Documentary Elena Srapyan About Her Favorite Books

A life 2023

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Documentary Elena Srapyan About Her Favorite Books
Documentary Elena Srapyan About Her Favorite Books
Video: Documentary Elena Srapyan About Her Favorite Books
Video: They Also Had Dreams. Dagestan women tell about their lives / Documentary 2023, February

IN THE HEADING "BOOKSHELF" we ask the heroines about their literary preferences and publications, which occupy an important place in the bookcase. Today, documentary filmmaker, journalist, producer, creator of the Amazonas project, Elena Srapyan, talks about her favorite books.

INTERVIEW: Alisa Taezhnaya

PHOTOS: Alena Ermishina

MAKEUP: Lyubov Polyanok


Elena Srapyan


For me, in general, the world is surreal in many ways.

And most of all

I love literature where it is verbalized


Like many people in Russia, I didn't have a very high-class childhood. And books for me were the main way of escapism. I remember, for example, a completely strange day. I was twelve years old, I was sitting at home, reading Salinger all night and listening to "AuktsYon". Dawn broke around six in the morning, I took the first bus from Voronezh and drove out of town. I went for a walk in the field and forest, three stray dogs became attached to me, and I ran with them through the fields. It was all part of an alternate world outside of boring real life.

The books definitely gave me depth of thinking, developed imagination and a very emotional perception of everything. At any moment I could insert the player into my ears, take a book - and that's it, as if I didn't exist. Maybe this ability to go into myself and fictional worlds gave me the ability to immerse myself in other people. Feel what is happening to them, why this is happening, notice their oddities, perceive them as literary heroes. For me, in general, the world is surreal in many ways. And most of all I love literature, where it is verbalized.


Joseph Conrad

"Heart of Darkness"

"Heart of Darkness" is a very famous plot that has been exploited more than once. For me, as a person who incredibly loves the jungle, the book is very important and perfectly conveys the feeling of a European in these places. Now we perceive such places very flatly: some kind of fertile territory where everything blooms and everything is beautiful. In fact, the jungle is an eerie, mystical, very unpleasant place for humans. And Konrad incredibly conveys a sense of this worldly horror - as if you are overwhelmed by an ancient power that is gradually driving you crazy.

If you read the memoirs of travelers, many have disappeared, many suffered mentally. This is the environment that bites you - something pulls you, bites you all the time, you feel that it is huge and breathes. That all this is a very living space that absolutely does not tolerate you. And when you are there, you feel that everything flows according to other laws that are beyond your control. Heart of Darkness is mainly about this.

Daniel Everett

“Don't sleep - snakes are all around! Life and language of the Amazonian jungle Indians"

"Do not sleep - there are snakes around!" - a book by the American linguist and former missionary Daniel Everett. When we were filming in Latin America, we stuck in Venezuela for a month. Since we were afraid that we would be robbed, we only had one camera with us for two, a telephone and a reading room. We just got back from the jungle, spent a week in the Yanomami community and didn't understand. That is, we realized that these are people who are very different from us, but we know too little about their psychology to somehow interpret their actions.

And we started reading Everett's book. It is dedicated to the people of Pirah in Brazil - they do not have the usual notation for numbers, they do not learn Portuguese and practically do not borrow everyday moments that we understand. Everett speaks of something similar: that indigenous people have, for example, a cult of inner strength, that they eat little and sleep little, in general, are very similar to the Yanomami we are studying. The book literally opened our eyes to what we had been in for a week. And for us it was the first step towards understanding the psychology of the Amazonian peoples.

Louis-Ferdinand Celine

"Journey to the End of the Night"

This is my favorite book.I almost always had older friends who were very well versed in music, film and literature. I spent several years almost completely with a couple of friends: we watched movies for days, read books, listened to music. This is just a book from that period and probably the one that impressed me the most. Most of the books I've read lately are much weaker in my opinion. And I still love Selina very much, and he never ceases to amaze me. But he is a completely creepy person, and despite my love for him, I often cannot finish reading his books.

A Journey to the End of the Night is a very naturalistic book, written in almost flat language. There is a lot of poetics of absolute darkness and hatred in it, into which the hero Selina plunges more and more - and you are with him. There are authors like Mamleev whom I did not choose for the "Shelf", but they are very close to me. And although I am a kind, cheerful person and grew up in an optimistic world, the anhedonistic perception of the world is very close to me, it reflects some parts of myself.

Howard Lovecraft

"Ridges of Madness"

I hate classic horrors, they bore me from the very first pages. Lovecraft has always been considered the ancestor of the genre, so I never read it, although at one time I studied a lot of science fiction. And then at twenty-two (that is, not very early) I became interested in it - it turned out that this is the madness that I really like. A very corrosively described everyday life, post-Victorian, one might say. When the world begins to float - and incomprehensible entities appear, which are not fully explained. The otherworldly simply comes into this world and remains in it with us. Just recently sat down to re-watch Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness - and it's half Lovecraft, half Stephen King.

