This book comprises a deadpan diary-style account of a year in the life of the narrator, a not especially successful author who finds himself writing publicity material for firms in the oil and gas industry, having his job on a magazine downsized, going to readings where everything that is read is declared excellent. I think that the interest comes from the way that Danilov doesn’t tell us the kind of things you might expect in such a memoir, so the whole weight of literary expectation presses through the words we actually see on the page.
There are an awful lot of these books in both Russian and English where the hero is an unsuccessful literary man. Normally he is supported by a rather more competent wife (who in the invariable plotline leaves him for someone more useful) and expresses detailed and bitter opinions about the unfairness of it all and the marginal position of literature. Not here. The narration sticks to the facts and the narrator lives alone and spends his evenings playing at being a football manager on the Internet. He also visits a literary conference in New York and–as one does in foreign places–spends his time wandering around in a half-dazed state and looking for electrical adaptors, a place with Wi-Fi, and collecting superficial impressions of what he sees around him.
The way the narrator charges in and pays full price for everything must be another play on our expectations, like the anti-literary style. We give an extract below.
855 bus, Vykhino, Kuznetsky Most, Prospekt Vernadskogo, the building where the company that controls gas is located. Interview with a boss who was boss of the company that controls gas for twenty-one years.
Narrative of the former boss of the company that controls gas about how the company (in those days–Administration) controlled gas under his direction.
Narrative of the former boss of the company that controls gas about how at the beginning of his career he worked on the construction of the Seroukhov-Leningrad pipeline and how once during the night there was an explosion on the pipeline, and for a long time KGB agents questioned him about how and what.
Narrative of the former boss of the company that controls gas about the difference in the principles of construction of the gas transport systems of Russia and the USA.
Narrative of the former boss of the company that controls gas about the terrible explosion on the pipeline near Voroshilovgrad. The explosion occurred beside a railway track, as a result of the action of high temperatures the rails changed from a solid state to a liquid one, and just then a train came along, the driver managed to brake, and if he had not managed then people would have perished, but fortunately nobody perished because the driver managed to brake and if he hadn’t managed to break then people would certainly have perished, and not just people, but children, the train was full of children who they were taking from the south to somewhere in the north, the children had been on a holiday in the south and they were going to their permanent location, and then there was such a terrible accident, a good thing that no-one was hurt, that the driver managed to brake.
A pleasant man to talk to, cheerful, with an attentive, lingering gaze he could probably have managed the company that controlled gas for another twenty or twenty-five years but there you are–he doesn’t manage it.
Painful sensation in the hip region, limping.
Prospeky Vernadskogo, Kuznetsky most, Vykhino, the 855 bus, Kozhukhovo.
Need to devote some more time to the company that controls gas, but OK, it’s not compulsory, play at football manager on 11×11.ru, win, win, win, draw, loss, win, win, win, draw, loss, win, win, win, draw, loss, loss, win, win, draw, loss, loss, loss, loss, that’s enough now, as much as you can manage, horizontal position and, as usual, sleep.