I don’t read much non-fiction, but somehow the biography of Eduard Limonov made it onto my reading list. Limonov is a Russian celebrity full of contradictions, poet, political antihero, bum, author–an interesting guy. The book is written by a French author, Emmanuel Carrère, and translated by John Lambert. Limonov grew up lower-middle class at the end of the Stalin era, the beginning of huge changes in Russia. This is from Carrère’s introduction:
“I live in a calm country on the decline, where social mobility is limited. Born into a bourgeois family in Paris’s Sixteenth Arrondissement, I became a bourgeois bohemian in the Tenth. The son of a senior executive and an eminent historian, I write books and screenplays and my wife is a journalist… from both a geographical and a sociocultural point of view, you can’t say life has taken me very far from my roots–and that’s true for most of my friends as well.
“Limonov, on the other hand, has been a young punk in Ukraine, the idol of the Soviet underground, a bum, and then a multimillionaire’s butler in Manhattan, a fashionable writer in Paris, a lost soldier in the Balkans, and now, in the fantastic shambles of postcommunism, the elderly but charismatic leader of a party of young desperadoes. He sees himself as a hero; you might call him a scumbag: I suspend my judgement on the matter. But…his romantic, dangerous life says something. Not just about him, Limonov, not just about Russia, but about everything that’s happened since the end of the Second World War.
“Something, yes, but what? I’m writing this book to find out.”