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Orbits over trajectories
Dmitry Pan 




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      It swirls, rises under the cover of steam, is about to rise outside. It would be necessary to recoil, otherwise it will burn, but a strange sensation for a moment stops in indecision. The steam is not hot, but cold. And the digestion breathes not with heat, but with cold. As if liquid nitrogen swirls in its depths. And the depth is somewhere for kilometers. You look, and not only that, it will take your breath away - it will blind your consciousness: you won’t be able to resist, you will fall down and wake up on the other side of the planet,   icy and turning into steam.

      Горючее в ракетах сверхдальних сжиженным охлаждённым газом готовится запылать и вырваться направленным взрывом полёта. Is it up to the consciousness of the human mind in the moments of creation of flights of universal destruction? But such is the human mind that imagination is given to it. The saving power of the imagination is stronger than both super-powerful engines and nuclear megatons of the cargo that super-powerful engines are capable of delivering into the beyond. Above the trajectories of such rockets, the orbits of the beautiful and the sublime in contemporary art pass.

     Книга модной писательницы  и рассказывает нам про мирок городка из президентского ядерного чемоданчика эпохи ада холодных wars from the highest heights of the orbits of beauty as a moral ideal. This beauty of the ideal must be filled in by the reader in co-creation with the author, reading sometimes unpretentious, and sometimes frankly surreal stories of the writer about a town from fairy tales of boys for whipping and girls for thrashing. Reality and fiction, according to the laws of artistic grammar, meet here at the ball, which happens only once. It can be compared with the old graduation ball of 1941. However, the climactic event of the book is October 28, 1968. 10/28/1968 is the date of one of the thermonuclear alarms of the so-called Caribbean crisis. And the whole of Russia, and with it our entire planet, becomes the real living space of Svetlana Vasilenko's book. Fortunately, not only becomes, but also remains to this day. The alarms of the button from the nuclear suitcase remain the alarms of the war,  which could be. We hear only a silent echo of the memories of a talented writer, an ordinary Russian woman, but endowed with a remarkable literary gift. No, in Russian villages such women cannot be found with fire during the day. Now villages with such women of the city are behind barbed wire. But do people from them, these cities behind barbed wire, live freely, is it fun? If you are really interested, look under the cover of Kapustin Yar. We looked in!.. Our delight from the read book can be expressed by an exclamation point after the dots of silence and silence. With this sign, we conclude the introductory part  of our response.  ... !




          _cc781905-5cde-3194 -bb3b-136bad5cf58d_ Closing the cover of Svetlana Vasilenko's new book "Kapustin Yar", written in a mixed genre of apocalyptic novel, psychiatric thriller and literary and biographical notes, you imagine an inevitable series of reader conferences and premium presentations, round tables and press conferences - all that , which accompanies the creative path of the author of the world literary mainstream, a recognized leader and a minion of glory of real success. 

          _cc781905-5cde-3194 -bb3b-136bad5cf58d_ What is real success and real recognition for a contemporary Russian writer? This question   asks when looking at the happy smile of a writer, cinematographer, modern guru captured on the cover  of prose._cc781905-5cde-3194-bb8d5b-136 one row with  predecessors. And with this thought, the book, happily read this Crimean spring, leads along the path of literary memories and associations to Leo Tolstoy's Sevastopol essays.

"Sevastopol in May", this essay Lev Nikolayevich completed on June 26, 1855. Decades have passed. The names of the classic characters migrated to modern chronicles. What is Kalugin alone worth, in the recent past a popular American guide, and before that a Soviet general ... Yes, “vanity, the engine of all actions” takes it far. So we will say in the words of a brilliant literary guru of the past centuries, but we will not remember the path of vanity, but the thorny path of literary truth, which Svetlana Vasilenko chose for herself. And a simple wreath of wildflowers in the cover photo will lead us to this path. And it will lead to a ten-year-old Sevastopol  boy, who was picking wildflowers in a valley strewn with corpses, picked up a large bouquet and returned home. For Leo Tolstoy, who has not yet thought about such world-famous novels as "War and Peace",  "Anna Karenina", this boy "in shoes on his bare feet and nanke pants" is a symbol of the all-conquering the truth of life.  It seems that the aesthetics of modern Russian prose, the art of being above the trajectories of death and destruction, of remaining on the mountainous heights of moral and aesthetic ideals in spite of all the horrors and abominations of dirty reality. Contemporary art is art "above" ("sur"), truly contemporary art is surreal.

