3 of the 58 Limonov's books


                (in French)  

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THE NATION ,   26 september  1987

Edward J. Brown 



Once again, Edward Limonov, the powerful and problematic Soviet émigré writer, has offered up a piece of self-proclaimed autobiographical fiction about his life «in freedom.» And once again, he has employed every device of obscenity and scatology at his command to undermine both the pieties of American life and the approved public image of the Soviet émigré.


In 1979, Limonov’s It's Me, Eddie outraged many of his fellow exiles, who found it slanderous and pornographic. One prominent critic declared, «If freedom means the freedom to write that book, then I am against freedom.»


Others, however, expressed their support for the book and declared its author one of the most important of the writers to have left the Soviet Union in the so-called third wave and almost the only one to articulate in his fiction a certain experience of exile.

Limonov’s two novels about his life in America (It’s Me, Eddie and His Butler's Story) explore the disorientation and unhappiness that are frequently the lot of those who have «chosen freedom.» Between the strait-laced Solzhenitsyn in Vermont delivering jeremiads against «pluralism» and other evidences of «degeneration» in the West, and Eddie Limonov slaking his omnisexual appetites on the underside of New York City, while inveighing against the «vel’fer» that supports him, there is not really a great distance. Both articulate feelings that exiles generally disguise or suppress: nostalgia for the homeland, together with genuine contempt for American institutions and an appalling lack of interest in learning about how those work.

According to his more or less fictional biography. Limonov was an adolescent thief, a psycho, a tailor and an underground poet before leaving the Soviet Union in 1974.


Two novels set in the Soviet Union,  Memoir of a Russian Punk and  The Young Scoundrel, both of which will soon appear in English, are apparently based on his life in the Soviet criminal world, on his sojourns in jail and in a mental institution, and on his career as a dissident poet in a flourishing cultural underground.


As with the pair about his life in the United States, these books view the clean world from the underside. 

Memoir of a Russian Punk   explores the psychology of a Soviet adolescent who moves from his working-class family into the criminal world; nothing in the book mitigates our horror at the simple motivations for theft, rape, mutilation and murder.


The novel also gives us, as though incidentally, a vivid look at life in a working-class suburb of Kharkov: the reek of vodka and violence, the ugly housing and the scramble to get it, and especially the way in which corruption in the «law-abiding» sector feeds the criminal underground.


In The Young Scoundrel, Eddie has blossomed into an unpublished poet moving among the disaffected intelligentsia of Kharkov, who spurn Soviet respectability in a way that foreshadows Eddie’s lavish contempt for the New York establishment.


The essence of Limonov’s work, whether set in the West or in the Soviet Union, is its vivid articulation of the mute misery and hatred felt by those on the bottom for the scrubbed and fancy world of those on top. From their point of view, as Eddie puts it in It's Me, Eddie, «There isn’t a hell of a lot of difference between here and there [the Soviet Union].»

Limonov has assured us—mistakenly, I think—that the practice of deducing the author's biography from his fiction is quite sound in his case. He says that he writes only about himself, «since he has studied that character better than any other,» and insists that there are no «purely invented» situations in his books; he does admit that he has simplified many things, and eliminated others, thus acknowledging the novelist's work of selection and structuring.


But because Limonov identifies himself with the «Eddie,» sometimes «Eddie-baby,» of his narratives, and provides only flimsy cover for the real people who appear in them (this has cruelly embarrassed some of them), a reader is likely to assume that Limonov and his tormented narrator are one, that the author is as morally vacuous as his central character. Such a conclusion involves a serious critical misunderstanding. Limonov is not the luckless dropout whose character he so vividly creates in his fiction. In fact the real Limonov, as far as we can tell, was actually a good tailor and poet and has managed his affairs quite well in emigration.


The Eddie who fantasizes shooting up his rich master’s house with an AK-47 or who, in the final pages of His Butler's Story, takes careful aim at the repulsive Secretary General of the United Nations, offers a fictional statement as to how slugs and underdogs feel about the world of those who have made it. The latter scene is a powerful realization not of Limonov, of course, but of the Lee Harvey Oswalds of the world.

In His Butler's Story Eddie is a Russian poet obliged to work as butler, general handyman and factotum in the palatial East River residence of Steven Grey, a WASP multimillionaire whose fabulous income derives from many enterprises. Steven’s house guests range from the Shah of Iran and a variety of American and foreign moguls to a visiting Soviet poet—Yevgeny Yevtushenko with, as Eddie assures us, his C.I.A. impresarios, very thinly disguised—who provide him with the cachet of high culture. The image of Steven Grey, seen from the viewpoint of a proud and penniless Russian poet, is a creation of great literary power. Huge, oppressive, abusive and totally self-centered, Steven arouses in Eddie an insufferable physical revulsion. But Eddie not only hates him, he also envies him his jet-set connections, his money and limitless sexual opportunities.

Eddie needs to prove to everybody «just what sort of person it was they were neglecting.» He is in constant communication with contemptible editors and publishers who keep rejecting his poetry and prose, but his principal activity is the pursuit of happiness through sexual adventures described in explicit and disgusting detail.


