INTERVIEW: Alisa Taezhnaya
PHOTOS: Alexander Karnyukhin
MAKEUP: Irene Shimshilashvili
IN THE HEADING "BOOKSHELF" we ask journalists, writers, scientists, curators and other heroines about their literary preferences and publications, which occupy an important place in their bookcase. Today Elena Kostyuchenko, a special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, shares her stories about her favorite books.
We cannot see the world through the eyes of another person, but literature helps to get closer to him. You can get into the head of a dead man - wow
Literature for me has ceased to be something sacred, which only bearded men from textbooks do, in the tenth grade. Then I lived in Yaroslavl and went to a circle for high school students, in which we discussed contemporary authors - from Viktor Pelevin to Tatyana Tolstaya. I always read a lot, but after moving to Moscow it turned out that there is a whole layer of literature that all the Muscovites of journalism loved - and which I did not know at all. All modern foreign countries from Suskind to Palahniuk. I panicked. I went to the book fair at the All-Russian Exhibition Center and bought two thousand books. It was money for a month from my mother. The rest of the month I ate buckwheat - the neighbors shared. The first six months in Moscow, I only did what I read, did not even walk properly.
Probably, the Strugatskys, Boris Vasiliev and Svetlana Aleksievich influenced me the most. I recognized Aleksievich before her Nobel Prize - she plowed me great when I was twelve. I still have a very difficult relationship with Zakhar Prilepin. Sankya and Pathology are modern classics. His books and life do not seem to contradict each other, but they do not connect at all in my head. It seems like a person who feels so keenly cannot do what he does and say what he says.
Of course, you can learn endlessly from Chekhov; this is the golden ratio. There is a "Tale of the Seven Hanged" by Leonid Andreev, there is a "Red Flower" by Vsevolod Garshin. I feel all the time that I lack knowledge of Russian. I run into the fact that I do not have enough words to describe what I saw, that I do not take the most accurate, that I do not know how, I cannot: this is both a humiliating and very sobering feeling. The description of the city in The Ugly Swans by the Strugatskys is unattainable for me. Although this is not Tolstoy - Soviet fiction.
Some say: it is easier for writers than for journalists, they are free from reality, formats and generally take the world out of their heads. But the scope of the profession is actually very helpful in writing. I understand that writers live in another dimension, for them language is like an ocean around a small fish: endless, scary and native. We cannot see the world through the eyes of another person, literature helps to get closer to him. You can get into the head of a dead man - wow.
Reading is also a way to quickly enter the desired state, move away from difficult events that you regularly find yourself in on business trips and just during work. Very often I see traumatic things. Of course, there are skills that allow you not to deeply "sink" into someone else's life. You can get yourself together at the right moment, you don't have to cry, you don't feel at all, but everything that I see and hear is, of course, deposited in me. Reading helps better than movies, it is more thorough.
Journalism is a completely unhealthy activity, of course. And when it's hard for me, I re-read something already known. The world of an unread book is always endless: you do not know where the author will take you, how cruel he can treat you. The familiar book does not surprise with new twists, but it brings comfort in itself: you can safely experience something. For a long time I scolded myself for endless rereading - there is a sea of unread. They say every journalist has a list in his head. Here I am. I didn’t even open a third of the books in my library, and I’m kind of ashamed to admit it. But my therapist convinced me that with so many variables in life, it's perfectly normal to have an island of resilience. And for me this island is my favorite books.
The world of an unread book is always endless: you don't know where the author will take you. A familiar book does not surprise with new twists, but it brings comfort
Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
I love modern science fiction writers very much, I follow them closely. I read this book several years ago and since then I return to it about once a year. I remember very well the first time I read it: I opened it in a browser at work, then printed it out, continued on the subway, then at home that evening. I finished at two in the morning, and it seemed like I was standing inside a pillar of light. This is the story of a student whose life is going through strange twists and turns - I don't want to spoil it at all. "Vita Nostra" for me is a novel about language, the mixing of the linguistic and physical fabric of the world. The book explained a lot to me about myself.
This is Mulholland Drive, written in book form forty years earlier. Natalie Sarrott looks at the world from an unimaginable angle. "Tropism" is a biology term that denotes the similarity of reflexes in plants: how they strive for light or seek support, open up or die. In more general words, tropisms are the reactions of a living, unconscious. Sarroth focuses on everyday situations, but not on the semantic and emotional component. Anyone needs to change their "focal length" (as a journalist, I absolutely must), and Natalie Sarrott is the best author for that.
We Live Wrong
These stories are somewhat similar to Sarroth - not in the way they are made, but in the fact that both writers see very differently. Buksha has a very simple, transparent Russian. Her stories often start at a random moment and end in unexpected places - they seem to ignore the classical model of storytelling at all. They look awkward, casual. I really love reading women, and Buksha is one of my favorites. I found out about her five years ago and then saw her in St. Petersburg. We even kind of took a ride in a limousine. The world around her is somehow spinning in a different way.
