I have always found it very difficult to describe experiences in different countries, Moscow perhaps, makes the top of that list. I feel this book does a good job of that very task, bringing out the various different elements to one’s experience in Moscow rather well. Each case study, if they may be so called, highlights a different aspect of life in Moscow, and if not for the depth of each study in itself, then for the fact that they all occur in one place, at the same time, I enjoyed this book, as I can well relate to the “weightlessness” describe within the book’s pages.
“They were both lewd and refined, cunning and naive. Only in Moscow did they make sense, a city living in fast-forward, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, where boys become billionaires in the blink of an eye.”
“Then you wake up and my god you’re a convict”
“We move from gym to open-plan office to coffee bar to French movie to wine bar to holidays in Turkey, and it could seem better than Paris; better because it’s newer and more precious. And we can read SNOB or watch the funnies on TNT, and its a simulacrum of the whole democratic thing. It feels almost real. But at the same time the other, real Russia rumbles on like a distant ringing in the ears. And it can grab us and pull us in at any moment.”
“The mothers come to the generals, beat and weep on the doors of the commanders, cry about their sons’ freedoms (money by itself is not always enough; you have to earn the emotional right to pay the bribe).”
[So that’s why they’re always crying. Never understood that before, why so much theatre.]
“But even when you know the whole justification for the President’s war is fabricated, even when you fathom that the reason is to create a new political technology to keep the President all-powerful and forget about the melting economy, even when you know and understand this the lies are told so often on Ostankino that after a while you find yourself nodding because its hard to get your head around the idea that they are lying quite so much and quite so brazenly and all the time and at some level you feel that if Ostankino can lie so much and get away with it doesn’t that mean they have a real power, a power to define what is true and what isn’t, and wouldn’t you do better just to nod anyway.”
I don’t find myself nodding so much because it is difficult, but more because one cannot expect the people who live there, who have internalized it, to believe that another reality exists. The admittance that news is fabricated in Russia, is the admittance that news is fabricated in the west; that politicians are corrupt in Russia is also the admittance that politicians are corrupt in the West; and so what difference is there really, we Russians remains better off with what we have than anything the West can offer. It is that very loss of reality, the lack of truth, that makes anything possible; and if the possibility of anything is what the West offers, then it is no different to the Russian way; and if not, then why give up the Russian way wherein everything is possible. How to live, with ourselves, with one another, seems to remain the question of the ages. In Russia I feel a disconnect between the practicality of that question and its theory, a favor towards theoretical discussions, resulting in mass experimentation; experiments that can never be blanketed across the vastness of its land or that of time, and a population found enslaved to whichever experiment is happening in their particular space and time. This results in a give and take without conclusion, experiment conducted here, price for it paid there; conducted now, price paid then. I see no conspiracy, no group behind it all, no master conductor, the experiments just continue, resulting in no more than experiments of their own.