The Woes without Wit

Recently I have met one my good friend. We have not seen for several years, and the style remained the same. Touching all-weather hat, scattered-piercing glance, flawlessly-selective memory… And the irony, of course. Olga is wife (don’t like the word “widow”), mate and just friend of my teacher Alexander Zinoviev: philisopher, logician, sociologist. Genius! No, it’s not a metaphor or hyperbole. I was just  reading lectures in one of the most famous universities in the world, when I found out that according to some challenging and complex methodology Zinoviev had been nominated “the smartest man in the world of the twentieth century”. It’s Powerfully! Especially when you know that in some sideway (even in some short sideway) (you are also involved.
We (me and Olga) were the first moderators of the conference in the post-Soviet space dedicated to the scientific work of Alexander Alexandrovich. It was in Donetsk a decade ago. Other cities and  capitals had refused to host this meeting. Why? I think that is because the heads of these cities knew something about the philosopher uncomfortable for all the authorities. And his disciples were not there. And the heads of Donetsk hadn’t even heard about him. But the disciples were. The conference, by the way, was successful.

I only must repent of my two slips. The first time was when one venerable guest of the meeting – an academician- said: “How great it is that the works of the splendid thinker have returned to our spiritual post-Soviet world. This opens up new opportunities for all of us in the cognition of social world.”And I replied: “It’s unlikely. If one brings the Stradivari’s violin in a country club, it will not open new musical opportunities for local amateur performances.” They took it in bad part. All for nothing.

Now this academician is playing from music of the Ukrainian authorities. And he
does not need high style and sophisticated analysis tools of philosophical Maestro.

The second time I made a blunder was already on the meeting with the local beau monde. The owner of the new local stadium and the affiliated city’s government had invited me and Olga to admire this stadium. In fact, it was amazing. There are probably not many such a stadium in the world. “What do you think”, the owner asked, “when we will become here champions of Europe?” “Never”, answered I fool-, “you will never become champions since none of you have read Zinoviev.” Silence. “But in which connection you have mentioned Zinoviev, Kamenev?”, then made a banal-erudite fuss the bossy cohort . And so I told one of my favorite stories.

Before the death of the reclusive Heidegger one crafty French journalist managed to interview him. Among other issues there was this one: “How you Germans, manage to create such a cool car as Mercedes?” “I think,” said philosopher, “that German car workers are the last in the world who read Aristotle, Kant and Hegel.” “And what are the relations between Hegel and Mercedes?” “I don’t know what are the relations between them, but I just suspect that the man who haven’t read Hegel couldn’t make a Mercedes.” This parable I finished by the next hypothesis: “I don’t know what is the connection between philosopher Zinoviev and the football-team “Shakhter”, but I suspect that people who haven’t read his works couldn’t make their club a champion.

Of course, I did. I knew and I know what is the connection. And cool cars and high-level football make smart people. And Zinoviev is an embodied passion of person to mind. At university I studied logic on his textbooks. They explained the correct manner of thinking, without being distracted by clutter and randomness. At the Institute of philosophy I, just holding my breath, catching each of his words both on the postgraduate lectures and on some spontaneous occasions in thefamiliar cafeteria on Volkhonka. During that time everyone considered him a great frondeur, enemy of the authority, opponent of the regime. To drink vodka in his company used to be thought or a civil feat or at least challenge to the system.

Shortly before his expulsion from the Union and withdrawal of nationality (it was an unprecedented event in the history of the country!), I asked him against what or whom he fights. “I’m not a dissident”, he replied, “I do sincerely believe that the Soviet’s regime is mine and I fight not against it, but against everything that prevents me to be smart …”

The uniqueness of Zinoviev, in my opinion, was not in his encyclopedic knowledge, consistency, scalability, but first of all in a frantic thirst of the wit. That is the intrinsic ability to learn the essence of things, to see the true cause-and-effect relationships, to penetrate into the actual truth. Probably, there hasn’t been in the world a man who so relentlessly and selflessly fought for right and fortune to be clever.

Already in childhood, he concluded that the main obstacle to the intellect, to the opening it the truth, was fear. And he has begun to deal with fears. There was the fear of the leader. So he began to prepare the murder of Stalin. And would have been executed himself, if not the war. Here is the fear of death. And he becomes the pilot of the aircraft, the most dangerous military profession. He had survived by a miracle. A severe fear of party discipline. And he rents his party card, thrusting it under the door of the barricaded Secretary of the Party Committee. Or a fear of official ideology. And so he produces in samizdat the series of stunning books (” Yawning Heights”, etc.), fiercely trolling the nonsense of the officialdom, life according to the nomenclature’s distribution and late Soviet decadence.

Well, it was difficult in the Union to be smart. And he was sent, deprived not only of nationality but also of all combat awards and academic regalia. Sent to Europe! But … It turned out that in Europe it was prohibited to be smart! There were their own fears, and even more improved and comprehensive. And he again begun a fight. For the truth. For the right of intellect. He advised seditious things: Europe will never become unified; the West will seek to make Russia a colony, and the former Soviet republics have already become marginal steel colonies; those who had destroyed the Union are not heroes, but villains; the Soviet literature is the best in the world.

He was eventually put in front of the choice: or he refuses his wit, or Europe would refuse him. But the woe is without wit. And he has returned once again. In order to tell the truth. Today Europe doesn’t publish him, but Russia (although obviously not enough) does.

In short, I had many things to talk about with Olga Zinovieva. At parting she whispered to me like some password: “The Stradivari’s violin” you can already return it. “

R. Dervish
specially for “Crimea Insider”

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