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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

Vladimir, or Interrupted Flight - Владимир, или Прерванный Полет - Marina Vlady He was barely ever "officially" recognized. The government would much rather pretend he did not exist. But his raspy voice and tortured guitar were coming from virtually every open window in the Soviet Union. "One day, we taking a walk along one of the central streets in Moscow. The day is hot, all the windows are thrown open, and your voice is coming from every one of them. It's hard for me to believe this, but there is no doubt: I recognize your raspy timbre, your unique performing manner. You're walking alongside me, smiling ever wider. Now I can see for myself how much you are loved here. You are happy and proud."Vladimir Vysotsky's life was like a bright star, a crashing meteorite burning in the atmosphere until its flight gets cruelly interrupted. He was an unbelievably talented singer-songwriter, adored by the people and grudgingly tolerated by the officials; leaving behind an incredible legacy of roughly 800 songs, most of whic were released as non-government-sanctioned, 'underground'recordings. He was an incredible poet since so many of his songs are examples of powerful, poignant poetry with deep often hidden meaning - rather than simple entertainment. He was a gifted stage actor, performing "Hamlet" under the direction of the amazing Yuri Lyubimov. He was a movie actor who was usually only allowed to play villains by the Soviet censors - the villains that as a result were loved more than the protagonists. His music spoke to the very heart and soul of the Soviet people. And, like a meteorite, he was burned out and gone prematurely, at the age of 42."In the car, we continue to look at each other in silence. Shadows and light alternate on your face. I see your eyes - shining and tender, hair cut short, face unshaven for two days, cheeks sunken from exhaustion. You are not beautiful, your appearance is quite ordinary, but your gaze is extraordinary. Right after we arrive at Max's, you take the guitar. I am amazed by your voice, your strength, your scream. And also - because you're sitting by my feet and singing for me alone. Eventually I begin to understand the meaning, the bitter humor and the depth of your songs. You explain to me that theater is your craft, and poetry is your passion. And right then, without any transition, you tell me that you have loved me for a long time."Vladmir, or Interrupted Flight is the story of the last 12 years of his life, written by his wife Marina Vlady, a famous French actress of Russian descent. It is written with so much love and admiration for his genius, his larger-than-life personality, for his work ethics - but also without glossing over the difficulties of living with Vysotsky, without toning down the demons that tortured him. You see, for most of his life, Vysotsky struggled with vicious alcoholism, unable to tame and control the vice. In the last years of his life, drugs followed. The battles with addiction colored the years of Vlady and Vysotsky's life together, and I appreciated Vlady's loving honesty which tried to show Vysotsky as he was, an amazing person but still painfully human, without nigh-deifying him as people are prone to do when great ones leave us prematurely."Tragedy begins. After a day or two, you try to convince me no matter what that you can drink like everybody else, that a glass or two will not hurt you, that you are not sick - and the apartment becomes empty. Soon, you disappear as well. And the most difficult part begins: I lock myself in the apartment with you to pry you away from the bottle. Two days of shouting, moaning, threats, two days of stuck in one place, loss of balance, jumps, falls, spasms, puke, insane headache. I pour all the liquor out, but if, unfortunately, there is a mere drop of alcohol anywhere in the apartment, I'm racing you to it to pour that out, too, before you can take a gulp."Marina Vlady writes this book as if she's speaking to her Volodya, addressing him directly. Her narrative is not linear, meandering a bit, skipping back and forth between significant events in their lives, commenting with sad surprise on the realities of Soviet life that were mundane to Vladimir but strange to a wealthy French beauty.She gives us the glimpse into Vysotsky's creative process, giving context to some of his well-known songs. She tells us about so many people that came up to Vysotsky completely convinced that he had been in a war with them, that he had been mountain-climbing with them, that he even had been imprisoned with them. It was unbelievable to people that he could write with such passion and truth about things that he hasn't experienced - but that was the unparalleled genius of Vladimir Vysotsky."You don't like stories about the war, but, just like for every Soviet person, they are a part of your culture. These people, whom you love deeply, find in your songs the echoes of the tragedy that had not spared a single family: twenty million dead, millions of the crippled and orphans, thousands of destroyed towns and villages, annihilated from the face of the Earth.At your concerns, the adorned with medals veterans cry. The young people are serious and immersed in thoughts. Your songs do more for peace and the memory of the dead than all the movies, documents, monuments and official speeches all put together. But, having been born in 1938, you haven't taken part in the war."Thanks to Vlady's fame and the interference by some well-connected higher-ups, Vysotsky was finally and reluctantly granted a visa to travel outside the Soviet Union. Vlady shows us his impressions of the great abroad (the one that particularly resonated with me was his disbelief and tears when he saw the way people lived in Germany, the country that was the aggressor towards the Soviet Union and was defeated by it, and still enjoyed the unbelievable to Soviet people standards of living). He loved seeing other places, he enjoyed playing concerts to emigrants and 'natives' alike, but at no time did he ever consider abandoning the Soviet Union for good. You see, he was not chasing some elusive idea of freedom if it meant giving up his roots, the land that he loved, the people whom he loved and who adored him, who sustained him and his creativity. And for this, I admire him and his inner strength and integrity.""More painfully than other boys of your generation you feel Stalin's directions, slander, conceit, and tyranny. You will condemn all that in your songs. Crushed by the banality surrounding you, marked by the historical situation - 'do not judge the winners' - you are crippled and broken not physically, like your friends, but mentally, in your soul."I loved this book for allowing me to see the human, often faulty, side of the incredible, fascinating person whose songs I used to listen to as a child, completely blown away, on my parents' tape recorder, whose songs now have a different, incredible, deep meaning to me as an adult. 4.5 stars.----------------------------------------Here are some links to Visotsky's music (with subtitles for my non-Russian speaking friends: The Ballad of the Fallen Friend, Fastidious Horses, and my personal favorite - I don't like. Also, a link to the 1976 60 Minutes video with him, in English.