About forty thousand young people have submitted their works to a widely advertised literary contest, Debut-2001. Summing up of the contest’s results and the awarding of winners took place on the New Year’s eve. There were five winners and five nominations. Sergey Shargunov, the author of the story “Kid is punished," won the nomination “Large-scale prose." Sergey is a fifth-year student of the journalistic department of the Moscow State University. Russia’s intellectual elite was shocked by Sergey’s decision to give his $2000 to award writer Eduard Limonov, who imprisoned in Lefortovo prison.
PRAVDA.Ru correspondent congratulated Sergey Shargunov with the victory and asked him to discuss the motives of his decision and his creative plans for the future.
- It was not that easy to make such a decision. The jury liked my story; I understood that my decision would cause a shock. Indeed, the displeasure of most of the well-wishers was mirrored on their faces. However, my decision was a manifestation of my independence. Should I have done it the other way, it would have been quite a punishment for me. I say once again that I am not Limonov’s follower. However, my decision is an attempt to draw public attention to the problem: it is a decent contribution to the release of a talented writer. Rather fantastic charges have been brought against Eduard Limonov: they say that he tried to create a Russian republic in Kazakhstan. These are awful charges! That is why I could not keep silent.
- Where did the awarding take place? What was the public reaction to your decision ?
- The pompous awarding took place in the Prague restaurant. The whole of the elite was there: Russia’s minister for culture, writers, and publishers. I must have spoiled the party for some of them, but many people approved of my decision by applause. Honest and clever people understood the importance of my action.
- What is your story “Kid is punished” about? What is its main idea ?
- The story is about love. About a young man and his passion for a crafty woman involved in drug dealing. The story is a hard and brilliant work. Now, we can seldom find stories about love. The society is overwhelmed by smutty stories. My heroes are different.
- What are you working on now ?
- Now, I am working on a story about a good and positive hero. He knows the present-day conditions that sometimes hurt people, but the hero chooses a different way, a good one. I think a positive hero, not a drug addict or a sodomite, is important now. By my work, I try to support sound people and create a new positive example for our youth.
- What do you think are the future prospects of Russia’s literature for the next twenty years? Will it develop or weaken ?
- The weakening of Russia’s literature is out of the question! There is a vividness of thoughts, which means that the literature will exist. We know that, whatever happens, the Russian people possess creative powers and internal beauty. Certainly, the circle of readers grows narrower. People read detective stories and thrillers in the metro. But still, people find strong heroes in such cheap books. It is considered that serious, high quality literature lacks dynamism and heroism.
- Tell please, what are your criteria for high quality literature – real literature, as we say ?
- Tastes differ; yours and mine are more likely to be different. The problem you have touched upon is subjective and delicate. I like when literature has an impact on the eye and emotion. Recently, I said that lots of boring and sleety books have appeared; they lack liveliness and flight. Russia’s literature is famous for its flight. In response to my statement influential critics said that I try to make everyone write in a manner of Russian writer Alexander Kuprin. In his time, Kuprin’s works were pungent and fresh. On the contrary, I support the development of literature; we should not destroy it.
- Do you observe “the fathers and children” problem in literature now ? Do young writers manage to reach mutual understanding with an older generation ? How do you see “a hero of the time” ?
- A gap between generations has always existed. But now the degree of estrangement between younger and older generations is great: there are lots of differences between the Soviet generation and the younger, present-day generation. They lack understanding. I think, it is the young energetic and curious generation that may prevent a fatal break between the generations. The young generation can adequately explain its essence. Young writers are to act as a connecting link. As for a hero of our time, people are all different in the chaotic time. My objective is to create a hero that is close to me by usage of different present-day characters.
- What is your credo ?
- I say, never despair. One is to be brave and overcome the delirium and disintegration of the present day that try to swallow us up. My new story is called “Hurrah !”
Sergey Shargunov was interviewed by PRAVDA.Ru correspondent Sergey Stefanov
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/01/15/35548.html