Limonov’s sexual scenes are emetic rather than aphrodisiac. Neither transports of love nor the pleasures of simple ravishment can be found anywhere in this book.

Of his principal sex object in the novel, Jenny, Eddie says, «I made love to her but I didn’t want to.» And it turns out that she never wanted to either, but did it because she loved Eddie and thought he liked it. Then there is a «little twat named Mary Ellen,» whom he didn’t want to fuck, and a number of others whom he did, but without conviction and almost without pleasure. There are some who flit in and out as fantasies or nymphets, but the novel is simply an account of Eddie’s «struggle against the world and everybody in it,» and Jenny and the rest are only episodes in his contest with Steven and the others who control that world.


The German translator of It's Me, Eddie distilled the ichor of that book and this one too as the single English obscenity which served in the title of the German edition: Fuck Off, Amerika.

Limonov breaks the widespread stereotype of the Soviet émigré as a man of the political right. In his role as Eddie he is a man of the left, not ashamed to work as a trucker, a tailor or a busboy, and he associates with the unhappy and underprivileged and with the radicals who claim to speak for them.


He makes friends with blacks who are unacceptable to his fellow Soviet émigrés. As a matter of fact the American novels embrace humanity in a way that is altogether original and refreshing in a writer of Limonov’s provenance. Soviet émigrés are as a rule people who have escaped or been expelled from a failed utopia; they are frequently skeptical at best about the liberal hopes still very much alive in Western democracies. In helping to define that émigré pattern by escaping from it, even though by way of épatage and obscenity, Limonov’s novels have performed an important service.

In almost everything he has written Limonov’s style is marked by the effective use of two kinds of linguistic anomaly. Foreign words—American, of course, but spelled out in Cyrillic letters—variegate the Russian text of Limonov’s novel and function as the linguistic mark of Eddie’s strangeness in a world of vel'fer, biznessmen, leeving-rums and dyning-rums, Dzhenni’s rashen-boi-frend, Tsentral-Park, Khadson-reever and Eesreever.


One of my problems with this otherwise excellent translation is that these words are presented in their proper English spelling, and thus an important lexical mark of the narrator as a contemptuous alien presence in «Amerika» has been lost.

Other Russian émigré writers also use transliterated English words in their Russian text, but with a quite different function. Vassily Aksyonov uses such concoctions as «khash-poppies,» meaning a kind of footwear, but the effect is less alienating than exotic.


Perhaps the nearest analog to Limonov’s verbal device is Henry Miller’s use of French phrases in Tropic of Cancer as a mark of the narrator’s ironic detachment from the Paris scene. Limonov’s use of English in his Russian text suggests, also, the newly arrived émigré who will never lose his native accent nor make the new ideas and concepts his own.

The other persistent lexical feature in Limonov’s writing is the exceptionally rich and varied use of obscenities, which also carries a heavy charge of revulsion from the normal American world, from, as he would put it, the varied collection of fuck-offs with whom he is obliged to deal in his brave new country.


These two features of style, «barbarisms» and obscenities, call attention to the verbal texture itself: as a Jakobsonian linguist would put it, they are iconic rather than arbitrary, or transparent, «signs.»


And Limonov gives us, incidentally, a perfect model of the Russian language in its rich inflectional power when he uses the vulgar words for the male organ of generation and for the act of copulation as creative linguistic pivots, deriving from the original root form multiple parts of speech through the use of prefixes, infixes and suffixes.

Much attention has been given to the linguistic features of Limonov’s work, and it does seem likely that the Russian literary language will have been affected by his virtuosity.


Russian, in this century, especially since the triumph of Soviet puritanism in the 1930s, has lagged far behind the West in the breaching of linguistic taboos, with the result that Limonov's writing contains a higher shock potential in its Russian context than any translation could possibly convey. In everything he has written Limonov gives new life to literary Russian by opening it up to a powerful vocabulary from the regions of proscribed speech.

Limonov does obeisance to Henry Miller in this book, and there’s no doubt that his novels owe something to Miller’s. Eddie is compulsive and often miserable in his pursuit of sex and he is uncertain as to what kind gives him satisfaction; in fact, his passionate accommodation of a beautiful young black man in a vacant lot near 51st and Broadway (in  It's Me, Eddie) contrasts sharply with his sexually frustrating encounters with women. But for Miller’s character the sexual smorgasbord includes both mystery and occasions for poetry. And Miller’s nihilism is more philosophical than Limonov’s: The chaos he mirrors is in the nature of things; the whole world is a kind of cancer eating itself away.


Limonov’s world is particular and concrete. He seldom budges from that Amerika—or Kharkov—in thought or image. Miller’s view of catastrophe is cosmic; Eddie’s is local and confined. But the problem I’ve alluded to above concerning the confusion of author and central character is foregrounded in the work of both writers. Limonov himself has illuminated his relationship to Eddie in his recently published poem in the Times Literary Supplement (June 26, translated by G.S. Smith):


This is my hero negative
He’s always here along with me

I drink a beer, — he drinks a beer
He lives in my apartment room

He goes to bed with girls I do
My dark-skinned member hangs from him

This is my hero negative...
And we may see his elegant back
Around the city of New York
On any one of those dark streets

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                      EDDIE BABY


Sometime in the 80’s a very racy book was doing the rounds. In my circles some found this fictional memoir of a Russian punk to be life changing.

