ANNA BERSENEVA, writer
If, however, a non-genre text is written in a realistic spirit, then this, as a rule, is a marker of its artistic inferiority. It comes to the ridiculous: some authors, for whom realism is completely organic, diligently introduce into their works narrative elements that go beyond its framework, not noticing the absurdity of either the fancy or the patches that have turned out as a result.
The novel by Vladimir Gonik "Heavenly Bucket (Beidou)". (Nur-Sultan: Folio. 2020) is absolutely relieved of this. Realism here is not only organic, but in all respects complete. What is the difference between this novel and quasi-realistic texts is almost impossible to explain outside such a vague category as "general impression", but some signs are still denoted.
Surprisingly, the story itself, which makes up the plot, is one of those that are called "life". This is surprising because in a retelling it is likely to cause distrust. The action takes place during a deep Soviet stagnation with an appeal to the past of the Second World War, while the place is not limited to the Soviet Union, but extends to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore. This breadth of coverage is natural, since one of the heroes, Ivan, is a Russian huntsman in Sikhote-Alin, and the second, a Chinese man, Chen, is a major businessman in Southeast Asia.
Another thing is surprising here: the authenticity of the texture. It is clear that the possibilities of obtaining information are now immeasurable, and for Vladimir Gonik, as far as can be judged from his amazing biography, they were not limited to virtual sources. “I wrote the novel “Heavenly Bucket (Beidou)” on my voyage around the world”, he says in the preface. “Then an incredible, one might say, magical opportunity happened - a marvelous business trip that lasted seven months, with transfers in foreign ports and from side to side on the high seas”. However, even with such opportunities - or rather precisely because of them - the novel could turn into a hybrid of a guidebook and an encyclopedia. If the author had not given the texture - geographical, historical, everyday - the artistic form that creates for the reader the opportunity to feel himself inside the novel's reality.
Even what could be considered an element of mysticism - the mental duality of the heroes, realized at an accidental brief meeting and passing through their whole life, and their simultaneous death - looks absolutely believable. And not only because the feeling of duality, disturbing by its inexplicability, is familiar to many people, but mainly because of the artistic prescription of the inner world of the heroes, which is not inferior to the prescription of the outer world. Both of them, not with reason, but with all their being, know the secret of victory: to go against evil with an inequality of forces, being ready to perish in the assertion of their right to human dignity. And this secret is so true that, in fact, over and over again leads both Chen and Ivan to victory during their long life full of dangerous events. Of course, the life experience of the former Hevea juice collector, now a Singaporean industrial tycoon, is fundamentally different from the experience of a former prisoner and now a Far Eastern huntsman, and the level of their worldly achievements is incomparable, but the algorithm of actions at the time of an attempt on their honor coincides to the smallest detail. Maybe, as it is said in the novel, the fact is that both of them were born under the sign of Beidou (Big Dipper), that is, they are doomed to remain faithful to their life principles under any circumstances... Whether it is true or not, but the reckless determination of such people will be recognized , even the most narrow-minded villains feel in their gut, about whom the novel says: “Ivan knew those who did not seem to have a soul, they could live a whole life - they ate, slept, everything they had like everyone else: arms, legs, - but they did without a soul and did not think about it, had no need. Ivan believed that this was such a disability, an invisible injury, they reminded him of cripples, although they themselves did not suspect this, as, indeed, many around. This may not open at all, no one deliberately incriminates them, no one hunts them to bring them to clean water, most often they open themselves, not knowing it, because a person constantly makes a choice: either to step over his neighbor, then whether to stop; and even such moments do not hesitate, do not feel doubts, and show them, they will be dumbfounded in sincere bewilderment: what are we talking about?!"
Such people in the life of Ivan and Chen meet constantly, and another fixed sign of the realism of this novel is just the same flourishing diversity, with which it describes the dangerous and tense vicissitudes of how this happens on a rubber plantation, in the taiga, in the sea, on streets of Singapore, in the barracks of a Soviet concentration camp ... The feeling that arises when reading would probably arise in a person who suddenly acquired the opportunity not in a bathyscaphe, but in his own capacity to be under water and feel like a part of the world to which he is not belongs by birth and essence, but suddenly began to belong.
The novel by Vladimir Gonik "Heavenly Bucket (Beidou)" allows you to remember or for the first time to understand what the power and charm of realism is. And this is happening even though it was published 35 (!) Years after it was written. There are not many works that would not become outdated in such a long time. This, however, should not be surprising: such is the nature of artistic usefulness, which does not depend on either style or time.