Monday, October 26, 2015

Vovochka, The True Confessions of Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend and Confidant

Vovochka, The True Confessions of Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend and Confidant

by Alexander J. Motyl

Anaphora Literary Press, Augusta, Georgia 2015

Reviewed by Mykola Mick Dementiuk

     There is a curious scene in the dim humorous novel Vovochka when the two lead characters, both named Putin and both called Vovochka, are in Communist-controlled East Berlin and decide to hop over the Wall and partake of the heady pleasures of West Berlin.

     To a typical Alexander Motyl reader this may be chuckled at and passed over as a typical playful Motyl-jokesterism but to this reader, walljumping was a dire and deadly risk that East German young men partook of very often, as documented by Peter Schneider in his book The Wall Jumper, published in 1982, seven years before the Fall of the Wall but which as a political science professor Motyl would certainly be aware of. They’d daringly get over the Wall, drink and drug and party, then cross back over and resume their dull, boring lives.

     Hard to fathom this but with a young Putin Vovochka and his buddy, another Vovochka, these daring walljumping events became common place and clearly in their world-view certainly obvious. Their boldness and risk daring sets them apart and in good stead of each other as they grow and function in Berlin, Leningrad, Moscow burrowing their way through the quagmire that is the Soviet government and into the secret service, the KGB.

     But in a world which is rapidly and constantly changing, and with the troubled appearance of an old and senile Brezhnev, a drunken Yeltsin, and an inept Gorbachev, the stage is set for young Vovochka to play his part.

     Motyl shows us Vovochka as an egomaniac ruler of Russia, slowly and horribly taking back the Russian empire which was his under the Tsars and the Communist rulers, but lost and rapidly disappearing in the past decade or so, is getting back to where it was destined to be, under Vovochka’s strict control.

     The first part of the book is humorous, playful as the two Vovochka’s come out, but in the second part the funny cheer becomes humorless, stern and regimented as Vovochka holds his power and strengthens it in every direction. Thus once again becoming what he was destined to be, the supreme ruler of Russia, Tsar Vovochka. If you want to know what Russian history could be or is becoming, I highly recommend this book.

Alexander J. Motyl (b. 1953, NYC) is a writer, painter, and professor. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2008 and 2013, he is the author of six novels, Whiskey Priest, Who Killed Andrei Warhol, Flippancy, The Jew Who Was Ukrainian, My Orchidia, and The Taste of Snow, Fall River. He has done performances of his fiction and poetry at the Cornelia Street Café and the Bowery Poetry Club. Motyl’s artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows in NYC, Philadelphia, and Toronto and is on display on the Internet gallery, He teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in NYC.

Reviewed by Mykola Mick Dementiuk

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