Dhe world is bad. She always was. And sometimes also dark and jet black. It’s her again. Since February. Which leads to the question: What is an artist supposed to do in this world, with this world? Max Frisch said that some writers wrote “to change the world”. And some, “to endure the world.” Which in turn leads to the second question: What kind of writer is the writer Serhij Zhadan?
The answer is in Depeche Mode. This novel – the first written by Zhadan – is a Bible. At least for the people who believe in art, not in God. But maybe also for those who believe in God. Because what Zhadan is doing and how – is overwhelming.
“Depeche Mode” is about young women and young men who plunge “into the leaky and patched-up circuit of blood and love” at the bottom of which “the most massive and most wonderful pieces of happiness are supposed to be found, although it is there in reality there is nothing, believe me”.
Its deviant and good bad heroes
It’s about Dog Pavlov, permanently unemployed and permanently drunk. His parents are Jews, “but he doesn’t apply that to himself,” because Dog wants to be a rightist. It’s about the maybe sex-addicted, very definitely very filthy and beautiful general’s daughter Marusja, who sometimes tenderly presses the bust of Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov to her body. It’s about Vasya a communist. He makes a lot of money buying vodka cheap to sell it at the train station to drunks at a much higher price.
So it’s about young people whose hearts are hollowed out by alcohol, drugs and life, empty. But not quite. Because – and you can see that in all of Zhadan’s novels, stories, poems – no matter how sick, broken, raw his heroes are, they are always real, true, are always real. It’s because this poet, this writer, describes people as people are; how they hurt each other, how they are hurt, how they suffer from evil and still do evil. That’s why his heroes are never just ink-on-paper characters.
Serhij Zhadan constantly puts deviant and good bad heroes in his literature – and exposes the truth with them. Nothing less. Which is why we are back to Max Frisch’s why-we-write sentences. And maybe even with the answer to the question of why someone like Zhadan writes. For if a poet only wanted to endure this world, life, he would not tell of the most unbearable. And not as brutal as Serhij Zhadan does in his novels. With such power. As if the writer had the reader fall off a skyscraper. Just like in a dream that maybe everyone has had, in which you fall and fall and fall, screaming, with horror in your eyes and wildly waving your arms.
A great compassion for the weak, for the weakest
When you fall in “Depeche Mode”, for example, the communist back then that made the broken children of the novel the broken children they are, and then this capitalistically sick present of the nineties pass by. When you fall, no matter what book, you always feel something very universal: morality. This first reveals the writer’s great compassion for the weak, for the weakest. And also reveals the brutality with which Serhij Zhadan lets the unfortunate feel their unhappiness. In language that is sometimes as harsh as that of Henry Miller or Charles Bukowski. In a language that is sometimes as poetic as that of Carson McCullers or Tove Ditlevsen. In a whole new language.