Alfred Döblin

"Berlin. Alexanderplatz. The story of Franz Biberkopf"

This is an incredibly voluminous work, which Fassbinder did not in vain made a film of thirteen hours in length. What is rare for me is a story without any fantasy and mysticism. There are many familiar, unpleasant and ambiguous things in it. The protagonist Franz Biberkopf is disgusting literally from the first pages, and Döblin's Berlin is also generally unpleasant. But at the same time, everything that happens in the book is so human and eats into you so much that by the middle you suddenly realize that you are also Franz Biberkopf. And the whole era is Franz Biberkopf. After all, this is not a person - this is a phenomenon.

Now, when I try to search for books, I want to read something comparable in terms of monumentality to what impressed me many years ago - and Döblin cannot be denied monumentality. When I went to Berlin for the first time, I had two handbooks to guide me through it. This is “Berlin. Alexanderplatz”, and“Children from Zoo Station”by Christiane F. These are two Berlin - I don't even know which one is worse.

Tom Stoppard

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"

In general, I prefer to watch Stoppard in the theater. But Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is just a dialogue that stretches throughout the book, and it is really more convenient to read it on paper. Again, my favorite surreal world and endless dialogue that just doesn't need anything else: no illustrations or plot twists. It is so good, full, interesting in itself, there are so many small jokes, humor, questions - this is a perfect form.

Paul Cronin

Meet Werner Herzog

I read this book quite recently, although we have been looking at Herzog for many years and are largely guided by him. Werner Herzog is my role model, an absolutely German tank. At seventeen or eighteen years old, he came to the big uncles-producers, who approved his application by phone; they turned him around - and he made his own production company. Absolute DIY concept, direct action theory very close to me.After all, until now, especially in the Russian world, they tell you that this is not possible, that they do not work that way, that everything should be done in a normal way - and “normal” always means a lot of money and a lot of people and compromises. When you read Herzog, you understand that all this is unnecessary. That it is worth just doing what you think is necessary, and as you see fit. I really love his anarchism, a completely punk attitude towards everything, including himself.

What I, of course, really want to learn from Herzog - to look at people. When you, like a woodcarver, take a piece of wood in your hand and you know that it has something inside. It's the same with movie heroes: you need to be able to discern, prove to others that it exists, convey this depth to the cinema.

Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry

"Helter Skelter: The Truth About Charlie Manson"

This is a book about Charlie Manson, written by the chief attorney in his case. I think it's a benchmark nonfiction, one of the best I've read in the last few years. I worked for two years in a human rights organization, in the Civic Assistance Committee for Refugees, and I learned a lot of legal details from the book. Bugliosi describes the procedural moments in a very interesting way. Helter Skelter reads like an adventure novel, even though you're just being told about the trials - or how the physical evidence was sought.

The book also contains an incredible amount of comical moments when you suddenly realize that not only in Russia, the investigation is carried out through the ass. What does the evidence mean? And the murder weapon? Did the TV people find the clothes in which the murder was committed? I mean, she spent three weeks somewhere? It's like The Wire, but very absurd and funny. Still very interesting is the figure of Bugliosi himself, who, like Superman, quickly resolves all issues: he turns out to be Manson's antagonist and the classic "good - bad" dynamic begins.

Gillian McCain, Legs McNeill

“Please kill me! The true history of punk rock in the stories of the participants"

I read this book in portions in a few days: I already listened to all this music and loved it very much. Every time I came across a song title in a book, I threw it into the playlist. It was a classic Moscow autumn, and I read about all this punk frenzy. I was just having a break in my carbon monoxide life, and this book returned it to me - I seemed to go on a spree for a week. She's so hot! These people, whom you are used to seeing on the covers of magazines, sleep on the same floor, someone steals something from someone, throws it at the dough, David Bowie changes into someone else's clothes. And to see them in such an everyday context is very cool and interesting. I can imagine what a tremendous amount of work the authors have done, how many recordings have been made, the artists have been questioned and the hours have been deciphered - this is a real work.

Ahmed Rashid

Taliban. Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia"

The book was written by a Pakistani journalist, also from the time I spent at Civic Assistance. My colleague and friend Marina Leksina gave it to me to read. Since we had a lot of contact with Syrian and Afghan refugees, it was important for us to get to know their background. This is a chronicle of the Taliban movement from the Afghan war, even when the Soviet Union participated in it, a very exciting story about the loss of statehood. Just when I was reading it, ISIS was popular (a terrorist organization whose activities are prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation. - Approx. ed.), which unfolded in full force. In a strange way, the "Islamic State" was perceived then as an absolute phenomenon, and in fact, the Taliban did the same many years earlier.

The story of the Taliban is actually very familiar: the radical movement is entering a country desperate from war, in which nothing works and there is a lot of blood. And people are so exhausted, yearned for order, that they believe in this policy.The book puts in place the idea that the world is black and white, and it is very useful to read it if you think that someone is good and someone is bad. It just shows how political war games work, what motives different states have, what role global money plays.

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