The novel "Iceland": a travel guide from places where people have not yet been

The novel "Iceland": a travel guide from places where people have not yet been
The novel "Iceland": a travel guide from places where people have not yet been
5 October, 10:57Culture
The new novel by Alexander Ilichevsky "Iceland" (M .: Alpina non-fiction. 2021) differs markedly from his previous and relatively recently published "Newton's Drawing".


In Iceland, what is considered to be important, if not decisive for the novel: the plot, the psychology of the characters, the persuasiveness of the story being told, means much less. Not that all of this is not in the new text, but it is about significance, about specific gravity. This difference in significance proves the author's organic ability to change with each new book, without losing his individual originality. Therefore, the definition of "next" does not fit the books of Ilichevsky in general and this one in particular.

In "Iceland" there is a hero who is surrounded by many people associated with him by kinship, love, friendship, work. There is a plot based on an unusual intrigue. The action takes place in different and, of course, real-life countries. But with such a generally understandable basis, this whole novel is sheer unnamed and inexplicable, phantasmagoric, mystical, magical fabric, nevertheless woven from threads that can be touched by hand.

The main character named Mikhail was born in Baku. His Absheron childhood is full of strong and vivid impressions that are necessary for an outstanding person for the future. Together with numerous relatives, he leaves for the United States, where there is also no shortage of impressions of this kind, then, already alone, he moves to Israel. And here he plunges into reality, which gives him much more than arbitrarily diverse impressions - into reality outside of reality, although at the same time he will accept a myriad of reality saturated.

Here, for example, the following fragment gives an idea of how the ordinary is connected with the higher forms of the spirit:

"In the upper left corner of" Adoration of the Magi "by Gentile da Fabriano, if you overcome the rich foregrounds filled with figures and faces, about which there is not enough paper, you can see three shy from fatigue and loss of magicians who climbed to the top of the mountain to see the great invisible - Christmas star. Once I spent two days near this mountain, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, near Bethlehem. I liked to go out of the tent at night to smoke, looking at the mountain outline, near the ancient road, on which Mary's waters broke, and she hurried back to her dwelling".

Immersion in such a world and the ability to see such rapprochements in it makes the hero a writer. He receives a creative scholarship in Germany, but what he managed to experience in biblical reality turns out to be stronger than "a relatively serene bay looming ahead of the course." Michael returns to Israel, to his work as a surveyor, and settles in Jerusalem, composed "of temporary layers of different thickness - permeable, punched in unexpected places by intricate passages, through which the spirits of antiquity sometimes rush at their feet." He meets Miriam, whom he considers "the female hypostasis of Jerusalem - somewhat callous in its mysteriousness, in the notes of rude directness with which the city did not repulse you, but limited, led, showing that he would never call, but will always reward inquisitiveness", and this even more refines his understanding of reality. He settles in the outskirts of Jerusalem's slums, in an area whose main street is called Iceland in honor of the country among the first to recognize Israel. Subsequently, trying to imagine the life of his great-grandfather, Michael will give the name "Iceland" to the ghost ship, which, in his imagination, rescues his great-grandfather on the high seas. A leviathan was placed in pieces in the hold of the ship, and the passengers were struck by a strange disease: it seemed to them that their most secret desires were fulfilled in their lives and complete happiness came. From this, the passengers began to throw themselves overboard, because of which the ship was empty, and the captain went blind.

By the time this vision of the great-grandfather is born in the hero's head, it is already clear that he sees life in a very strange way. Or, rather, that his life is strange in all its manifestations, and the work of a topographer is phantasmagorically strange too:

“The book's management just needs to prove that the Earth as a whole is a unique place on the planet, where the deposits of the alphabet have the highest values. I have nothing against such a strange idea. The earth generally settled down on ideas that had no ground underfoot. So why not now resort to the development of hypotheses suspended as if in the air, because the future tense contains the venerable kingdom of incredible events. “Golden alphabetic signs”, which are found everywhere and come to the surface, try to understand where the industrial extraction of the text is possible by the configuration of their emergence. Alphabetic signs are ubiquitous, but their critical concentration is extremely important, because in such places one can hope to find the sacred scrolls".

The author gives what is happening with the hero a logical explanation in literary use: it turns out that Mikhail is taking part in an experiment - a silicon capsule is implanted into his brain, which is why some of the physiological functions were replaced by organic algorithms. But one should not think that the strangeness of the hero's existence is in fact explained by such a generally understandable plot introduction. The originality of the action is determined by the fact that it takes place in Israel, where “landscape diversity, with the help of a certain metaphysical link, is related to the diversity of the population's cultures , and the relationship with the landscape is akin to musical expressiveness, when a bush in a ravine sunk in a fog of dewy twilight , evokes a response with its mysteriousness, hardly explicable significance, some kind of message, whose intimacy is more important than words".

It seems obvious that it is not the experimental silicon in the head, but the earth itself that gives the hero the ability to penetrate into the essence of the universe through its various details. And the land determines the genre of the text written by Ilichevsky, which he himself confirms in this text: "The genre of a kind of travel guide in places still invisible to man seems to me now the only correct one".

And how exciting this genre is! For Ilichevsky, it has nothing to do with an individualized guidebook “as I see Rome (Paris, China, Antarctica, then everywhere)”. His hero seeks to understand that component of the world order, which is impossible to understand in principle, and acquires a variety of different information at different levels of understanding of life.

Here's a household one:

"Maluach, a salt quinoa, whose silvered leaves I dried for a few hours and rubbed in my palms, so that I could use the resulting crumb instead of seasoning for rice, became a special shrub for me".

Here is a politico-social one, from a friend's story:

“My father believed Ben-Gurion and followed him with his eyes closed. Only occasionally did I open one eye to make sure that Ben-Gurion's own eyes were not closed".

Here is a literary one, with an unexpected commentary on Mandelstam's "Poems about the Unknown Soldier":

“Once, on the first day of Sharav, I found myself on the top of a hill on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and suddenly the breath of the desert came: gusts of hot wind burned my cheeks, peeled my eyes, fell asleep with dust, and there was a feeling that the genies of the desert, tormenting Aladdin, came to the city and were dancing over hills, stomp and swat. It was quite creepy to watch how the sigh of "Arabian mess, crumb" escaped, the fiery dog of the incandescent abyss licked our city".

Here is - relatively speaking, culturological, in the Golan:

“But now I feel with my palms the rough marble tongue of millennia - the body is not just columns, I now stand not just on stones and rubble - fragments of meaningless time, but on the basis, literally on the foundation of the very building, on the upper floors of which there are and Apple, and Google, and the present. The seemingly obvious continuity and integrity of the plan suddenly felt piercingly".

The hero hears in his wandering through the invisible the words with which the world was created, he understands that “the universe was created not only with letters and numbers, but also with the help of sayings as the Talmud says: the world is just someone told history” - and his very life, seemingly fiction, becomes a plan.

Iceland ends with poems written by the hero. However, this is so, if we follow the tradition of Doctor Zhivago. In Alexander Ilichevsky, the author of the final poems is not so unambiguously defined, and this has a separate flickering meaning. But be that as it may, the last line cannot be denied in the summary: "Life ceases to be a ghost if you extract letters from it".

And this is what the author opposes to death and oblivion.

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