" Anna almost shouts, leaping out of her chair. "It's true, I was classified as a Group One invalid by reason of craziness, but I was nineteen, and that son of a bitch, my first husband, had dumped me. When you were nineteen, you still believed in people!" Anna Moiseyevna, having lost her aggressive look, and aware of the goat heard, sits down.
"The hell with him, with Ivanov..." Genka says to them soothingly. Let's drink to you, Anna Moiseyevna, and to you, Eduard Venyaminovich, and to your union. May it be long and enduring!"
"To our cohabitation! To our unlicensed union!" laughs Anna. "To our situation! You know, Genulik, when the young scoundrel was already living with me in my room, but we were trying to make it look like we weren't living together...I would slam the door loudly at night, to deceive my poor Mama...so that when my Auntie Ginda suggested that we come visit her in a little room with two roommates, even that was an improvement in our material life. The intellectual Celia Yakovlyevna couldn't admit to the sister of her beloved deceased husband that her daughter was keeping in her room a boy six years younger than she, and sleeping with him. 'Akh, Ginda, we have such a situation at home!' that's all my Mama would say. How unlucky she's been in life. Papa Moise died of a heart attack, and her daughters have never found a decent life..."
"What? Her second daughter is married to the director of a factory. She lives in Kiev, right on the main street--on Kreshatik, in a big bourgeois apartment. People dream of a son-in-law like Teodor. The director of a factory..."
"My kid sister is in a good situation, __________]dazhe toshno]," agrees Anna Moiseyevna, taking a tidbit of cucumber, "but my niece, Styelka, is a whore. And she's sure to become an even bigger whore. Already she sleeps with any loser who comes along. Gyenulik, this long-legged Styekla keeps an eye out for every prick around, the kid had her first abortion at age 14! I only lost my virginity at 18...
Genka laughs. "Different times, different customs, Anna Moiseyevna!"
"'O, Lautrec, you will never reach the pedals!'" Anna suddenly recites. "'O Lautrec...__________________________________/'" Anna falls silent, having forgotten the next line, as usual.
"Whose is that?" Genka asks respectfully. He considers Anna an intelligent and well-educated woman.
"Miloslavskii. From his early poems." mumbles Ed. "Yura poses, frenchifies, and nasalizes. He invokes the romantic underground life of the Parisian cafe and studio. Lautrec..."
"'Yet still I remembered how all these Magdalenes mended the cloak of the pockmarked Christ..." Glancing insolently at her "husband," Anna once again recites Miloslavskii. And, of course, she can't remember the last lines. "Three Bandits with Aphrodite by the Fire," she manages to force out, and then falls silent.
Anna's memory is stuffed with bits of poems, songs, which she heard some time, or clever phrases she read somewhere, from various philosophers and writers. From time to time Anna brings to light some fragment, line, verse or phrase, and inserts it in the appropriate part of her monologue. When they were just getting to know each other, in their youth on the outskirts of Kharkov, straight from the "Hammer and Sickle" shop section, Anna's erudition seemed the height of intellectual achievement. Now, Eduard, having become Limonov, laughs at Anna's "streams of consciousness." He uses her singsong intonation, imitating the pompous Romanticism with which, it seems to him, Anna recites poetry:
Give me a blue-blue woman
I'll trace a blue line along her spine
And I'll marry that bright blue line...
Ah, I don't need no blue girls to marry
I'll howl with the cats on roofs so starry...
"Shut up, scoundrelly Savyenko!" cries Anna. "Don't torture my friend Burich's verses! You're not mature enough to understand them yet!"
"A bad poet," rules Limonov remorselessly. "I, Genka, thought for a long time that Burich was a good poet, or at any rate an original one--and suddenly I happen to come across a book of poems by the Polish poet, Ruzhevich. And what do I see there, Genka?! Ah! What's it called?--Plagiarism! Especially when you consider that Burich and his wife are paid to translate Polish poets!"
"Burich is a great poet!" Anna's eyes rest, with nervous hatred, on her "husband." "Especially because they publish so little of Vova Burich."
