How did the great writers joke about each other? Among the many properties of talent, there is one that completely conquers us … Each had their own childish passions and inventions.
Why do writers need pranks?
For example, one person needed them to express everything that cannot be said directly. Others - to deceive the bias of critics and literary brethren. Still others just laugh it off. The fourth, finally, to settle scores with each other. But you never know the reasons. This is how Kozma Prutkov (the brainchild of Alexei K. Tolstoy and the Zhemchuzhnikov brothers) and Cherubin de Gabriak (a hoax by Maximilian Voloshin performed by Elizaveta Dmitrieva) appeared in Russian literature. Whole literary careers (Dovlatov, for example) grew on bikes and vains. Paustovsky suggested looking at this weakness with understanding: “Among the many properties of talent, there is one that completely conquers us … Each had his own childish passions and inventions. Gorky loved to make fires, even in ashtrays, Pushkin loved "jokes" (remember his "joke" with the ingenuous uncle Vasily Lvovich), Green - to make bows and shoot them at the target, Chekhov - to catch crucians "…
It would seem that such childishness and "nonsense" equalize any layman in rights with talents and geniuses. And yet, geniuses have meaning in any nonsense.
Vladislav Khodasevich, in his essay "Gorky", described the story of how he and Alexei Maksimovich decided to bring an unfair (in Gorky's opinion) critic to the surface. “This took place at the end of 1923, in Marienbad. At that time, Gorky and I jointly edited the Beseda magazine. Our dispute has reached the point that I, almost on a wager, suggested in the next book to print two stories of Gorky - one under his real name, the other under a pseudonym - and see what happens."
They published "A Story about a Hero" signed by Gorky and next to another story "About a Novel" - under the pseudonym "Vasily Sizov". The critic scolded both. But the writer Andrei Sobol, who had arrived, after reading the same stories, praised Gorky and suddenly blurted out: “But you published this Sizov in vain. Terrible rubbish."
Already before going to sleep, Gorky said to Khodasevich from behind the screen: "Don't try to explain to Sobol what the matter is, otherwise we will be ashamed of each other, like two naked nuns."
Many strange stories happened to Sergei Yesenin in Tbilisi. The Georgian poet Georgy Leonidze once recalled something. “I go to see him once in the evening at the Oriant Hotel. He was alone, sad, but at the sight of me he jumped up and shouted to me excitedly: “Gogla, I challenge you to a duel! Name the seconds! " - "What's the matter, why?" “Don't worry, we'll shoot blanks, and the next day the newspapers will print that Yesenin and Leonidze fought, you know? Isn't it fun?"
It was not possible to play the newspaper men chasing Yesenin: no one wanted to shoot him, even as a joke.
Scientific and technical drawing
Once, in the early 60s, Viktor Nekrasov and Andrei Voznesensky staged a rally at the Yalta House of Creativity. It all started with the fact that Voznesensky first brought to Russia "walkie-talkies" - a remote intercom, operating over ten kilometers. A novelty of scientific and technical thought! It looks like an oblong transistor with an antenna. “No one here suspected of its existence,” said Voznesensky. So, in Yalta, in the house of creativity, a great feast was going on - they celebrated the birthday of Nekrasov, then not yet an emigrant. “At the head of the table was K. G. Paustovsky, the table was filled with the color of the liberal intelligentsia, the poet recalled. "Among them was the Crimean prose writer Stanislav Slavich." A transistor with an antenna, walkie-talkie, stood on the table.“Andrey,” the birthday boy addressed. "Your interview should be on Voice of America today." - "O! Yes, that's just now!"
Turned on the "transistor". And Voznesensky left the room, locked himself in the toilet and started his reportage from there. “How witty I was! How he watered everyone at the table. He called names. He exposed them as alcoholics, libertines and opportunists. Actually, I thought of my philippics as a parody of official propaganda. Paustovsky was called old-fashioned. The main drunk was, of course, Vika. I vilely sucked up to the authorities, arguing that Brezhnev is greater than our liberals, because he can drink without eating more vodka and he has more women. When he turned to Slavich, he, in the midst of complete silence, said discouragedly: "Slavich is me …"
What happened next? There is deathly silence in the dining room. Paustovsky angrily: “And this bastard ate our bread. What was he chatting to foreign correspondents there ?! " Nekrasov and Voznesensky tried to explain that this was a joke. “Ah, a prank ?! So we are plebeians? So you're fooling us with your foreign toys? " - Slavich slapped Nekrasov in the face. He had a scar on his lower lip for the rest of his life.
How we almost brought Nabokov back to the USSR
In the late 90s, I worked at Literaturka in the department, which was then headed by the critic Alla Latynina. April 1 was approaching, and we decided to play a prank on the readers, as it were, seriously, in a literary way. And then my friend the writer Vladislav Otroshenko and his friend the writer Yevgeny Laputin had an idea. It is known that in Soviet times, Stalin had a rather serious idea, even a whole program for the return of large émigré writers to the USSR. It is known that there was an idea to return Ivan Bunin after the war. And in particular, Konstantin Simonov met with him, and Bunin was then inspired by the victory of the Soviet people over the Nazis. But it didn’t work out, Bunin didn’t come back.
And so we made a whole strip of three materials. It was the minutes of a closed meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU with the participation of representatives of the KGB, representatives of the top of the Union of Writers of the USSR, where the question was raised that Soviet literature, of course, is the largest in the world, but its bifurcation into Soviet and emigre is not very good, it does not work for prestige Soviet power. And now, shouldn't we return the writer Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov. Then he was offered a dacha, content, large circulations, a speech in front of a wide readership, which, of course, he is deprived of in hostile America.
The second material was, in fact, a letter to Nabokov himself with a proposal to return to his homeland … And the third material was composed by Zhenya Laputin, he was a fanatic of Nabokov, he felt his style well. And it was Nabokov's letter to someone, where he reflects on this invitation. It was sustained in such serious tones, because Nabokov was thinking, he is beautiful in life, he remembers these estates, and Rozhdestvenno, he has poems about it, photographs were sent to him by the museum workers …
Nabokov seemed to be nostalgic, but with his inherent ponderous irony, he played up and laughed at this proposal in every possible way, and in the end decided that after all, of course, he would not return.
Like this, it was more likely not even a joke, but a literary hoax. This could be theoretically. Everything could have happened. It was surprising that many believed in this. I will not name now who, but even quite authoritative literary people who personally told me: and you have read, after all, what a historical document. I dissuaded them, but some did not believe it.