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Unfiled April 16, 2004
 
Writing and Prison
Part Two of the eXile interview with Eduard Limonov
 
 

eXile: To me, His Butler's Story is one of your best books. One of the reasons I was shocked when I first read it was that somehow you managed to describe what Jenny, an ordinary American of the time, was like. I read that and looked around at the rest of American literature and nobody repeated it. I always wondered what made it so hard to Americans to describe carefully what was happening. You needed to go to a Russian...

Edward Limonov: Probably really because I was new and fresh from the other world. What I saw was probably banality for the Americans. And I came from a completely different social situation. And I had some kind of a good eye...

eX: When you came for the first time, what did you get from Americans, what influences?

EL: I had very different influences. For example from my boss and from his employees and friends I learned a lot practical. Even from now I have that from Karla for appointments. She taught me a lot of things like how to organize myself. Not like she was sitting with me and saying write down this, but we worked every day and so she said me and eventually I found myself living in France I found myself using this business discipline.

That is undeniable, absolutely. Then it was ordinary places like Jenny -- her real name is Julie Carpenter -- her father was an FBI agent and she and her friends especially her brother...

eX: You mean the guy who was a stoner?

EL: Yeah, they see I'm reading something boring on in kitchen and he says you should not read this bullshit and gives me High Times magazine. Not only that but also the books. For example that was Julie who recommended to me to read Bukowski. And other things...the Beatniks I guess. Then the books of B. Traven. He's the best to write about the sailors, really macabre things.

eX: What American literature did you know before you went to America and how did your view of American literature change?

EL: Very little -- I knew what was translated, Socialist stuff, Theodore Dreiser. Hemingway was read by children. But later I read Hemingway and a lot of other writers in English and they are really something. I liked the style. Later I read many things. A couple of years after arrival, it took me some time to learn the language, its rhythm. But about influences, basically good writers. My young friends have been very helpful to introduce me to punk.

eX: We wanted to ask you about punk...

EL: Yeah, because it started in '75 and I lived in New York at this time and I immediately knew that something happens on the Lower East Side. And I been on the Lower East Side before because a lot of Polish, Ukrainians, Russians immigrants lived there. Russian Jewish stores and all that. Some friends of mine lived in St. Marks Place. I went to all the concerts in CBGB. All the American lower east side punk.

eX: Richard Hell and the Voidoids...

EL: Yeah, Richard Hell!

eX: Is punk part of the National Bolshevik iconography?

EL: It's probably not a coincidence that when we thought about the creation of the party, one of us, my young friend Taras, he found Yegor Letov, the Russian idol. He spoke about my books in some lyrics. He said we should contact him as a great influence on Russian youngsters. And so we did, we contacted him and because of that many first National Bolsheviks came from that, Russian punks. Even now a lot are coming...

eX: I've got a naive fan question... Did Jenny (or Julie) read His Butler's Story? Or Peter Sprague [Limonov's billionaire employed, portrayed in HBS]?

EL: Yeah, Julie read it, I guess so.

eX: Did they respond to it?


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FROM THE VAULT

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