We were all such serious souls in those days, worrying about Political Economy and Freedom. And here was this Russian poet, living rough in New York on a $278 monthly hand-out from the US government on the basis of his (fake) Israeli visa, seemingly unconstrained by any ethics. His name was Edward Limonov and today he is living in Russia (Mikhail Gorbachov gave his citizenship back) a declared opponent of Putin, and leader of The Other Russia Party.

My copy of "It’s Me Eddiewas published by Picador in 1983, but the book was published first in French, having been rejected by 35 publishers. Limonov has said he couldn’t find a publisher because his book was too anti-American, but it was also anti-Russian.

In fact Limonov hated everybody. This book is an outpouring of anger. ‘You don’t like me? You don’t want to pay? It’s precious little—$278 a month. You don’t want to pay? Then why the fuck did you invite me here from Russia along with a horde of Jews? Present your complaints to your own propaganda, it’s too effective.’

But Eddie’s always been hard to get on with. In a later book about his early life, "Memoir of a Russian Punk", the Eddie character says :

‘People deserve to be killed. When I’m completely grown, I’ll definitely kill people.’

So over a strong leaning towards violence Eddie has also to cope with the lack of status, the inability to speak English, the poverty, and the loss of his wife Elena. Because even though the women he wants are fickle beauties,

‘What I need are capricious and whorish young-girl pals, haughty and painted and perfumed…’ ("His Butler’s Story" 1986)

his masculine pride is offended by the straying Elena, and he gives uncensored accounts of her drug habits and many sexual partners. She tried to write her own version, ‘It’s Me Yelena’, which ended up being naked pictures of herself with a text written by someone else. And he lets it be known that he of course tried to strangle her.

Limonov has been compared with Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller and I think the obsession and graphic detail of his sexual encounters is the reason why American publishers wouldn’t touch him. There is something vicious in his reductive view of women, always judging how they might serve his needs, being so critical of the way they look and smell, the size of their sex, but so tender about himself, Eddie Baby in his white suit and black lace shirt.

He also has some quite confused political ideas. He is for revolution but complains about Lenin making the workers go back to work after the Russian revolution. He definitely sees work as an imposition, but he can work  if the need is great enough For quite a while in "It’s Me Eddie" he tries to live on his government hand-out, but has to live in a hotel for transients, filthy, violent, filled with the poor and mad, but he has a big vodka habit and can’t always latch on to someone to buy his drinks. Later he makes piroschki and pelmeni, moves furniture, and repairs clothes.

His "Eddie" really is an obnoxious character, drunk, stoned, in one pose a revolutionary, in another yearning for Yves St Laurent suits, but he is at his most sympathetic in his relationships with the black homeless and the people of the streets. He does not shy away from contact, sharing bottles, even having sex with these men when his rage and hurt at Elena make him take a vow to give up women. These encounters on vacant lots or deserted buildings show him acting with some degree of empathy, and moved by another’s passion.

And the man can write. Life in New York,

‘Often I go downtown for the whole day. I usually begin with Washington Square, where I lie in the fountain, if it’s working. I put my feet in, my buns repose on the last step before water level, I lie back philosophically and contemplate my environment, or even more often I close my eyes am merely aware, opening them infrequently. The sun, the water, the hum and the shouts—to me it all makes up the melody of life.’

Limonov left America and lived in France for many years, returning to Russia in 1992. He now leads The Other Russia party.

He has spent a number of years in jail for political reasons, but as he cites his heroes as Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Bakunin, Yukio Mishima, Julius Evola it will not be surprising if he ends up dying for a cause.

I’m a punk. I’m on welfare. I have to cook for myself now, eat shchi. I’m alone, I have to think of myself. Who else will take care of me? The wind of chaos, harsh and terrible , has destroyed my family. I also have parents, far away, halfway around the globe from here, on a green little street in the Ukraine. Papa and Mama.’

We have revisited Limonov because Emmanuel Carrère has just published a “biography” called Limonov a Novel, highly praised by Julian Barnes but controversial, as Carrère seems to have made a lot of it up. We’ll talk about it in a few weeks. Interesting to see another take on Eddie Baby.

Disclaimer: Don’t read any of these books if you are likely to be offended by obscene language and blatant sexism. But they are a very convincing account of the underside of American life by a man who has hacked his way into the world through his monumental self- belief.

The photo of Eddie is taken from this article:


By Edward Limonov


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful


     -----     -----     -----     -----     -----

                    It's me Eddie  

By Edward Limonov

A Masterpiece, February 23, 2000
John Dolan (the eXile, Moscow) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Memoir of a Russian Punk (Hardcover)


This is an account of Limonov's adolescence in Kharkov, a provincial Soviet city, in the years after Stalin's death. But Limonov's hero Eddie-Baby is nothing at all like the Russian heroes English-speaking readers have come to expect and his Kharkov is nothing at all like the tightly-policed USSR we usually encounte in emigre novels.