The heroine of a famous and fashionable writer is a holy fool, a fool, a person of schizophrenic split and paranoid obscured consciousness, and she lives in the village of nuclear missilemen, the town of the apocalypse from the President's atomic briefcase. For people, their relatives and friends from the mines with these missiles since the Caribbean crises, the possible and the actual are by no means connected according to the laws of Fonvizin's court grammar of bygone times. "Fools" who cannot withstand the stress of thermonuclear-rocket  grammars are not uncommon there. But life is life. Love and friendship, peace always win war in human society. The Sevastopol boy from Tolstoy's essays will be reminiscent of a photograph of a fashionable author from the cover of a book. And let us rejoice in the success awaiting the book, in the fact that the latest books force us to take off the shelf and re-read the volumes of the classics.          _cc781905-5cde-3194- bb3b-136bad5cf58d_

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The highways and paths of modern prose begin behind the boundary pillars left to us by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Without comparing your routes with the literary maps of the classics, one cannot blaze new paths and make significant discoveries. And no literary authority is able to lead a truly gifted literary talent into the barren spaces of emptiness and hopelessness, no matter how loud his name may be, no matter how tempting values may be indicated on his standards. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are the two peaks of prose, guided by which every modern writer checks his path. You think about this when reading a new book by Svetlana Vasilenko and looking back at the paths traversed by Russian prose.

All the spiritual forces of the people united in the creative discoveries of Leo Tolstoy. There are no other vital, organic, natural forces for the most primordial nature of the Russian human being - they are all in the work of Leo Tolstoy. The most disastrous and bottomless abysses were pointed out by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. He also entered the very sociology of Russian literature; thus Leo Tolstoy became the very biology of moral health. The pathologist of the soul is one. The indicator of health is different. And without  one, and without the other there is no original path in the literature. And when Svetlana Vasilenko reveals her reserved river Akhtuba to us on the literary map of the modern soul, we read in the legend that lasts to this day about the name of this “arm of the full-flowing and majestic queen of the Russian rivers Volga” Tolstoy’s formula of the dialectic of the soul about people as rivers. This formula   is supported by   by all the creativity of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Serafimovich - all the dialectics of the Russian human spirit. And when in Svetlana Vasilenko, in one of the scenes of the final episode, we look at the world through the eyes of a boy who cannot withstand the stress of the threat of a thermonuclear strike during the days of the so-called Caribbean crisis, we understand, following Dostoevsky, that this world is not worth a tear shed by a child. But  in the soul, every person remains a child for the rest of his human life, ─ we think after the classic over the pages of the new book of the writer.

  “I rode across the steppe for a long time, and Traktorina Petrovna stood over me:

- What are you afraid of? Me? …

She spoke to me, but her face was not visible. As if the Darkness spoke to me!” (Svetlana Vasilenko. Kapustin Yar. Moscow. PSA, 2020. ─  Page 316)

And it doesn't matter what kind of boy is hysterical. Retreating into the darkness of the nights of our not the worst of the epochs are all the "tractors", which we can easily distinguish in every pedagogical machine under the cosmetic make-up of modern "teachers". No matter how exquisite and expensive this pedagogical make-up may be, behind it is pitch darkness, in which a person cannot be distinguished.

Souls are like rivers, but any river stops at a rocky threshold, behind which a child's tear, one single tear, can turn this river into Niagara. At this threshold, both the soul and literature itself end, there is no way further.

