Review: Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère
The French writer Emmanuel Carrère, himself partly Russian, has written a hugely readable bestseller, now fluently translated by John Lambert, about Eduard Limonov, a picaresque outsider from Ukraine, by turns a small-time hooligan, failed poet, bisexual exhibitionist, obsessive autobiographer and minor politician. Carrère calls his book a novel, or perhaps a «novel». The confusion is deliberate. Limonov himself doesn’t know whether to endorse Carrère’s version of his life or not. But it does parallel the known facts of his career, even if some of the details are invented.
The son of an unsuccessful secret policeman, Limonov bummed around America in the 1970s as a minor littérateur and failed celebrity. Several books and many affairs later, after a somewhat more successful time in Paris, he returned to Moscow in 1991 to found Russia’s National Bolshevik Party, complete with black shirts, fascist salutes and neoimperial ambitions. He associated with the nastier Serb nationalists in Bosnia. He adventured into Russia’s bushfire wars on the fringes of the old empire. Vladimir Putin’s people harassed his people and banned his party. He is now a much-publicised fringe member of the raggle-taggle, sometimes brave, mostly ineffective opposition to Putin and like them, regularly though briefly gets tossed into jail for his pains.
Carrère oscillates between romantic admiration and reluctant disapproval of this bizarre, unattractive and now elderly poseur. But his extravagant tour de force shines a genuine light on the scruffier fringe of Russian life and the seedier side of recent Russian history.
«Prospect Magazine», december 2014