In Eddie Baby's Kharkov, there is no law. Police are goons, and the quickest way to become a legend in the housing projects of Saltovka is to beat up a cop.

Eddie-Baby is a nearsighted brain who decides, at the age of eleven, to become a hooligan--and does so with the same quiet, scary determination which once led him to fill notebooks with data on the fauna of the tropics.

He devotes himself to learning the rules of his punk/proletarian world with a slightly crazed pedantry, and takes the reader along with him through one holiday weekend in this astounding, completely unknown habitat: the steel jungles of the Soviet nine-floor housing projects.

But the book is by no means gritty or grimy, or any of those silly words reviewers use to describe urban descriptions.

In Eddie-Baby's mind, his world is a forest, full of ogres and prey--and all of it is worthy of caressing, precise description. He makes you love this world.

There are paragraphs in this book I've read something like ten thousand times, they are so perfect. A middleaged lecher pouring a glass of vodka; a gang beating a pedestrian to death; a precise account of the sort of glue and paper you need to break a window quietly for a burglary : Limonov invests every one of these moments from a vanished, outlandish world with a calm and uncanny beauty.

Get this book at any cost. There is nothing like it in the world.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful

"Rebel w/o a Cause" meets Iceberg Slim, Russian style, December 21, 1998

By A Customer

This review is from: Memoir of a Russian Punk (Hardcover)

This is a classic piece of Russian fiction that shows a darker side of Kruschev's Russia than is generally available.

This is a definitive timepiece; what's most striking in it's depiction of Russian life are the parrallels with society in modern America.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful

The Soviet Union the west never knew existed, July 12, 2003


Celeste M. Harmer (Clifton Heights, PA United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Memoir of a Russian Punk (Hardcover)

During the Cold War, everyone in the West, or at least most everyone, was led to believe that all of the millions of citizens in the Soviet Union were obedient workers and loyal to the principals and dogma of the Communist party.

RUSSIAN PUNK is a delight in that it shows the seedy, off-beat side of Soviet life that Soviet leaders either didn't know or didn't want to know about and certainly didn't want to reveal to the West.

The central character is Eddie-baby. As a teenager growing up in the seemingly invincible Communist sphere of 1950's Soviet Union, he has two options for his life. The first is to become a respectable, hard-working citizen and member of the Party. The second is to become a hood.

In the rapidly maturing Eddie, the life of a hood holds far more appeal than the life of a member of the goat herd, his scathing term for the respectable working class.Trapped within the working-class district of Saltovka in Kharkov, a city in the Ukraine, Eddie-baby pursues the life of a hood with the slackers, derelicts, thieves, and murderers of the town.

To him it's all a lark: When he and friends aren't getting into mischief, they're greasing back their hair and singing Elvis Presley songs. All these street punks are to him much more stimulating than the respectable working-class citizens of Saltovka.

Though Eddie-baby is a very gifted poet and can climb higher than the riffraff with whom he associates, he nevertheless remains enmeshed in their dark world.He has an epiphany of sorts toward the end of the book after assuming a role in a violent street crime, and we all cheer for him as he as last finds the fortitude to move on and reach higher.

This is a side of Soviet life you probably never knew existed, and Eddie-baby's story vibrantly displays it.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

predicting the future?, June 20, 2005


A Reader (Philadelphia, PA United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Memoir of a Russian Punk (Hardcover)

this book is interesting if a bit depressing. It also takes a while to get going and it's sometimes hard to keep all the characters (many w/ the same first names) straight. It's not as good, to my mind, as _It's me, Eddie_. But, it's still quite interesting and good. It was also quite interesting to me to read of teenage Limonov's desire to run a gang of punks who will take over the country when chaos comes, and how he keeps a list of those who need to be eliminated. I can't help but wonder if his National Bolshivik Party isn't an attempt to do this. Is Putin on the list now?

Edward Limonov, April 25, 2013

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)


This review is from: Memoir of a Russian Punk (Hardcover)

Just like the other books. Keep reading.
I would also try It's Me, Eddy for a mischievous romp in the squalid imagination of a young performance artist.

Enjoyed it, July 13, 2012

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)


This review is from: Memoir of a Russian Punk (Hardcover)

Some really good transgressive coming of age type literature. I decided to read it after hearing Limonov mentioned in "The Exile"... kind of like a less serious Soviet Bukowski.

A Russian soul split wide open, May 15, 2004

This review is from: Memoir of a Russian Punk (Hardcover)


If you have been to Russia or not, this book will touch you in your heart.

Edichka, a.k.a Eddie-Baby, is such an endearing character that you can love him even when he is robbing a stalovaya or participating in a gang rape. He is just that lovable. It is his child-like innocence that draws you to him and does not allow you to be repelled by his heinous acts.