Svetlana Vasilenko's prose reminds us of eternal values in literature and life. And no matter what tractors plowed the pristine steppe of human souls, there are paths in it leading to the heavenly temple, and the life-giving natural herbs themselves are the source of the future, stored by the soil itself.

The literary techniques and technologies of modern prose are becoming less and less accessible to the uninitiated.  The art of writing itself is no longer preserved by a detachment of officials in gymnasium uniforms and a caste of priests in temple robes, but is hidden by the very labyrinths of life in the depths of the pyramids of modern society . The thick, impenetrable wall of terminological dictionaries keeps the very names of things, sometimes simple in their artlessness. Now skill is valued in literature more than ever. And more than ever, skill in literature, despite its price, remains inaccessible.

     Светлана Василенко  к литературному мастерству шла скалистой высокогорной тропой скромной почтовой служащей, абитуриентки психологического факультета Moscow State University, students of the university philological faculty and the literary institute, students of special cinematographic courses, the practice of cinematography and television, and finally, the secretary of the trade union of writers. This path is unique in itself. The more valuable this path of literary mastery is the precious personal biographical past of the writer. Own biographical experience, which  cannot be lost  on the steepest high-altitude trails, which every professional who takes up the pen has. But even   the preserved treasure of one’s historical “I”, even not wasted at the sharp turns of history, is not given to everyone, because it is given by history, by the community of knights of the feather, and simply by literary Fortune.

Let's not turn the literary success of not only a well-known, but also a professional coming into fashion into a brief reference book on the history of taken career obstacles, barriers of a great run. The main thing is a serious sports start of birth from the poetic debut under the heading   "Scarlet Sail" in Komsomolskaya Pravda to the almanacs "Parovoz" and _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b-136debad5cf58d__cc -3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_ Ice and Fire is taken decisively and with convincing group leadership. The next round of the literary marathon, confidently begins with a new book absorbing all the preparatory experience, by no means a sprinter, but a master of long-distance running - a stayer. This experience also includes the school of feminism, which Svetlana Vasilenko goes through not as an ordinary student, but as one of the leaders, an independent guiding figure in the modern literary process, a new Amazon who by no means plays mother-daughter. The book “Kapustin Yar” is solid and very thorough in its very essence. Пусть не смущают читателя своей «легковесностью»  легкоатлетические  метафоры, избираемые рецензентом для разговора о  книге, смело объединяющей_cc781905-5cde-3194- bb3b-136bad5cf58d_ novel-life and along with   prose of ultra-modern montage style,  of angle and dialogue are classic monologue stories.

It would seem that the eyes of the forty-first Boris Lavrenyov, knocked out by a sniper shot from his beloved, swayed on the threads-nerves, and still there are no and cannot be other views, montages and angles in literature, the very right to exist which is called into question by this shot. In the smoke above the chimneys of these beautiful white literary and philosophical steamships leaving the Russian shores on a fixed-term charter, literature evaporated and came out, mixed with the darkness of thunderclouds... But then Svetlana Vasilenko scatters children's bodies across the steppe, seeking refuge in anxiety and fear from a possible thermonuclear strike, crawls out from his mink in front of the boy’s face, the unfortunate ignorant gopher behind the Lake Ritsa chocolate candy left by the naive girl not for anyone, but for this gopher in front of the mink, and you understand that the sky has many shades, and not just that that the wounded Prince Andrei saw on the field of Austerlitz. And all the latest painting of modern art literature continues. New views are also possible with their angles and unexpected montages of literary attractions. And there is always an opportunity for “surrection”, an opportunity to rise above the rubbish of reality into surreality, to overcome Kierkegaard’s fear and trembling, Sartre’s existential nausea and Gogol’s horror of being buried alive by the burrowing hands of a habitually fearless necrophile among mortified and already dead souls. For those who rise to the mountainous heights “sur”, “above”   the eternal structures of being in the inviolability of their eternal anthropology are the most reliable support. Surrealism, the art of rising above reality ─ this is the mainstay  for wings seeking mountain flight.

