Who’s Waving At Whom?

Freedom is Space for the Spirit by Glen Hirshberg

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“‘It’s still Russia,’ Thomas murmured.”

For whatever reason as destined by chance (I assume it was hidden in plain sight from my point of view just as the Uncle V in it at the end becomes a clown and fraud just like Boris, especially with that name, in my own country, having ever been hidden in plain sight), I did not encounter this 2017 book until today. And this first work as a major literary novella — surely it is, it reads like one to me — has duly changed its meaning organically by its own volition, as first set in motion by dint of the author’s serendipitous ‘intentional fallacy’, i.e. changed, in the circumstances of “Putinized” (a word used in the novella) world history (still ongoing history) since then.
Old Russia and New Russia. As if the happening or art installation demonstrated in the herd of mouthless bears (mutations from the bear ceremonies that populated Russian legends) in St Petersburg (where I myself visited in 2010) is an explanation of what is now happening, till even worse happens, or hopefully crazes us madder and madder with art as an insulation against inimical forces. A mad artist from the mad idealistic times of 1989-1991, become a Putin mocker with oligarchs as a partial RasPutin, mad artist as a mad scientist once with Pavlov ingredients, and mention of a Zoopark and Gorillas as if with Flannery O’Connor nuances. Just to attract readers like me and dupe me deep. 
This man, Uncle V, duped his German friend Thomas, a friend from the mad times before these even madder ones today, duped him with a telegram ironically peppered with cryptic if not Cyrillic STOPs to come to Russia to rescue him, and we follow Thomas’s rite of passage on a night train through Europe, including Warsaw, in an experience of reading moments that for me is gargantuan. We even talk to Thomas’s new baby back home through the mother’s mouthless belly. It also carries the weight of Russian Orthodoxy. And words from the happening or art movement’s motto like my own for Zeroism in 1967, and words from Auschwitz which I also visited in 2010. So much to resonate here, and I can’t cover it all here. “Slamming his own elbow…” and we have all “Grown up, given in, gotten married, gotten tired, gotten sane.” Ready to be blown up or burnt by nature. Not before reading this, though. To get my own madness back from those who stole it.

***

Full context of this review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/03/24/the-ones-who-are-waving-glen-hirshberg/

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