This book gave me the insight to Russian punk boys that had evaded me my whole time in Russia. If you are curious about what life in Russia is like through the eyes of Russia's youth or you are looking for a story showing the progression of an innocent boy to a more jaded young man, you must read this book!

I hope it will inspire in you the empathy and understanding of these punk boys as it did in me.

I loved every page!

This is a classic. Great book, great price. Please shop the price, as I saw an incredible range in price depending upon publisher and seller.

5 critics in Amazon

(5 times 5 stars)

a hysterical, beautiful work,

January 16, 2012

John J. Christy (chicago) - 


One of the best books of the 20th century. Limonov stirs up a poet's rage against everything that is anti-human, everything that is repressive and stifling . . . His solution - tear it all down.
Eddie-Baby leaves the USSR for America with promises of riches, women, drugs, and artistic liberty. He finds abject poverty, his wife leaves him, wine and vodka still suffice, and unique voices are marginalized as much in America as they are in Russia; in short, nothing changes. Passion and love are juxtaposed with the rote boredom of work and urban life.
Along the way, Limonov takes aim at political activists, Russians, Americans, men, women, and especially our predilection to surrender to life. He rarely misses his mark . . . The sentiment is close to that one found in the romantics, especially the 19th century rebellion against urbanity and the industrial mode of life.
There's a short section early in the book where Limonov accuses his reader of being a slave to work, of having a petty bourgeois mentality, and a pathetic soul. This is capped off by the admonition, "You're ****!" [apologize for amazon's filter] It's hard to disagree, put in those terms. With Eddie as my accuser, I'd confess to anything . . .
Ignore the reviewers who are shocked by Limonov's provocations. What is shocking is not sleeping with a black man on the street, but living a beige life in the face of so much possibility.
For those interested, Limonov's politics also show an early alignment with national bolshevism and a repudiation of anglo liberalism. We see somewhat weaker critiques of the early Bolsheviks, and especially a condemnation of the post-Khrushchev Russian bureaucratic state.
Limonov's prose has a tendency to reach hysterical levels of emotion; whether this is a good or bad mark will probably depend on the reader.
An immigrant classic, September 20, 2009

Sorcerer "Krabat" (San Francisco, USA) -


Edward Limonow has been called enfant terrible of Russian literature. He very well may be just that. His prose and poetry have made him a celebrity anti-hero among the Soviet exiles during the Cold War.
This writer does not take prisoners. He is not trying to please the reader either. He is frank, he tells it "like it is."
The acid style is not for the weak of heart, but still worth reading.
A must for everyone who wants to study the immigrant experience in America.
Great book, great price, December 11, 2008
This piece is not for everyone. A lot of profanity, and I must admit to skipping at least one or two pages, as they were a bit to much. Overall, a great read for those who would like to see the world through the eyes of another. The tale is told from one perspective, and an not meant to be a historical account, but is an spot on accurate emotional/psychological account of events. Captivating, brilliant, but quite dark and quite genuine. Hats off to Lemonov...
So discusting, yet you can't look away, May 15, 2004
With the welfare checks, slumy apartment, and homosexual encounters in the alleys, Edward seems to be living a fairly dismal existence. His life was sh*t and he knew it.  Once a famous poet and writer in Russia, he was now ignored as a human being in the United States.
This book is a good insight into the mind of a self-exiled emigrant, the desperatation and self-loathing he faces as he tries to grab hold in this world. Edward is still reeling from the loss of his past "productive" life in Russia. He is looking for someone to love, someone to take care of him; he is all alone in the world. We have all felt like this, like an exile, at one point or another. Limonov's ability to sway our emotions is what allows us to love Edward, despite all of his debaucheries.
Painfully magnificent, August 13, 1999

By A Customer

The style is splendid, the execution dashing. This is Tropic Of Cancer written with more talent and professionalism.
The book is tight, witty, full of hilarious observations. Unfortunately, it may not go down well with many American readers for a number of reasons (and this is very, very sad): The author uses a very European approach, part-Russian, part-French, in his narration.
He is not exactly bashing New York or America, he is merely observing and telling the story, but his arrows might seem too vicious at times (although there is plenty of poetic praise and romantic awe as well). This is hard to explain. A whole bunch of American writers in this century were much angrier. I don't know... The book is enjoyable throughout.
I haven't the faintest idea why it hasn't been more popular.
    -----     -----     -----     -----  

              HIS BUTLER'S STORY

 by Eduard Limonov

By DM "amazoner" (TX USA)

3 critics in Amazon  ( 3 times 5 stars )

By Lindsey on June 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover

That is what Limonov's writing is, dangerously beautiful. His characters are so real that you can touch them, smell them, envision them and His Butler's Story is no exception. What is dangerous about his writing, I can't quite say. His main character, Edichka, seems to be flirting with the idea of political assasination and world domination, all at the same time serving lunch to a NYC bourgeois or half-heartedly smoking a joint. The inner workings of a fanatical mind are a scary thing to observe (Dostoevskyesque) and at the same time they are frightningly beautiful. Definately worth the read and re-read and re-re-read...