The book "Kapustin Yar" ─ makes a new round of the rising creative path of the writer. Biographical episodes, as if on an open child's palm, are trustingly stretched to the reader through the fog of the geopolitical and social mythology of our times. And even if from the heights of the sky, whether it is spring in its expectation of summer joys, whether it is autumn in its readiness to meet the inevitably approaching winter cold, the details of children's destinies, and the children themselves, together with adults, are so small that they almost merge in a barely distinguishable movement, swarming with the soil , with the very surface of the Earth, lost among the stellar worlds in its solar orbit. This is our Russian literature, confidently entering the new twenty-first century for it, the newest intellectual and artistic age of our newest literature.  




The astral date of 1961 turned peaceful life around in an endless cycle of its symmetry. The humanity of Yuri Gagarin boldly stepped into the Cosmos, from which our planet near, from near-Earth orbits, looks so much like an aquarium for fish. And the stars were calling above. Star power arrived and became public property. Mankind for a moment froze in the immobility of the confrontation of the Caribbean Crisis of the new combatants of war and peace, froze  on the threshold of new crimes and punishments. And in the muscular tension of the exchange of thermonuclear strikes that never took place, the maturing Mankind did not notice its transformation. Паровоз 007 Редьярда  Киплинга с Джеймсом Бондом Яна Флеминга и почти игрушечные  кони и танки Николая Тихонова со старой лошадью Зиной Алексея Коркищенко  с из гвоздей forged knights ─ all military romance remained far below on the planet. The planet still bore the archaic name "Earth". In the dusty times of the mythical  distances of the past, the heroes of the Trojan War and the Crusades were already almost indistinguishable from the knights of military romance of the twentieth century. Through the swirling vapor  of liquefied gases of rocket fuel, the era of Star Wars was clearly stepping with its warmth of new energies. Nikolai Berdyaev's Diagnosis-Providence about the new Middle Ages turned into a phantasmagoric Future, which turned out to be a very real Present. This is the newest reality.  Above this reality it is not given  neither one-dimensional man can rise  in his comfortable commanding of one-dimensional measurements. Neither in the social dimension,   nor in the national, nor in any other, does uniqueness generate diversity and development in life.  136bad5cf58d_multidimensional sur required.  Otherwise, it will inevitably slide down   trajectories of falling into the abyss of wars and general destruction, collapsing to dueling barriers, into a mink to an unfortunate gopher flooded by a united ruthless pioneers in the struggle for a single detachment of pioneers mechanism of gears and sprockets of the indestructible tractor of pedagogy. Only the  multi-dimensional aesthetics  of the soaring "sur" is capable of raising human dignity above the one-dimensional ethics _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b-138d.bad.fall

One “sur” allows  in a deer being knocked down and in a praying gopher, an unfortunate  piglet, in the Tractorin pedagogical machine merging with the darkness of the night and even in a tin chest_ 3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_chocolate wrapper  candy to find and protect human dignity.   Do not rise to the orbital heights, leaving the carriage rolling down the Potemkin stairs somewhere, in the trajectory bottom, but only in an aesthetic effort of will aesthetic orbits. 

Platonov's locomotive driver can fall asleep without even noticing that he has fallen asleep, and the visions of Nekrasov's general, comfortably ranting on the train, can turn  into the dead of Boris Pilnok, wandering in hard times through the land of hunger. From this dream of machinists of the recent past, the era of star wars and the starry world gives rise to a phantasmagoria of intoxication with the freedom of an orphanage boy and girl, licking  flour from their naked bodies at Svetlana Vasilenko. The children of the underground of the new millennium are so similar to the mice from the Pandora's box of the latest psychology, which calls itself the tricky word "behaviorism" and offers an ordinary mousetrap under the guise of a magic box.

How many of them, the traps of our recent past?!  The end of the world, as the Krasnodar surrealist poet Yuri Kuznetsov informed us, is around the corner. Around the near corner and traps, luring from the orbits of the mainstream of surreality to overthrow into the maelstroms  trajectories.  And these orbits and trajectories are nearby. And pass, let's not be afraid of banality, through our souls.


