admin On marzo - 8 - 2011

Book Focus:
Sami Po Sebe – Alone With Ourselves
– Sergej Bolmat –

If I was Sergej Bolmat, born in Petersburg, 1960, before starting my Sami po sebe (Alone with ourselves) I could perhaps have fought against the phantoms of Dostoevskij, Tolstoj, Nabokov (still living, at that moment, but already a sort of icon thanks to his Lolita, published in Paris, 1955), Gogol, Suskind, Solgenitsin and a few people like those, who are almost the best writers ever. And if I was him, I would probably also have moved from my country to another one, Germany, for example, just like Bolmat himself did. As a matter of fact, both Russian history and literature are strongly melt up with the forceful personhood of its inhabitants, mirrors of what the “everymen” thought and did during the centuries, passing through civil wars, revolutions, inventions, communism and several other deep changes. The Soviet Union Intelligentsia, a social class of people engaged in many sided, mental and creative labor shoot for the development and spreading of culture, wrapping the near and the far ones thanks to school teachers and artists, has surely been one of the worst enemy of the Russian freedom of expression, especially between ’70s and ‘90s, when the Union was about to implode. Gorbačëv with his perestrojka (an open-minded public policy), together with Eltsin government, helped out the birth of the P Generation, where P means Pepsi Cola, a kind of melting pot of young Russian people grown in the ‘80s, who experienced the very ground, the rubbles of the ancient Establishment, the confusion of a new System, in such an old country. Bolmat was one of those P boys.

His Sami po sebe, according to the rest of the P books, is a kind of tragic, cynical, black humored portrait of the disenchanted youth Sergej wrote for, people who don’t care about duties and morals, lonely hearts who are about to break out, because of their own loneliness, because of drugs, because of their vacant parents. Firstly free shared on the net (before being published), this cruel novel is a milkshake of pop culture, splatter, B movies, European literature, philosophy and own experience, a magic land where Tarantino meets Nabokov, luckily;  through its pages lot of people dies and gets hurt but “… However”(who cares?), seems to prompt us the author. Bolmat culture’s, pervaded of conflicts, shows how what you want to be may be different from what you can be, even in the 2000, and, despite if you try to fulfill the distance with tricks or dodges, your hands still remain tied. Alone with yourself, you can only grope in the dark, trying to puddle in the mud of the incoming century; but, according to this book, life gets less important when you agree to your naught: if you understand this, you can be free of turning in someone else, someone new. A killer, for example. Or a father, a mother, an adult, maybe.

The main characters, Marina and Tema, are full of antithesis, they can both be emotional and opportunist, bad mannered and fragile, civilized and rough, depends on the situation. The password is self preservation, no fear of how and why, and even in the worst trouble ever, the two of them can easily find a way to get the fire exit, and ward off the danger. Once upon a time Marina was pregnant, cohousing with her boyfriend Tema, putting up with his infidelity; out of the blue, she is single, living with a friend of her and about to have the baby. She works as a makeup artist in a funeral home, wishing for a better day to come, just like millions of the contemporary Russian boys and girls; all around her, doped people and bum, criminals, whores and wretches, grope all together: a sort of close up of the coeval Petersburg’s lower class. Tema, despite himself, is still in love with her, even if he has beaten his girlfriend during her pregnancy; there is no rational reason for his abuse, it just happened. As a matter of fact, Bolmat suggests us that bad happenings have to be, even if they are no likely to come. Marina knows it, so that’s why she tries pointlessly to mend the relationship with her ex boyfriend who has no job and smokes up his whole day while writing poems. Instead of being sad, Marina tries to take her mind off of him, somehow; late in the afternoon, while she is about to choose a movie for hire, she meets a hireling, and her life changes unexpectedly.

It depends on you to discover how, from now on.

by Silvana Soffia


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