Boris Strugazky, the junior of the two famous brothers, the famous writer, the highest and indisputable authority in Russian and probably in the world fiction novel genre, celebrated his 75th anniversary on 15 April.
He graduated with honors from school in 1950 and wanted to enter the physics faculty at the Leningrad State University, but failed due to an anti-Semite campaign going on then. Yet he was accepted at the astronomy department at the same institution.
Up to 1964 he worked at the famous Pulkovo observatory, but long before he left it writing became his main occupation.
In 1956 the brothers Strugazky wrote a novel that was luckily published in 1959, and then a famous writer “brothers Strugazky” appeared.
In the early 90’s Boris Strugazky began giving his comments on political events more and more often. A confirmed liberal, he constantly took exactly that “side of the barricade” in all collisions. Of course, he is somewhat partial: no one can reason him out of thinking that Egor Gaidar did everything all right and that Boris Yeltsin was a real supporter of democracy and defended freedom of speech.
Boris Strugazky’s attitude towards the Putin’s epoch was a reserved optimism. He said that the new president – young, vigorous, modest, sober, well speaking – was the last hope for many people in the country and that he gave grounds for laying hopes on him. He was not confused with the fact that Putin used to be a KGB agent, as “in today’s Russia it’s only a Communist Party official, or a law enforcer, that could be the head of the state”. However, along with coming of the “vertical of power” his optimism got lessened and in 2007 he said that “Overall ‘verticalization’ that has happened during recent years, has affected the independence of the media – and thus the degree of the democratization – in a most destructive way”.
Talking of the Khodorkovsky-Lebedev case, Boris Strugazky noted that “this is an old spirit of the 37th year where people were destroyed in the prison camps, up to the third generation. The logic of totalitarianism says that power must bring fear”. Today he says “Just a few more steps in that direction and we shall come back completely to an absolutely authoritarian state, only capable of “super-projects” like overall militarization or grandiose turning the rivers backwards”. And yet he still has a hope. “We know for sure that totalitarianism is not forever, even the deadly hopeless one” he says. “So we still have prospects. And we must do our best to make those prospects real.”
“Future is made by you, but not for you”. This was said by one of the characters in a Strugazky brothers’ book.
Our future belongs to those brought up by brothers Strugazky.
We congratulate you on your anniversary, dear Boris Natanovich!
“Strugazkys never tried to predict”
Q: The real beginning of the 21st century differs much from what was predicted by brothers Strugazky. Why your forecast did not come true?
A: Brothers Strugazky never “predicted” anything and didn’t even try to do it. They just made some pictures that seemed to them to be interesting and verisimilar at one time. Naturally, most part of those pictures turned out to be unreal. Concrete realities are mostly unpredictable. One may guess some banal things like after-war inflation or hit the mark by accident like we did with our Uranium Golkonda and “foretold” the existence of a natural uranium place on the planet, which was later found somewhere in Africa. We also managed to guess – not predict! – the “satiated riots” of 1968, about which we wrote in 1965. Generally, with that novel we “hit the mark”, as the described there World of Consuming really looks like the today’s one, and it is likely to be like our world of tomorrow.
Q: If brothers Strugazky wrote today, what would the Afternoon World, the 22nd century, look like in their books? What would it differ with from that described in your cycle of novels?
A: There would be no difference. The Afternoon World is the one where we would like to live. We imagined it clearly 45 years ago and nothing has changed in our ideas ever since. We could not imagine anything nicer and comfortable for living, and it seems that no one else has been able to do it.
Q: Alexei German has finished shooting a film based on your “Difficult to be the god”, and Fyodor Bondarchuk is shooting Inhabited Island. Have you been shown any made material? And what do you expect from those filmings?
A: I haven’t seen anything and I don’t expect anything, I’m just afraid. Though, German is not capable of making a bad movie, even if he desired that. I have repeated many times if there is a film director able to make an “adequate” filming of “Difficult to be the god”, that’s Alexei German. Of course, one should not expect to see an “exact” copy of the book. That will be a specific translation of the literature into the cinematographic language. Such a job is only possible for real masters. German is the real master.
Q: Why has the number increased so greatly of “status-having” cultural workers “bravely” supporting the standing authority? Even in the 80’s their number was less.
A: Why not? I don’t see the reason why a noble “don” can’t support bravely the regime. Besides, doing that one will find oneself to be in the majority, i.e. to be with one’s people, which was not a feature of the 80’s.
Q: The disagreement point for democratic opposition is whether it should carry out a dialog with the authority trying to make it get liberalized or no compromise must be done. What’s your opinion about that?
A: Real politics is always a combination of toughness and compromise. “No compromise”, to my mind, is a typical demagogic slogan without any prospects. That’s the periphery of politics. Should we really drive ourselves to the periphery?
Q: Why many protest actions get suppressed with such a disproportional use of force? Can it be that the authority is afraid of several thousand of demonstrators, with its high ratings?
A: That’s the habit from old soviet times. “Any opposition must be nipped in the bud in the most merciless way”. A spark will kindle a flame, you know. Such must be the way of thinking by those in power.
Q: You have lived in two “thaws” – after 1956 and after 1985. Are you hoping for the third one, so much talked about now? Or Medvedev’s reign will not be different from that of Putin?
A: If the course for government ownership of everything in the country goes on, we shall inevitably come to an economic deadlock, another stagnation period, from which it would be only one way out – that’s perestroika, liberalization, returning to standard – not “sovereign” or “national” – democracy. I guess that Medvedev realizes all that, but I don’t know whether he will be able to stop increasing the government ownership and whether the omnipotent bureaucracy would allow him doing that.