Crimea, Dzhankoy. 05/19/2021.

born free

Nadezhda Azhgikhina

Svetlana Vasilenko's book "Kapustin Yar", which was awarded the 2021 Fazil Iskander Prize in the "prose" category, includes both well-known stories and novellas - "Fool", "Gopher", "Shamara" - and new texts, primarily epic narration about his native city - the heart of the "nuclear shield of the Motherland", which gave the name to the book.


Svetlana Vasilenko is one of the brightest and at the same time mysterious contemporary Russian writers. Apparently, due to her unusual talent, critics did not often turn to her texts and each time found it difficult to classify. Over the years, she was recorded as a cohort of authors of "chernukha", and as adherents of the naturalistic school, and as realists ... Her publications in journals attracted the attention of readers and at the same time confused analysts. Responding to her long-standing publications, many years ago, a respected colleague dropped a phrase that later went for a walk in collections and continents - “women's prose cannot exist, because women have a soul too close to their body.” Then, by the way, the critic became seriously interested in the work of women, his last books bear an undeniable imprint of this interest.

The new book of the writer includes both the already famous stories and stories translated into many languages and novels “For the saigas”, “Piggy”, “Fool”, as well as new texts, it makes it possible to see her universe and appreciate the creative method in its entirety.

“I lay in a black heavenly step, and stars sprouted through me, and from the earth came the stupefying smell of wormwood. The whole world was round, huge, black and hot, the whole world smelled of wormwood. The world destroyed me and grew through my useless and melting body, so that it would merge with it, like snakes, ground squirrels, lizards, and I only took care of my eyes, not yet knowing why” (Story “For the saigas”). Grass roots and starlight are the boundaries of the space of Vasilenko's prose. Her heroes and heroines are born and grow up, suffer and torment others, love and die in specific, extremely clearly defined social, temporal and geographical circumstances, and at the same time in the eternal world, in the world of nature and space, sometimes without knowing it, but invariably carrying the seal of this supreme connection. This fully applies to Nadya the Fool and her double, the holy fool Ganna from the time of collectivization from the story "The Fool", and to the lyrical heroine from "The City for the Keys with Wire", practically to everyone. The natural philosophy of Vasilenko's prose is combined with magical realism, which, perhaps, most accurately determines her method as a whole, which allows you to expand the boundaries of the genre, give free rein to the author to screw into the depths of real history, hook on a fairy tale and folklore plot, and, having overcome the laws of gravity, soar, like fool-Nadya up, to the most daring dream and mystical conjecture about the meaning of our separate and common existence.

Vasilenko's world is saturated with smells, physicality, pain, he immerses the reader in the daily disorder of a provincial town that keeps the memory of the Tatar and Cossack traditions of the Caspian steppes, the wounds of the civil war and collectivization, this is life on the sidelines of Soviet civilization. But at the same time - the heart of the military-industrial complex of a nuclear superpower. In the city behind barbed wire - people who suffer and torment others, make rockets designed to destroy all life. This dichotomy - wretchedness and greatness, sometimes changing places, the beauty of the world and the horror of its inevitable destruction, the rational transformation of the world in the name of bright ideas and the triumph of violence as an inevitable result - is present in the texts. The plots are distinct and cross-cutting, flowing from story to story, transforming in each new text, highlighting new facets and turns.

The story "Gopher", which, after its first publication in 1998, struck with the depth of sympathy for all living things, doomed to death at the hands of man, today reads like a philosophical warning, a reminder of the nuclear threat that has not disappeared anywhere. Although not a word about warheads - the pioneers poison ground squirrels with bleach, prepare skins, and the poison sprinkler does not look like an atomic bomb.

“He crawled out into the light of God wet, trembling, small, as if he had just been born before our eyes from the womb of the earth, and froze, fascinated.

God's world was whole and looked at him.

Gopher burrows, the last refuge in the event of a nuclear winter, appear in many subsequent texts, in the remarks of the characters of "City for Keys with Wire" - only gophers will remain, all the rest will die ...