"'Vova...'" snorts her "husband." "They say he's already as bald as a kneecap. Vagrich saw him in Moscow, your Vovik. A big fat slob. A bourgeois of literature.
"That's not true! Burich is very handsome. Curly-haired, like an Apollo. Bakh was probably mistaken; it wasn't Burich..."
"What do you mean, mistaken...It was him--Apollo, your husband's friend--a genius from Simferopol..."
"They were all so talented, Genka. Don't listen to the young scoundrel. Talented and exceptionally intelligent. They knew everything. They read all the time. They were better educated than you...
"Talent has nothing to do with education." Ed scowls.
Ed envies Anna's generation--her former husband, a television director; her husband's friends, who all moved to Moscow--the poet Burich, the film critic Myron Chernenko, the painter Brusilovskii. For Kharkov youth of Ed's age, for the bohemians and the decadents who got together several times a day at the "Automatic" to drink coffee, Moscow burns, as it did for Chekhov's three sisters, with a blinding, alluring light. Among Anna's contemporaries, the painter Brusilovskii is especially noteworthy. Vagrich Bakhchanyan speaks respectfully of Brusilovskii's work. Brusilovskii long ago started showing even in international exhibitions, and from time to time, reproductions of his works appear in Western publications. Anna's former husband is the least successful of them; he doesn't even live in Moscow, only Simferopol. Eduard very much wants to go to Moscow, so that he can join the previous generation--those about ten or fifteen years older. Join them, fight them, and hold tauntingly over Anna's head the name of her own Eduard Limonov.
The sun has suddenly peeked over the roof of the tavern, right above the table, and the wooden table, cleaned over and over, scratched, laid with tablecloth and snacks, nestling bottles of vodka and lemonade, the table is suddenly bathed in light. Very beautiful is their table, reader. A salad of red, blood-red Ukrainian tomatoes and tender green cucumbers, dripping with salted butter; the sun--many suns--refracted in the wineglasses and tumblers on the table.The dark burning hands of the poet, Anna's hands, her fingernails, as always coated with an unusual lilac polish, Gennadii's beautiful hand grasping the stem of a wineglass...the stone in Genka's cufflink, suddenly catching the sun, shines out a pure red light.
"Is that a real stone?" Anna takes Genka's hand. There is respect in her voice.
"Are you serious?" Genka laughs. "It's fake. But fashionable. I'd've pawned a real one long ago."
"Oh Genchik...you're going to break Sergey Sergeevich's heart."
"It's nothing, Anna. My Dad's got lots of money. And then too, he owes me something in this life..."
Eduard met Anna Moiseyevna Rubinshtein in the Autumn of l964. Borka Churilov introduced them. Eduard was 21, and had just quit the "Hammer and Sickle" factory, where he had worked with Borka in the foundry for a whole year and a half. A short-haired, sunburned, _______[mordatii] young worker, squinting to hide his extreme nearsightedness, looking for work, and his guardian angel, Borka, introduced him to the Poetry Shop, which needed a bookseller. In walked Anna Moiseyevna: beautiful, greyhaired at 27, scraping with her sharp metallic heels, inquisitively flashing her blue-violet eyes. And the bookselling job was instantly taken.
It would be simple to explain their liason by saying that the young worker needed a Mama. But, in this case, primitive Freudianism cannot offer any explanation or critique of so self-reliant and self-willed a personality as that of Eduard Savyenko. And Anna Moiseyevna, an unstable, eccentric, volcanic woman, would never have been able to be that sort of Mama. Therefore, instead of a Freudian, a socio-psychological explanation suggests itself. To wit: Eduard Savyenko needed a milieu. And the people among whom Anna Moiseyevna lived suited him. By the age of 21, he had been a thief, a burglar, a foundry-worker, a high-rise fitter, a stevedore, a wanderer through the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Asia, sometimes beginning poems,then throwing away poems; yet he had never found himself. He didn't know who he was.