By John J. Christy on January 16, 2012

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

Part 2 of Eduard Limonov's "New York trilogy." This book is stronger in form and prose than "It's Me, Eddie," and is clearly written by a Limonov who is more mature, disciplined, and rigorous than before.

In this book, Limonov the extreme leftist goes to work as a butler for an incredibly rich CEO. While there he takes as much advantage as he can of the literal "enemy" of everything he holds dear, eating the rich man's food, hosting in the rich man's house, and sleeping with the rich man's women.

In a way, Limonov addresses in this book one of the primary contradictions that leftists in the first world face - that is, it's impossible to avoid taking material advantage of the wealth and privilege that empire provides, while also calling for the end of the very thing that provides everything. The ending of the book reveals us all for who we are . . .

This book does not aim as high as "It's Me, Eddie," and possibly for that it's a stronger book. Highly recommended

By Opah Jorge on April 25, 2013

Fabulous. I think everyone should get to reading this because it's by the political radical and hated russian counterrevolutionary Eddy Limonov writing about his youth's escapades through NYC, giving freedom to what he thinks about us, them, the world and himself, from the point of view of the disenfranchised artists that make rockstars out of poets.

LITERATURE IN EXILE / edited by John Glad

"Duke University Press", 1990 

Edward Limonov

                                   INTERVIEW 1987 

[1] In Russian the word "exile" has such a pompous ring to it that I haven't got the chutzpa to apply it to my own modest six-year existence in New York, and my seven further years in Paris. That stolid, bourgeois, fat-assed word "exile" might have been applicable to the nineteenth-century nobleman Alexander Herzen, and certainly fits Solzhenitsyn, the family man, who even managed to bring his furniture out with him.

As for me, I've always felt like a poor student or a member of the working class, someone who lives in rented rooms — like a character in a novel by Dostoevski,
I was first "exiled" in 1967, from Kharkov to Moscow, just as I later "exiled" myself from New York to Paris. Anyone who gives any thought to the word "exile" will come to the conclusion that contemporary Russian emigre writers (and I include myself here) have no right to call themselves exiles. We are what might be called self-exiles.
Neither do I consider myself a "political refugee" from the Soviet
 regime. My fellow emigres have the political pull of their rich American uncles to thank for that status. When push came to shove, I fled from that Paradise too, with its smell of Kentucky Fried Chicken and greasy cholesterol. I emigrated.
Being a modest type, I consider myself just a writer living in Paris. Like Joyce. Like Hemingway. Like Scott Fitzgerald, Saroyan, Baldwin ... and many others.
[2] Life abroad is a lot more interesting than in the country where you were born and grew up, if only because the newness is so stimulating. If I had my druthers, I would like to live many lives, each in a different country. Despite the petty inconveniences involved, I am fascinated by the process of getting to know a new country, its ways, language, mores, the primitive or sophisticated brainwashing methods used by those in power to keep the rebellious masses under control. And having lived now in three countries — the USSR, the U.S.A., and France — I really am unable to answer the question: "Which is best?"

All of them have become part and parcel of my own personal history. From a professional point of view, France is more to my liking than the U.S.A. or the USSR, inasmuch as France has a traditional respect for the text, the written communication, the book.

I perceive the text of a novel to be just that — a text, with no ideological riders clinging to it (contrary to the view of the ruling philologists in the U.S.A. and the USSR). But we shall see what we shall see. I am now writing a book, the action of which takes place in France. Let's see if the local authorities will be as offended by this foreigner as were the American authorities.
[3] If I'm not mistaken, I am the only Russian writer who has carved out a writer's career for himself without the aid of anti-Sovietism after leaving the USSR. It's not for me to judge the quality of what I write, but I take pride in having done it myself, without the assistance of any political party or any other groups.
Even the cult of Brodsky-the-decadent-poet rests on the foundation laid by the trial of Brodsky-the-parasite. The profession of "poet" was not recognized by the judge as a legitimate occupation in his case. He became a celebrity thanks to the (not so much cruel as stupid) conduct of the authorities, who forgot that the West scrutinizes what goes on in the USSR under a magnifying glass.

Solzhenitsyn-the-mediocre-writer ought to divide his royalties with the Soviet authorities in gratitude for the colossal publicity campaign they provided for him by sending him into exile. Even if he were to do so, however, it would never be enough to reward adequately the Western press and Western circles hostile to the USSR for the publicity they showered on his tardy, unjust, and hysterical criticism of Soviet society.
Russian literature has, in a sense, been force-fed with politics. The Russian writer is automatically expected to be either exclusively Soviet or exclusively dissident. If a Russian "exile" writer turns out to be more complex than the Soviet/anti-Soviet model, his life and the fate of his books become more complicated in like proportion.

