Viktor Yerofeyev: Stupidity is the Characteristic of Our Time
“However, one must be born to be a writer, because writing is not about writing at all, it´s about pure passion, for whatever. It could be passion to collect stamps, for example, but you have to have such passion you can´t stop it. Finally, there is a moment when you meet with words, but you were a writer before, just pure energy and passion.”
Starting as a literary critic, Viktor Yerofeyev (born in 1947) was expelled from Russian Writers´ Union in 1979, for publishing a collection of forbidden literature. As a writer, he caught the international public eye in 1989 with his work, Russian Beauty, a book about the young heroine and her sexual exploration of different men in Russian society. Today, Yerofeyev is one of the most prominent contemporary Russian writers, with his most notable novels, Life with an Idiot and Good Stalin, translated in numerous world languages.
When I asked him about his first impressions of Ljubljana, he mentioned young people, dressed in a funny way and the joie the vivre atmosphere of the city. Similar to Prague, Warsaw, Amsterdam, and Moscow. It´s a good thing, he said, this kind of repetition, it means we´re still part of same civilisation.
Do you think there is still some future for mankind if you look to the younger generations?
Yerofeyev: If there´s no hope in young people, there´s no future! We need to have hope in youngsters. I honestly don´t think we have enough reasons to have such hope, but still, western people are not aggressive and nasty, they are nice. It´s a big foundation, but it´s not enough. The most important thing now is intelligence, cleverness. We have too much of stupidity on earth! Young people need to be professional in their political activity because we have such a big crisis of democracy and liberalism in Europe. We need to finish this terrible fight against the Islamic countries, this is the biggest challenge now.
When you say intelligence, do you mean academical knowledge or common sense?
Yerofeyev: Both. Academic knowledge is important, but it´s not enough. A part of young people should be academics, we need deeper knowledge, but common sense is also a part of being smart, and it´s missing a lot! The most important thing we need to return to is a metaphysical mindset. I am not saying we should all go back to traditional religious practices. When I speak about metaphysics, I speak about the meaning of life. And writing books, if they´re good, is precisely about that. If young people would read more, it wouldn´t be good only for their intelligence, but mostly for their search for the meaning of life. Good books are like vitamins: You put them in your head and they help you survive.
Your books are recognized as quite provocative. Is this your way to address people who read less and less, by raising some dust?
Yerofeyev: My books have been translated into 35 languages. It´s impossible to provoke everyone. You can´t provoke with sex in the Netherlands, it´s a banality there, but I can´t publish Russian Beauty or The Body in Iran, it´s too much for their culture. If I provoke someone in Iran, I can´t attain the same effect in the USA. People who are provoked have a different knowledge than I – my books are my knowledge – but I don´t see how you could do it intentionally. I don´t believe in provocation. When I write, I express the energies that come to me, I don´t consciously think about writing.
- Read the full interview on Versopolis