“Write professionally. How to overcome procrastination, perfectionism, creative crises "
A guide to overcoming writing block and perfectionism, relevant for people who constantly work with text. You can say this is my reference book: I do not have enough energy for systematic work, but I constantly use the methods described by Rettig. About three years ago, I got stuck in the most brutal writing block and almost finished myself - I’m used to defining myself through texts and profession. What could be funnier than a non-writing journalist?
Retting very clearly explains why this stupor occurs, and suggests a way around it. She writes about systemic myths that get in the way of just about everyone: inspiration as a magical state, writing as inevitable self-destruction, and so on. Lays out what the problem with writing consists of, how it is related to character traits, and why the writing block is more of a defense mechanism. In the same place - about time planning, negotiations with publishers, basic rules of working communication. Now I am sorting out my relationship with the inner dictator and I am learning to quickly finish the texts that are difficult for me. I am very grateful to the publishers and translators for this book.
A very powerful book by Roman Super - both about cancer and about love, about the music inside and inside our state, about inevitability and miracles. Super takes a scary chunk of his life and talks about it in great detail and very honestly. He is not at all shy about writing what he feels, not afraid to seem naive and vulnerable. With the author, we simultaneously studied at the Faculty of Journalism and then followed each other; I knew that he was writing this book, he asked for some publishing things - but the book stunned me.
She helped me a lot: a person close to me died of cancer two years ago. I still cannot say that I left this behind. I cried from the third page (there is nothing scary there yet) and bellowed to the very end. As if she went through everything anew, but not alone. In fact, this is a big book about love, where cancer is just a circumstance. It is also about trusting the world and about gratitude: I finished reading and called all my loved ones to say thank you.
In the mid-2000s, we had an explosive flowering of poetry (that's true), and I tried to read everyone. Now poetry is somehow outside the general agenda, but I am very worried about poets who write in Russian. Anashevich is quite special among them: he has dark magic and miracles, counting rhymes, music that cannot be confused with anything. These are very sensual poems. Sometimes I wake up and understand: I want to read Anashevich - and I read without stopping all day. And the book is thin.
“Eternal euphoria. Essay on Forced Happiness "
I hardly read philosophy - it's difficult for me. This book was a gift from a friend, it greatly influenced me. Brueckner writes that the common pursuit of happiness is a dictate of culture, moreover modern, and happiness is an imposed goal for many of us. It is the desire to be happy constantly and at any cost that makes people feel their "failure" and "inferiority" for most of their lives. At first it's shocking, but now I rather agree with Brueckner: you don't have to be happy. Life is good without it. Allowing yourself to feel different, you find in yourself and around much more reasons for joy and peace. This book is about how to get out of the competitive race to happiness - Brueckner expands the framework of normality and introduces the ability to honestly be sad, sad and angry.
These are notes of a correctional teacher, in fact a work diary, sometimes a notebook of poems. Here Berkovich describes how she works and makes friends with a girl who does not speak, does not see, does not hear and hardly walks. And they have such a serious, intense life - with all sorts of passions and joys. The “Fearless World” moves the boundaries a lot: I even began to feel my fingers in a different way.
Masha is also an example of how you can be grateful for just about everything - naturally grateful, without effort. In my work, I constantly run into questions of why the world is so arranged; Masha does not even see them, although she constantly descends into the abyss of pain and systemic misfortunes. She wrestles children from darkness and walks with them to the other side, and it's all very exciting. She is sure that the world is not scary. I often re-read this book when I become completely ungrateful: "The Ugly World" works not for pity, but for a fundamentally new view of a person.
I am very sorry that I entered the Faculty of Journalism instead of the Faculty of Philology. The newspaper would not leave me anywhere, but I would understand much more about my native Russian. From time to time I go to Vorobyovy Gory to the first humanitarian building. There are two benches on the first floor. I buy professional literature, then I read with pleasure. Such a guilty pleasure for a media worker. I, of course, will not catch up with anything and will not acquire systemic knowledge. But this greatly refreshes the sense of the language and helps to better understand some of its hidden movements. Besides, it's just wildly interesting.
Oral folk art of the inhabitants of the M1 sector
I am very fond of invented, constructed folklore. This book was handed to me in the hospital - I was lying there after the attack at the gay pride parade and was slowly losing my hearing. It was hard: my auditory nerve was damaged, journalists constantly called me asking what it was like to be a lesbian, my mother called, and it was completely beyond the bounds. This book is a description of hell and a collection of local folklore. Goralik generally thinks a lot about the structure of the world, she has a very complex and intense relationship with God. It sounds sad, but it saved me then. Saves now. The book is freaky.