I had to survive seven years and thirty-five rejections from American publishing houses to see my novel It's Me — Eddie in print in the United States. And even as the rejections rolled in, all sorts of "exposés" of the Soviet Union made their way to an American publisher without any difficulty. Soviet publishing houses manifest the same delight in regurgitating a novel about the life-style of the American unemployed.
[4] It is, in some ways, uncomfortable to find yourself forced into the role of a Russian writer in exile. The entire world, in my view, pays far too much attention to the activities and internal policies of the USSR. Every random philistine who's read his share of cheap newspapers imagines himself to be a Kremlinologist and irritates the Russian writer in exile with vituperations over the KGB, the Gulag, Siberia, Afghanistan, Poland, and God only knows what other sort of rot.

I can't stand that sort of attention; I feel as if I were a Roman, and as such responsible for everything that Rome did, or did not do. Not infrequently, you are liked or disliked simply because you are a Roman (Russian), and therefore a son of that powerful state, albeit it a prodigal one.
Once, in a discotheque in Nice, someone learned that I was Russian and called me a pig. Graciously, I forgave this untypical representative of the French people his barbarity. Sometimes I use English as camouflage and pass myself off as an American. Still, that's a tricky game because, if roughly one-half of the world's population doesn't like Russians, the other half is hostile to the Yankees. Nowadays I try to pass myself off as an Albanian writer in exile.

[5] Having been through the struggle for existence in three countries (and not in the form of package tours or diplomatic junketing), I do not share the multiplicity of prejudices, phobias, and myths extant in the world. I do not, for example, perceive a great difference in the life of ordinary people in most countries. Under any political system the working man (I was a working stiff for twenty years) puts in his eight hours a day. The social system has yet to be invented which will free him from these eight unpleasant hours of daily slavery. Both in the USSR and in the U.S.A. millions of people wolf down their breakfasts and rush off to work. Perhaps the Soviet worker is more poorly dressed and his breakfast less nutritious than that of his alter ego in the U.S.A., and perhaps he travels to work in a bus rather than in his own car, but such differences are hardly sufficient cause for two peoples to fling atom bombs at each other.
And what about the Soviet threat to the West? I don't believe it exists. The U.S.A. and Europe, together, are twice as strong as the USSR. The two world wars were launched by Western democracies, and not by the USSR. No Soviet soldier has ever occupied one inch of U.S. territory, whereas in 1919 the United States sent an "expeditionary force" into Soviet territory. The USSR has never used nuclear weapons, whereas in 1945 the United States introduced a sinister era by dropping atomic weapons on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If we dig deeper into history, we will uncover other invasions of Russia by the West: 1812, 1855, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1941 ... Any objective observer would have to conclude that it is Russia who should fear the West, and not the contrary.
I believe it would be useful to send future heads of state (incognito, of course) into exile for a few years into the supposedly hostile country. This would liberate them from provincialism, phobias, and prejudices.
[6] I did not find the freedom to be a radical opponent of the existing social structure in the country which pompously calls itself the "leader of the free world," but neither did I notice it in the land which represents itself as "the bright future of all humanity." The FBI is just as zealous in putting down American radicals as the KGB is with its own radicals and dissidents. True, the methods of the FBI are more modem. They don't arrest dissidents, for this would transform them into celebrities by the next morning. All glory to the FBI! The KGB, however, is studying the techniques of its older brother and is successfully modernizing its own methods .../... 

.../... The passportless exile has to have a heightened sense of humor. I do. After that, however, I had no further desire to return to the United States of America. I was afraid that the Immigration Service would confiscate my reentry permit No. 1037378 and take as long as they liked to issue me a new one, and that I would thus have to remain in the U.S.A. against my will. Any sort of pretext would do, such as, for example, a "lost" folder. It is entirely possible that I was issued this improper reentry permit with precisely this purpose in mind [as well as a fully understandable desire to make my life more complicated). I swear by the heavens that I have never been arrested in the United States, never been mentally ill, and never been a member of the hated Communist Party. Nor do I suffer from a persecution complex. For a long while I lived in France with my "false" document, and was even obliged to turn down an invitation from the Bert Bakker Publishing House to visit Holland. On another occasion I refused to travel to England when my book was published by Picador.

[9] As you can see, all this hindered me in moving about the planet before I received French citizenship, but no one ever interfered with my writing. Both in Moscow and in New York I followed my own inclinations. As for politics, political parties, and politicians, I have always viewed them as a cancer on the body of humankind.
I cannot make the unqualified statement that I did not enjoy freedom to publish in the USSR. Before 1973 I never made any really serious attempts. Inasmuch as my verse manner is marked by an intentional primitivism (in Russian poetry I am the equivalent of Customs House Official Rousseau), I always took it for granted that my poetic production would not be to the taste of Soviet publishing enterprises and would be rejected. In 1974, however, to my amazement, the magazine Smena accepted for publication several of my poems. Only my departure from the USSR that same year prevented their publication.
Now that nine of my books have appeared in French translation and my first novel has even been published in half a dozen languages, I believe I have the right to consider myself a successful writer.
I have now lived for several years exclusively on income from literature. True, the majority of French and American writers would find it impossible to exist on the more than modest sums that literature provides me, but their needs are greater than mine. After twenty years of all sorts of odd jobs (tailor, stockman, steel worker, bookseller, stone mason, common laborer, painter, butler, etc.) in the USSR and the U.S.A. I am happy to have the opportunity to be just a writer.
[10] "How do you like the French?" my Russian and American friends now ask me. I don't see that this question has any meaning. I pick my friends and acquaintances, and — as a rule — their national peculiarities are not their most important qualities. In Paris I found the same number of lunatics, and I need lunatics, as I found in Moscow or in New York. My French friends are just as unusual and unique, in their own way, as my American or Russian friends. As for the crowd on the street, all I require of it is that it does not attack me.