At the foundry he was a good worker, and his portrait had appeared on the honor roll. He had six suits and three overcoats, and every Saturday he drank precisely eight hundred grams of cognac at the "Crystal" restaurant with his friends, young workers and girls. He was not, of course, acquainted with Genulik, son of the restaurant manager. The girls from the neighboring area, moulded from paraffin in the foundry forms, called our young hero "The Slave," for his inexplicable persistence and diligence in the heavy, terrible three-shift work of the foundry floor. His partner on the shift, the fiftyish slob Uncle Seryozha, who looked like a crab, considered Eduard a good fellow, though too fond of work, and called him "Endik." And then, one day,
"Endik," to the utter surprise of Uncle Seryozha and the whole foundry team (he had already worked there _______________________) quit the division. He was bored. He'd had enough of it.
The main reason, which was not known by many people, and which has remained little-known (actually, every event, except the most obvious ones, has a real, secret reason) was that in the spring of 1964 Eduard met Mikhail Issarov, already known to the criminal investigation divisions of the countries of the Soviet Union for his brilliant credit fraud schemes. An affable little Jew, who had flunked out of the Gornii Institute, and fled from the Don Basin, where he had worked for a few years as a mine-director, to Kharkov. Besides this, he had also worked as the main organizer of gangs of con-men. Mishka appeared in Kharkov with his partner, the only remaining members of a group of arrestees. Mishka had family in Kharkov--his mother, father, and brother Yurka--noble toilers already known to us at the "Hammer and Sickle" Factory. Standing by the bars of the cell, Yurka introduced Ed to his brother-in-crime. Ed liked Mishka. Mishka was small and cheerful, wore a moustache, and lived the life of a millionaire. For example, he used to fly from the Don Basin to Moscow every week to get his hair cut.
Mishka had money. He needed two internal passports. For himself and his partner, Vitka. And our hero, remembering his criminal past, used his old connections to put Mishka in touch with his friends at the "Hammer and Sickle" dormitory. They "found" Mishka passports, 35 rubles each, stolen from other friends in the very same dormitory. Mishka stayed on in Kharkov and returned to credit scams. Every day, Mishka and Vitka left the Red Star Hotel on Sverdlov Street, which they shared with majors and captains, since it was a military hotel, and went out raiding the shops of Kharkov. With the stolen passports and certificates from their places of work, they "bought" on credit piles of gold watches, jewelry, expensive material for making suits and overcoats, and even televisions. All these blessings of civilization were acquired via swindle at less than one-quarter their price and resold on the black market. Mishka had invited Ed to dinner many times; one day, Ed, desiring to show his gratitude, introduced Mishka to the Asiatics from the Horse Market, who bought a good part of Mishka's goods. Another time, the inquisitive worker Savyenko, one week when he was on the third shift, helped the swindlers remove large quantities of jewelry, keeping watch while Mishka and Vitka worked.
Even law-abiding people get nervous. What, then, can one expect of criminals, whose work involves so much anxiety? Soon Mishka and Vitka began quarreling and arguing. And split up for good. There was a fight at the Red Star Hotel, and at the time of the fight, the buddies split up the cloth and jewelry, summoning the terribly carefully noble Yurka, and the far less scrupulous worker Eduard.
Several days later Mishka invited Ed to a restaurant and, at the end of the meal, over cognac and cigars, invited Ed, in the tone of a gangster from a Western film, to work with him. Tapping the ashes from his cigar, Mishka withdrew from his pocket a carelessly crumpled bundle of twenty-five ruble notes, paying Ed off and simultaneously suggesting for Ed the prospects in his "work" in Odessa, Kiev and Simferopol.
"And then, Ed, with all the loot (but we're going to specialize in jewelry, just jewelry, this time) we'll move on to the Caucasus and sell it all there. Here in Kharkov, we'd have to give the stuff away at half price to the Chuchmeks; there, we can sell it at full price. Well, Ed?"
Reader, when you are twenty-one and someone offers you money and travel, how can you resist? Eduard, whose prospects consisted of boring work in a hot foundry, agreed to join Mishka.