The feeling of a possible imminent catastrophe, not mystical, but quite understandable, tangible, is an indispensable component of most of the texts included in the book.

The main starting point of many works (and, possibly, the formation of the writer Svetlana Vasilenko) are specific events, the distant October 28, 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis. “... a siren howled throughout the city, we, with our round-the-clock group in kindergarten, sat at the tables and had dinner. We have become accustomed to the siren; that month it howled several times at night when the training alarm was howling. But today she howled in a special way.

Children are taken out to the steppe to die, because an American bomb will definitely hit a strategic object.

“The whole steppe was strewn with children: they were brought from schools and kindergartens. In the darkness, here and there, laughter, shouting, or conversation could be heard. It was impossible to kindle a fire so that it would not be seen from the American satellite. In the dark, I spread my coat on the ground. Natasha and I lay down, hiding ourselves in her coat and hugging tightly. If they kill us at night, then together” (“The City Behind Barbed Wire”).

This real childhood memory determined the heightened sense of the fragility of life, the interconnection of everything that exists, from the atom to the cosmos.

The writer comes to her hometown to shoot a movie (“The City Behind Barbed Wire”). Her walk with the director through offices, houses and streets is a traditional literary device, “walking” in search of the lost, the search not only for formal permission for filming, but also for the key to understanding the recent past, its secret springs, understanding the cause-and-effect relationships of global events. , the actions of specific people ... Kapustin Yar, the city behind barbed wire - a concentrated Russian cosmos, with its ambiguity, multidirectionality, a combination of incongruous, and with colossal energy, not always manifested and conscious.

Vasilenko's prose is cinematic; The “romance with cinema”, confirmed by many scenarios, continues in the stories “Daytime and Morning Reflections on Love” and “Kapustin Yar”, in which each story is a finished film miniature, a perfect concentration of thought and feeling.

Another through line is mother, Maria Savelyevna Vasilenko, who is present as the main character (“Mom and the Victory Parade”) or as a constant interlocutor in many texts. The relationship between daughter and mother in Russian prose is not the most developed topic, and Svetlana Vasilenko again expands the boundaries, notes the subtlest nuances, constantly returns to the memory of the war, of women in war, of their fate. Maria Savelyevna, who went through the occupation, concentration camp, torture, inattention of the authorities, was and remains free, even in her note to the city administration with a request to provide gas and water, she retains amazing dignity, she does not ask - she reminds that the bosses can help themselves and do a good deed. As, however, many heroines of the book - Shamara, Nadya-Ganna, the lyrical heroine of "Morning and afternoon reflections on love" ...

Endless love for a mother is a source of strength, a support that does not disappear with her departure.

Like love for the world and everything that exists, they are of the same nature, the author convinces the reader of this.

The world in which Vasilenko's heroes live is tragic and rude. There is no certainty that reason or technical progress will save him.

But salvation will come, and it is most likely inevitable. And it does not matter that we do not yet understand how and where.

The story "The Fool" (the author defines it as a novel-life) is one of the best works of modern Russian prose, in which the main painful points of time, disputes and artistic search converged. The chapters of the story, immersing either in the distant years of collectivization in the Volga region, or in the everyday life of a military town behind barbed wire, or in the fabulous reality of the fantasies of the “fool” and her double, either real or fictional holy fool, fascinate with rhythm, poetic generosity of the language , "the unexpectedness of harmony" and the compressed energy of the word. Soaring into space at the end of the story, the “fool” Nadya, who gives birth to the sun and saves the world from nuclear winter - in spite of everything and everyone, is not just a powerful metaphor. Selfless faith in the triumph of life over the “death gene” (the title of the story, which, unfortunately, was not included in the book), over decay, suicidal enmity and anger, prompts us to think about how little we know about the world we came to, how important push the boundaries of habitual knowledge, and remain free in this search.

Svetlana Vasilenko. Kapustin Yar. Moscow, Union of Russian Writers, 2020.

Source: The Moscow Review of Books

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