Anna Berseneva, writer
In the impetuous brightness with which a new outstanding author appears in the literary firmament, not only fair interest can appear, but also an unfair brevity of attention to him. Meanwhile, a writer like Aleksanlr Stesin should attract readers' attention not once or on the occasion of a literary prize, but with each of his books. Because it is already clear: it is important for Russian literature precisely as a phenomenon whose development is worth watching. And his new book "Birds of Life" (Moscow: New Literary Review. 2021) confirms this.
This is a story about how the wind of life knocks everyone down on the fly. And the thinking person knows that it will be so. And nevertheless, a person is looking for a way to resist this - perhaps not universal, but one that will save him from despair and decay.
Alexander Stesin, however, does not exaggerate the possibility of finding a rational method for this - a search of this kind in his understanding occurs with the help of very delicate settings:
“I said that a person needs experience to distinguish tragedy from hysteria, that is, the present from fiction. But the opposite can also be said: accumulated experience is just an illusion created by an imperfect memory device. Over the years, many things look much more obvious than they once seemed and, perhaps, than they really were. Retrospection is characterized by a simplification that cleverly passes itself off as a sobriety. Most likely, there is no experience, no sobriety, nothing. Only the outgoing particulars of life, which must somehow be put into words. "
The particulars of this story are diverse - ranging from geography to metaphysics; in this sense, the author does not discard the narrative experience of his “African Book”: “Where the Pan American Highway makes a bend in the hope of avoiding a meeting with bandits from Tegucigalpa, one of the most dense and picturesque sections of the earth's path begins. Having skirted the lightly dormant volcano, the road rushes down the back side of the Central American Isthmus until it hits the impassable selva of the Darien Gap. " But, in strict accordance with his own thought, he does not seek to reproduce the experience of previous books, since he realizes the futility of such an effort.
In his past - a university poetry seminar in Buffalo, a tumultuous beginning of literary life with all its illusions. The story about this will make some of the readers remember "The holiday that is always with you" (fortunately, Stesin also had a year in Paris), and some - the Moscow Literary Institute with its everlasting madness. In any case, one professor at the Institute of Literature appeared in my memory by analogy:
“I remember Kletis Ogunnaike, a tall and corpulent Nigerian, with his captivating seriousness and ability to clothe the most incredible theses in the form of elegant logical constructions. Apparently, he, like everyone else in our environment, was with greetings, but in his case we were dealing with that kind of madness that successfully pretends to be sanity and Socratic wisdom. In addition, it was a human encyclopedia, and although upon closer examination his erudition might turn out to be very superficial, none of us ever had the desire to dig deeper".
Realizing that any look from the outside means that one cannot get back inside (this is also an observation from the metaphysical range, into which, in addition to geography, psychology fits), the author "inspects" the friends of his youth, including himself in their circle, in order to understand how each of them, “having passed half of earthly life, some into the forest, some for firewood”, coped or failed to cope with the difficult task of countering entropy.
One of those with whom he studied in that poetry seminar now lives in the jungle of Central America along with other expats, including a former death-sentence lawyer, passionate about birdwatching, philosophically refers to the fact that his wife in the absence of medical care almost died of bleeding, which could very well be repeated ("why should we not live because of this now?"), and, having no illusions about the Hispanic soul, puts food and drink on the locals so that they do not like it as a neighbor burned.
Another, half Kenyan, half Irish, was converted and now proudly wears a kippa.
The third got married, gave birth, lives in a small town, looks exhausted and unkempt, began to write beautiful poetry.
Probably, each of them is aware of the same thing as the author: “A person coarsens like skin, and one fine day, with horror discovering the change that has taken place, begins to amuse himself with the hope that this is not forever, you just have to take care of yourself, bring yourself into order, return to the former "me". When he gets used to the idea that it is impossible to return, his memory seems to be reborn, begins to work in a new way, highlighting the past "I" much more clearly than before".
And what is truth?
It would be strange if a writer who thinks and feels as deeply and subtly as Alexander Stesin gave a simple answer. The significance of his story lies in the honest posing of the question, in the merciful multidimensional gaze, in the understanding that only life as a whole is the answer, and that only such a life that is the answer makes sense.