It's been 33 years since Sergei Dovlatov passed away
A great man who told us, the ex-citizens of the Great and Mighty (USSR), about ourselves, the Soviet people, who in search of freedom and sausage had crossed the ocean. It seems that only he knew what the meaning of our Soviet freedom was. That's what he wrote about.
It seems to me that every Russian-speaking person, our Soviet emigrant living in the Big Apple, has his own personal Dovlatov inside. It is such a marker of the Soviet emigrant's conscience, like a personal Jesus from a Depeche Mode song, gnawing at our souls, forcing us to change for the better.
One morning a man wakes up hung over in his ocean view Brighton apartment after a raucous party at the restaurant “Tatiana”. And there seems to have been no change in his life. Everything is as usual at home: a refrigerator full of food, in the freezer vodka and dumplings "Ot Olezhki". The two-bedroom apartment is furnished with furniture from IKEA. Trump is on a three hundred channels TV. Such a normal life of an ordinary middle class Soviet person who jumped out of a scarce (deficit in the USSR) pair of Indian cut Avis jeans. It seems that he has all he needs, he is stuffed and happy. But still there's a lingering feeling in his chest. He feels a lasting sense of nostalgia for old Russia. Could this be the same emigrant nostalgia that the pothouse singer Kurban sang to him about yesterday in "Tatiana"?
No, it could not. What nostalgia?! The man has been in America for a long time, everything is fine, everyone is happy. What matters most is that he's happy!!! The store on 5th Brighton got fresh persimmons yesterday. But something's still wrong.
Our immigrant puts on his slippers and shuffles to the mirror. He looks closely and sees a different person. In that reflection, he realizes that he, this man, is a complete shit. He is a cunning, mean, indifferent, greedy, envious, living according to the laws of the mainstream guy. That no one loves him here, as well as he does not love anyone here. Although everyone smiles and says only pleasantries when they meet him, he has no real friends. They're just convenient people he uses and who use him in return. Even though he left socialism and moved to capitalist America, he's established his own version of socialism here. He's remained a freeloader, a weasel, and a greedy man who likes to count other people's money. For him the American dream is nothing more than a scam to get people to pay high mortgage interest rates. That basically all the people in the neighborhood are just like him.
Maybe when he moved to a different country, he became a heartless, evil troll like the hero in Andersen's fairy tale who had a piece of the Snow Queen's mirror in his eye. In that brief moment between full awakening and the morning hangover drink, a man reconsiders his values. It is then that his personal Dovlatov awakens in him, and with his trademark smirk this personal Dovlatov hands the Brooklyn commoner a life-smelling, worn-out "Inostranka"(popular Soviet magazine with foreign authors) with pages yellowed from old age. A man reads a book, but actually looks into the mirror of his soul in which he sees his own reflection. Seeing the reflection of his soul, he will definitely want to change for the better. That's why we, who emigrated from the Soviet Union, should go back and read Dovlatov's works more often. In order not to forget who we are here, living in the land of chances? Who we were and who we are? So that we can change ourselves and become better.
Only one thing worries me - why does a person, especially a writer, have to leave our world young in order to be believed, loved, and his works to be read eagerly? Imagine how much richer and cultured our world could be. If on August 24, 1990, in New York, the heart of the great Dovlatov hadn't stopped beating...
"There is a feature by which you can distinguish a noble man once and for all. A noble man perceives every misfortune as payment for his own sins. He only blames himself, no matter what kind of sorrow he has to face." - Sergei Dovlatov, "Rmeslo" ("The Craft").
Author: Denis Liba