[11] I neither like nor respect Soviet dissidents, any more than I liked Party and Union types in the USSR. Motivated by usually selfish or vengeful interests, the dissidents stir up public opinion and Western governments against the USSR. The second cold war has been, in many ways, the fruit of the efforts of the dissidents and their rhetoric, which is rich in phrases like "the blood-drenched Soviet regime."

To curry maximum sympathy in the West, dissidents — like fishermen and hunters — have considerably dramatized their own tales of woe. Since the sixties, for example, I have been watching the number of people estimated to have perished in the camps grow steadily. Khrushchev spoke of thousands; the dissidents at the time spoke of hundreds of thousands. Now they claim the astronomical figure of seventy million! Historians cannot agree on the number of casualties in World War I (there are about a hundred estimates!), but the dissidents throw around figures in the millions, using their own vengeful emotions and masochistic ecstasy as their source. Their statement, "Our former homeland is the absolute worst!" is another Russian claim to distinction — though in reverse.
The Gulag has long ago entered into the tragic pages of Russian history, but a good two-thirds of the world — most of the countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa — are now undoubtedly trampling human rights far more energetically than their colleagues in the USSR. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of Soviet dissidents, the USSR has retained position No. 1 throughout the world. Alas, this is not all so innocent.
Unfortunately, I have no choice but to share exile with the dissidents, and to struggle as a writer for my place in the sun — and it is a struggle to find publishers and readers.

Former Soviet writers, who cannot conceive of themselves without a boss, have managed to slip into the sphere of ideological service in their new homelands. Vladimir Maksimov, Vladimir Voinovich, Anatoly Gladilin, Georgy Vladimov, Vasily Aksyonov, and numerous other more minor figures diligently serve their new masters in radio broadcasting, cascading propaganda over the entire Soviet Union, and also in emigre newspapers and magazines — once financed directly by the CIA, but now by the U.S. State Department.

From time to time these dissidents are permitted in the Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, etc., to beat their breasts in public paroxysms of loyalty to the new order. In exchange for their good conduct they earn such epithets as "outstanding," "major," and "famous." Right from their first visits to the West, they have managed to establish excellent contacts. For example, when Patricia Blake, an editor for Time, wrote a survey of Russian literature, the most important Russian writer was not Solzhenitsyn or Sinyavsky-Terts, but... Vasily Aksyonov. Unfortunately, Time readers do not suspect that Patricia Blake is a personal friend of Aksyonov and his wife.
I want to note here that the profession of dissident in the USSR has long since ceased to be that of a sapper, who errs only once. Neither Maksimov, Nekrasov, Gladilin, Vladimov, or Aksyonov ever spent a day in prison. After celebrating their departure by an expensive drunken party in a Soviet restaurant, the very next day they celebrated their arrival in the West with an expensive drunken party in a restaurant in London, Paris, New York, or (at the very least) in Vienna. "How is it your dissidents feel no shame in posing as martyrs?" the reader will exclaim. And he'll be right.

[13] The reader must by now have realized that I am a mean person. This meanness explains precisely why I prefer to live among the quiet, nice peoples of the world. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of these quiet, nice peoples, and more and more of the nasty variety. The Armenians started killing Turks because, at the turn of the century, the Turks had butchered them. Evidently, the Jews and the Arabs will never stop killing each other. The Salvadorans are real artists at assassinating each other, while the Afghans slaughter each other and the Russians who came to their mountainous land to kill the bad Afghans.

The Americans, a very civilized nation, permitted 250 of their soldiers to be killed in Lebanon. Then, to compensate for their loss, they landed in Granada, knocked off a few Granadians and Cubans, and — proud of themselves — left. The English sated their inflamed national pride by killing hundreds of Argentineans at the other end of the world, and that during bad weather.
On Rue des Rosiers, just a block away, in the Goldenberg Restaurant, they killed six people, and on my street — Rue des Ecouffes — brawling increases all the time. If Le Pen, who doesn't like foreigners, comes to power in France, I will flee into exile again. But to where?
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Horst Biervek:
I would like to comment on Limonov's remarks, some though not most of which I agree with. While I personally found the subject fascinating, I think it would be best not to dwell on the internal quarrels of the Russian émigrés and dissidents. I am well aware that the most mortal enemy of a Russian exile is another Russian exile, but we are here to discuss the general problems of exile. We have among us Rumanians, a Turk, and even a token woman, and we should keep to our main topic, and not be distracted by internal Russian frictions, which are fully capable of swallowing up all of our attention. It's not that I want to strangle the exchange of experience, but I would like to keep it within certain bounds.

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