Thursday, September 20, 2018

Quotations from Vladimir Voinovich's Moscow 2042

Below are some of my favorite quotations from Vladimir Voinovich's Moscow 2042

What I describe here is only what I saw with my own eyes.  Or hear with my own ears.  Or what was told to me by someone I trust greatly.  Or not that greatly.  In any case, what I write is always based on something.

"Science fiction," he said confidently, "is the literature of the future."

"Why didn't you tell me right away that drinks are free?  If drinks are free, there's nothing left to discuss."

Then she reminded me of the story of a neighbor of ours who had died recently.  He had come to Germany from Russia long ago with his family and had not wanted to unpack his bags.  "They'll drive the Bolsheviks out soon," he used to say, "and we'll all be going back.  Why do the double work, unpack and then pack all over again?"

...we Russians are always reflecting instead of relaxing, and that's bad for your health.  I sometimes put my feet up on the table, but it doesn't help me to relax.  We're just not used to it.

"'re well aware that prudence is imprudent.  Today you're afraid of catching cold, and tomorrow a brick falls on your head, and then what difference does a cold make?"

"But to be honest, I'd rather see you dead then prudent."

Their hope was that at some point in the future, the great Soviet Union, great friend of the Arab nations, would stop keeping certain secrets secret.  And they, my companions, would be grateful to me if I could manage to obtain and bring back a detailed plan for an ordinary nuclear bomb, which they wanted solely for peaceful purposes.

I had heard that Soviet-made chewing gum had already appeared in the Soviet Union. Of course, it had to take second place to Western chewing gum, but I didn't have the slightest doubt that in the span of sixty years, as a result of the technological revolution, historic party and government decrees, and the masses; enthusiasm for work, the production of chewing articles and their distribution to most segments of the populations would probably have undergone radical change for the better.
    As for jeans, I thought some progress was inevitable there, too, in sixty years;  in any event, at least Polish, say, or Hungarian jeans would be available in Moscow.

He became a political commentator on television, traveled abroad where carried out important assignments, and even, I heard, was in the circle that wrote Brezhnev's books for him.

They had a two-room apartment to themselves.  This luxury, unheard of at the time, was theirs because Leo's grandfather, Pavel Ilich Zilberovich (Party underground-name--Serebrov) was a hero of the Civil War.

...a soggy piece of soap of a sort, so black and foul-smelling that you'd have to look hard to find anything similar, even in a Soviet store.

Of course, power had sometimes been seized in one country or another, and territory has been subdued by people with just mustaches and sometimes even without.  But no beardless man has ever yet been known as a prophet.

It should also be pointed out that there are beards and there are beards.  To stand out from the general run, the wearer of a beard must avoid any hint of imitation.  He should never grow a beard that could be called Marx-like, Lenin-like, Ho-Chi-Minh-like or Tolstoy-like.  Otherwise, he would be numbered among the prophets but among the followers.

At first, he went too far and grew a bear of such length that he would step on himself, particularly when he was in a hurry.  This was both inconvenient and pointless, because the beard was too long to fit into any photograph.

I have done massive research on beards which anyone who so desires can do in practically any library in the world.  But, for those too lazy to go to the library, I will say briefly that I am deeply convinced that beards play a very important role in the dissemination of advanced ideas and doctrines, and in winning minds...A prophet's thoughts and ideas are secondary.  It is not our brains which a prophet primarily affects, but our hormones, and it is for this that a beard is needed, along with all the gestures, grimaces, and expressions that go with it.  Sexually aroused, the crowd mistakenly assumed that is has mastered ideas for whose sake it is worthwhile to destroy churches, build canals, and kill their fellow men.

"What, don't you cross yourself?" said Janet, looking askance at me.  "Are you a militant atheist?"
"Not at all," I said.  I'm not a militant atheist, just a frivolous one."

I remember when were at university together, I borrowed a copy of one of Lenin's pamphlets from her (I think it was The State and Revolution."  The word genius appeared in the margins like punctuation after every sentence.

Still, you shouldn't mix Gorbachev with Jack Daniels.

"You know he refused to use words with foreign origins..."
"And he reads newspapers again?"
"No, the looker."
"The what?"
"The looker."
"I understand," I said, you mean the television. He relaxes.

He wished us all a pleasant flight and expressed the hope that when we researched our destination this wonderful space plane and its passengers would not be devoured by dinosaurs or mutants spawned after a world nuclear disaster.

"Under communism," he said, "everyone will be young, handsome, healthy, and in love with one another.  People will stroll under the palm trees, carry on philosophical conversations, and listen to soft music."

...words in every language have both a dictionary and an ideological meaning (that I didn't know), and the interpreter was needed to translate our conversation from one ideological system into the other.

"Well, as everyone knows, among his other virtues, our leader is also distinguished by his exceptional modesty.

"Yes," said Propaganda Paramonovna with a smile, "your remark smacks of metaphysics, Hegelianism, and Kantianism."

I looked around dubiously and at once saw for myself that during my absence radical changes for the better had in fact taken place.  There was toilet paper!


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