EROFEYEV is an international acclaimed writer from Moscow. His
book, Russian Beauty, has recently been published in the
United States by Viking Press. Mr. Erofeyev edited The Penguin
Book of New Russian Writing, and has also had published a
three volume collection of his works, including his novel The
Victor Erofeyev: Weve got a very
substantial dinner, so I hope my fairy tale isnt going to
turn into a lullaby. But if this is going to happen to whomever,
Im not going to be offended. To begin my tale, I will start
with a person who is quite well known to both Dulce and Michael.
Ill start with my Moscow housemate. Her name is Auntie Neora.
Perestroika hit Russia, and major changes began to take place. Auntie
Neora kept asking me the same question over and over again, "Victor,
could you please explain whats happening in this black, black
country?" And I always come up with something like this: "Auntie
Neora, you have to take a closer look and youll see whats
happening. The communists are losing their great grip on power;
we are going to have more freedom. Were going to enjoy freedom
of the press. Youll be traveling abroad; youll finally
come visit America." Youll go to America, what is America.
Youll go, Communist, what is a Communist? Youll get
freedom of thewhat? Freedom of the press, what does it mean?
Then, a week later, she confronts me again: what is happening with
this damn country?
Lets try all over again.to get
the facts in. She was attempting to get a new post as a cleaning
maid of the Pravda. Working there was a zip code to privilege, the
same as working as a cleaning lady in a medieval castle. So, I would
figure that if that would certainly reason with one would have some
notion as to what is happening in the country. And it is something
was happened, not so much the round trip to previleges, but with
because you know that Pravda was at the verge of collapse. Youd
ask whats for employment with Pravda? And, before that, you
would never fathom that Pravda would collapse.
Then she decided to seek a different
employment, and she found herself in a privately owned jewelry store.
And she was to take care of the private residence of the owner.
Occasionally, sweeping the floor, she would sweep from under the
bed stones they turned out to be precious stones, i.e. rocks.
And then, ultimately, the owner of both places would come home;
usually it was about 5 oclock in the morning, dead drunk from
whatever casino. And he felt grand about everything and about himself.
And he would casually give her one-two thousand dollars just because
he was feeling the way he was. And one day she would tell me in
her way, I would never begin to imagine that dollars looked so much
nicer than rubles.
To make a long story short, what she
experienced upstairs in her mind was a major nightmare. Thats
one part of the story. The other part of the story is her origins.
She was born and raised in a Tartar
village, near Volga. And, since her early childhood, she remembered
what her girlfriend would teach her and it was boiled down to this:
you must never, ever marry a Tartar guy because they are strict,
they are stern, and they are demanding. Instead, make sure you marry
a Russian guy; they are fools who let you do whatever you want.
So, Auntie Neora rushes to Moscow, marries herself to a Russian
guy who turns out to be not only a fool but also an alcoholic. Then,
she gives birth to a boy, and some years later, he turns out to
be also an alcoholic. She was trying to work somehow her way out
of this total mess Lenin, Stalin, Nicholas II, Yeltsin, Gorbachev
it was a total nightmare. In other word, recollections had
to do with the past something called collectivization when
commissars took away their land, took away their cows, everything.
So that it was the Russian history. She neglected all this history,
and the only thing she learned was how to sing and how to dance.
She did both well.
This is the reason I am bringing all
this up the reason I am talking about Auntie Neora is simply
because she is not an exception. She is one of so many Russians
who are totally clueless as to what happened, as to what is happening
with the country. And the only thing she knows is that she is blindly
trying to grope her way, trying to figure out what is actually happening.
There are millions of Auntie Neoras. So when I come to the States
and people ask me how did you manage to survive this freedom of
the press, what kind of car do you drive in Moscow, it makes me
feel how ludicrous any such questions would sound to Auntie Neora.