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“Every writer is a wolf”

15 November 2014 One Comment

(Foto: © Alina Krushynskaya)

Paranoia von Victor Martinovich führt in die Abgründe der postsowjetischen Folgestaaten. In seinem Heimatland Weißrussland wurde das Buch verboten. Mit uns sprach er über seinen Roman und seine ganz eigene Weise, mit dem Verbot umzugehen.

von Robert

Anatoly, ein junger Autor, und die mysteriöse Jelisavetta verlieben sich Hals über Kopf beim ersten Blick.  Jelisavetta besitzt mehrere Sportwagen, Häuser und Unmengen von Geld. Doch all der Reichtum ist nicht erarbeitet, sondern lediglich ein Geschenk ihres Geliebten – des Diktators Muraviov.
Die beiden Liebenden flüchten sich in ihre Insel des Privaten, versuchen Ablenkungsmanöver und Täuschungen und können doch dem unerbittlichen Griff der Staatssicherheit nicht entkommen. Denn Anatolys Paranoia ist realer als er selbst glauben mag: In jeder Ecke befindet sich ein Mikrofon, jede noch so kurze Begegnung, jeder Satz, jedes Wort wird protokolliert und analysiert. Der Moloch der Diktatur liegt zwischen jedem Kuss, bohrt sich in die intime Insel der Zweisamkeit und zermürbt diese mit vollster Brutalität.
Zwar spielt Paranoia in einem imaginären Staat und auch der Autor hebt immer wieder hervor, dass sein Roman keine direkten Bezüge zu realen Personen hat (siehe Interview unten). Und doch versteht es Martinovitch, die Gräuel der postsowjetischen Ära aufzugreifen. In seinem Werk sieht man die Hilflosigkeit des Individuums in Anbetracht der rücksichtlosen Diktatur, verkörpert durch Staatssicherheit und Miliz. Die Parallelen sind so evident, dass sie auch der Regierung in Martinovichs Heimatland Weißrussland ins Auge fielen. Dort ist das Buch bis zum heutigen Tag verboten.

Victor Martinovich: Paranoia
Aus dem Russischen von Thomas Weiler
Voland & Quist 2014
400 Seiten
24,90 €

unique: Mr. Martinovich, how does the German audience react to your book?
Martinovich: Unfortunately, I cannot talk about any audience in Germany. After quite successful days in Belarus – my new book is being published there right now, and I am enjoying a lot of attention because of it. We´ve had full halls at readings. In Germany, predictably nobody will be there. But I enjoy it, to be honest. Because when I was leaving Belarus two weeks ago, I was feeling on top of the world, feeling like a star and this can easily spoil you. A lot of people talking about your book – it can make you become self-absorbed. I don’t want to be a star. So Germany made me sober again. It’s a very healthy situation, I would say.

Your first book, Paranoia, was forbidden in Belarus. How do you feel about that?
When your book is banned, you get a very specific PR. But it is not a kind of PR I would wish for my latest book. It gave a hell lot of attention to me, tons of attention. Those who were interested in it in the first place thought the book was about dictatorship and Lukashenko. But it is a fictional work. It is not about him.
I think the reason for the ban was the whole concept of Paranoia. The fear that is implied in this book is very much about contemporary Belarus, Russia and all post-soviet countries. The kind of relations we have between government and citizens, between citizens and military, between citizens and KGB are pointedly depicted in the book. It is like we have it everywhere: in Belarus, in Ukraine, in Russia – it is about post-Soviet Union. Well, I’m a product of post-Soviet Union and its intelligence, which makes people do awful deeds, just because of their fear.

You talked about the reactions to your book, that you are a star in Belarus now. Did you also experience negative reactions, like someone calling you at night telling you to stop publishing?
Actually, nobody ever called me at night. But I have a classmate who worked for the presidential administration four years ago and we met at a point when the book was very present. He told me that KGB sent a request for him to linguistically analyze the text for expressions permitting to sue me and to bring me before court. I was lucky that he and others who were sympathetic did the analysis and wrote that the book contained no evidence that could put me in jail. As I already said: the book has nothing to do with Belarus and Lukashenko. There were some bad things, but I’ve never been punished or put in prison. The text was punished, not me.

