GEORGI GACHEV

 

ABOUT LEONID LATYNIN`S NOVEL

«THE FACE-MAKER AND THE MUSE»

 

This is a complex book, and reading it was a soul-stirring expe­rience. I can sense the enormous mental, moral and artistic effort that went into the writing of it. It has been eighteen months since I read it but I still feel sick at heart and slightly nauseous recalling its various episodes. It is as though I myself was burnt at the stake or underwent plastic surgery.

It evokes a feeling similar to an act of repentance, after you've looked into your innermost self and been horrified at what you've found there and have begun yearning for a catharsis and transforma­tion not only with all your being but with your very entrails and genitalia.

Having read this book is like having been down with a mortal illness. But once you recover from it you acquire an immunity as it were and will forever be immune to it.    

The plot is original but simple: in a city where it always rains people go to work, make love at home, and once they have a conflict with the authorities, they are punished with Departure. From this emerges a philosophical parable: that work is in actual fact a giant machinery for mutilating human beings and life itself. The workers are robots and the Arch-Creator, another version of Faust. By means of plastic surgery all are made alike both outwardly and inwardly. All are levelled out, this hideous, mass-production of homunculi.

This brings to mind mediaeval alchemists, Faust and Paracelcius, the times of Tyll Ulenspiegel and Giordano Bruno, which are curiously combined with ultra-modern science fiction, social Utopia and anti-utopia.

At the same time it is a thoroughly Russian work, slightly suggestive of Archpriest Avvakum, Old Believers' self-immolations, and Dostoevsky's Legend of the Great Inquisitor.

The author as it were stages an experiment testing the possibilities of a society as a historical entity, and man's moral potential under extreme conditions. It takes enormous creative energy to be able to do that.

And above all this hovers tenderness and an unbelievable need of two human beings for each other. Love is an outlet and a hope. It is a promise of renovation and rebirth of the human spirit after it has gone through all the martyrdom in the nature of mediaeval lives, and all the tortures so inventively created by our own century. Despite the devillish clouds of dense darkness the quiet heavenly music is constantly heard and a radiant light is ever present.