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Book Review October 16, 2003
 
Zhirik + Vanya 4 Ever
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 4
 
This time Zhirinovskii's not in his playful, coy mode about his own origins. He's a Russian, plain and simple; the Jews are monsters. He begins with a stylized disavowal of conflict: "I don't want to get in an argument with the rabbis...." Heaven forbid. All he wants to do is point out that the Jews always planned to ritually murder the royal family, and that secret Kabbalic signs were found on the walls of the Ipatyev house in the basement of which they were killed, and that that's why Yeltsin had the house razed....and so on, and so on, till you recoil in sheer disgust.

It was strange to slip so easily from mere resentful populism to this ridiculous mad screeching about the Dead Sea Scrolls and scheming rabbis. From this point onward, the pamphlet zoomed into the Stellazine zone and stayed there, continuing to bounce between bitchy histories of the post-Revolution Romanovs' divorces, suicides and intrigues and old shrieks about the Jews, whose deepest hatred, it turns out, is Russian Orthodoxy.

You have to wonder if Zhirinovskii believes any of this. He can't. Not because he's a Jew -- why not hate your own? What could be more natural or universal an impulse than that? -- but because it's so ill-bred and, well, unscholarly.

But it's a little late to be recoiling so indignantly, so righteously, 20 pages into this dirty book. The fact is, it's the whiff of fascism that makes Zhirinovskii more interesting than ordinary grown-up politicians, and it's a little dishonest to play the shocked innocent when the spittle starts to fly and the swastikas come out. TV -- Russian and Western -- loves him precisely because he fulfils his role so grotesquely well.

Every now and then, he takes a merciful break from the crazed anti-Semitic rant, blandly returning to conventional autobiography in a section called "My Universities." It's another very literary interlude, a classic European bildungsroman about the smart provincial kid making his lonely way into the Moscow intelligensia. It's interesting for a while, this literary character taking itself -- its KGB-created, wholly-artificial persona -- so seriously, in so maudlin a tone. Interesting for a while, at least. And then -- guess who's back?

Yeah. The Jews again. Chapter 4, "The Plague of the XXth Century," is, if nothing else, simple and clear. The Plague turns out to be Communism. And "Communism was invented by the Jews." Well, yes, you mean Marx -- but no: "No, Vanya, not Karl Marx. He was just a boy, a little boy, compared to the grown men who were the source of the plague germs."

These elders were not only Jews, but also...yup: Freemasons. I should've guessed they'd show up. Now all we need is some evil ETs for the full L. Ron Hubbard psychotic's history of the world.

And sure enough, the secret inventors of Communism turn out to be just who you'd expect: the twelve tribes of Israel. Turns out that they invented Communism. They kept it warm for what, 1800 years? and then passed it on to the seventeenth-century French Freemasons, who gave it to Karl Marx, the poor kid. And he drank out of the same teacup as Lenin, and that's how Russia caught the plague. What could be clearer?

At this point I began to wonder whether Zhirinovskii even bothered to dictate this crap himself, or just handed his party ghostwriters some xeroxed Nazi rant he ripped off a podmoskovoe streetlight.

I do believe Zhirinovskii drafted that homoerotic, Whitmanesque Introduction. He would have enjoyed that bit -- a little showing off, a little flirting. But after that, all literary merit vanishes from the pamphlet. This isn't just nonsense, it's badly written nonsense. He must really despise his constituency.

And he's not the only one. I used to sympathize with LDPR voters. They seemed like suckers, but their grief and bitterness were easy to understand. I don't think I'll be able to do that after reading this. It's partly a matter of intellectual and literary snobbery. But there's no avoiding the fact that there's something else here, something it's almost embarrassing to admit: simple moral disapproval. This is wrong. Can I say that? Guess so. Well it IS, damn it!


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