Mishka decided to go to Odessa at once. It would have been dangerous to stay in Kharkov, where Vitka and Mishka had been operating all summer. The occasion of the break between the partners, alas, was a genuinely dangerous occurrence in which our hero, as it happens, had a part. Mishka (he insisted that the head of the credit bureau of a big department store had realized the picture on his passport was fake, or maybe he just got nervous) ran out of the department store, knocking people down. After him ran Vitka and Eduard. But Mishka had left in the hands of the thieves' enemy his passport, with his photograph! Mishka wanted to get out of Kharkov in a hurry.
Eduard was delighted with the prospect of changing his life and said he was willing to leave that very day.
"No," Mishka said suddenly, "Settle accounts with your work. Write a statement of resignation today and keep working for the next two weeks. At least one of us ought to have an authentic internal passport. With registration and all the stamps on it.
Eduard pouted, unsatisfied. "Listen to an older and more experienced comrade," Mishka said. "Never do anything illegal, if it's possible to do it by legal means. ..I'm going on ahead to Odessa, but I won't be "working" there. In two weeks you'll meet up with me. As soon as it's set up, I'll send you a telegram with my address in Odessa...By the way, you don't happen to know a good tough kid who'd be willing to come along with me...I'll pay, of course. He doesn't have to know anything about our business. I need a bodyguard."
Oh, Mishka Issarov had style! Eduard found him a bodyguard; the robust athlete Tolik Lysyenko traveled to Odessa with Mishka that same evening. Eduard gave notice at work and began waiting...
Two weeks went by, and the foundry boss tried for two hours to persuade the "Slave" not to leave; but running into Eduard's stony determination, gave up and signed the form. Eduard got his severance pay, but there was no telegram from Mishka. "He must've been lying to me...?" Eduard wondered sadly. "Just making fun of me..." "The Slave" wanted a new, wild life; his childhood dream of becoming a great criminal had been so close to coming true, and now...
Three weeks after Mishka's departure someone knocked on the door of the Savyenko apartment. Eduard opened it. The frightened and guilty-looking Tolik Lysyenko stood at the door. "Let's go. I have to talk to you, Ed!" They went out by some vacant land. Tolik kept looking around the whole time. sitting down on a pile of warm bricks, Tolik told him his Odessa story.
In the beginning everything was fine. Thanks to a bribe, Mishka and Tolik managed to get set up in the safest possible place: a KGB sanatorium! They played tennis, got some sun, swam...Then a former girlfriend, an actress, betrayed Mishka. She ran into Mishka by accident on Deribosovskii Street, saw and called out to him, and agreed to a date. When Mishka showed up for the date, they arrested him. It turned out that the actress, knowing there was a big hunt for him, had gone around asking about Mishka that spring...Oh, women...The actress had some kind of grudge against Mishka--he'd dumped her or something, way back...
True to his tradition of swindling with style, Mishka, whom they should have transferred to Donyetsk, the scene of his crimes, to be tried and judged, bought for himself and his two guards a first-class cell, and passed the time getting drunk with them. The agents had no objection, since Mishka's money would have gone to the State anyway--that is to say, to nobody.
After a month Eduard was restless. Despite an acquaintance of many years, and an entirely truthful explanation by Tolik, he wondered why Tolik had not been arrested with Mishka. He considered the possibility that Tolik had betrayed Mishka. People betray each other all the time, and everyone has a dark side. Or maybe Mishka decided he didn't need them involved in his business.
But Mishka had not deserted, and even Vitka had not betrayed them. Mishka even managed to hide his Kharkov period from the trashes. It was only for his "business" dealings in the Donets Basin that he got nine years penal servitude. The name of Mikhail Issarov, the first man to have robbed the Soviet State in the area of credit fraud, may be found in Soviet textbooks on criminology. As for our hero, he, as you see, had been, for the second time (the first being the day in 1962 when his mother had persuaded him to go with her to celebrate Aunt Katya's birthday, and Kostya Bondarenko, Yurka Bembel, and Slavka "The Suvorovian," who had come to pick him up, couldn't find his building and went off on their errand without him) miraculously saved from prison.
To be continued ...