So you are not scared to return to Belarus?
No. My latest book is even sold at the government book store! In Belarus, we have this monopoly on book-selling by the government. But it is still impossible to buy Paranoia there. Even on the internet. We have a huge internet shop in my country, called osbuy. It has everything including sex and porn – but you cannot buy Paranoia! They were warned and instructed very seriously: if they sell this book, they will lose their license. But that’s it. I’m not personally banned, only my text is.

How did you deal with the criticism?
It was a very difficult situation. Emotionally, I was very involved in this book. And then, there were these harsh reactions. The ban was accompanied with harsh criticism. They threw at me all that they had. It changed me a lot. There are two kinds of artists: The ones who just get criticism and don’t give a fuck about it. And the second type really feels a lot about every word that has been expressed. And this situation changed me completely. I mean, my whole attitude towards serious prose has changed. A lot of people just intruded my heart and soul and left a lot of shit in it. And the reason it happened was because I was too naïve. It’s not about protection. I was stupid and ignorant – now I’m wise and ignorant. This is what happened.

Did you get any open praise from either friends or other writers?
Yes, there were a lot of expressions of solidarity but I didn’t take them seriously. Because the government usually does not care about what other writers say. They aren’t fucking interested in that. For them, it’s just sound waves from somewhere. For me, the main thing is my text. Every writer is a wolf: he is lonely. And this is what separates us from film directors. They usually write together. I have experience in that area, so I know the technique. But especially we prose writers are blessed with this noble possibility of creating something alone. I am really thankful to those who showed solidarity, but it is nothing, because it cannot help a text. And you cannot make someone a genius by praising him.

The protagonist of Paranoia is also a writer. How much of you is in this fictional character?
This book was my debut. And usually, writers create writers as protagonists at another stage in their career, because they want to express something from their point of view. For me, it was some kind of game. If you read that novel, you will see that the protagonist is trying to equal Nabokov: He is influenced by Russian classics, mostly by Nabokov and he writes like him. And this whole thing is a stylistic joke.

How did publishing Paranoia alter your life?
Well, you know, when I was writing this book, I was quite an established person. I was an editor. I was teaching at a university, I had a chance to become a proper university professor in Belarus – theoretically. Now I blew it all up. I became a public enemy for a couple of years. I became probably the most cited intellectual – anti-government-type of intellectual – for years. I lost any chance to work at the university in Belarus since the system is very much about loyalty. But still, I feel happy. I did it five years ago, and I would go through this shit again and again. I feel happy because you are what you do. I feel that I did everything right. I could have been richer or more established, or fatter. I’m still as psycho as I was five years ago, and I think this is good.

One last question: Do you have any hopes that Belarus’ dictatorship will change somehow in the next 20 or 50 years?
The question is very hard to answer… One year ago I would have answered very differently from now. I would have said: ”Yes, probably there is a chance.” But now, we have a different set of dangers, because after Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine, I would say the first question is: will the Baltic states, Moldova, Georgia, everything that is not Russia, be the next ones? I have doubts that he will allow Belarus to exist in 20 years. Putin’s primary objective is to reunite the Soviet Union, and he doesn’t care about the fact that we actually have our own language, our own identity… that our history shows more occasions where we fought Russia than when we were friends with them. The fact that we have been conquered by Russia in the 18th century doesn’t make us Russians. For most of the people – I mean for those masses of the population – it would be normal, but for intellectuals or for those who are politically active this will be a reason for partisan warfare. This is the danger that bothers me much more than dictatorship, because you can leave dictatorship, but you can’t leave invasion.

Thank you very much, Mr. Martinovich.

(interview: Juliane & Robert)

Über den Autor:
Victor Martinovich, 1977 in Belarus geboren, studierte Journalistik in Minsk und lehrt heute Politikwissenschaften an der Europäischen Humanistischen Universität in Vilnius. Martinovich machte als russischsprachiger Autor von sich reden, mit seiner Erzählung Tabu und besonders mit dem Roman Paranoia, der in Belarus verboten wurde und 2013 auf Englisch erschienen ist.

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