Moscow to the End of the Line
Vagrant, drunk, a dissident who spent years on the margins of Soviet society, without an official residency permit, drifting, drinking, doing odd jobs, scribbling in notebooks, criticizing the regime, and publishing a small portion of his work, many now consider Venedikt Erofeev the lost genius of Soviet Literature. Moscow to the End of the Line is a translation of Moscow-Petushki, Erofeev's major surviving work. This is a semi-autobiographical fiction where alcoholic intellectual/philosopher Venya (Venichka and at least once Venedikt) gets fired from his meaningless job as a foreman for workers laying cable because he began charting their production based on their alcohol consumption. Venya's existence centers around alcohol and he spends every waking moment drunk exploring how different alcohols, drinks and different rates of consumption might produce a different alcohol high and different moods and states of drunkenness. This exploration of drunkenness is woven as a strand throughout the book and in the process, Erofeev lays bare the drunk's tortured mind and world-view. He spends a lot of time dissecting his own drunkenness, often hampered by his level of inebriation. At one point in the book, as he stumbles about drunk, a woman approaches him and asks "Is that you Erofeev?", He affirms that it is and she replies: ""I've read some of your stuff, and, you know, I never thought that anyone could get so much drivel onto half a hundred pages. It's beyond imagination." Venya is flattered that he could exceed imagination. The book is modernist and it is a stream of consciousness, at time alcoholic delusional and hallucinatory monologue of a journey on a suburban train from Moscow to Petushki, a suburb 78 miles from Moscow, for Venya to meet up with his most beloved of trollops and son. In Venya's mind Petushki is a place of salvation where the jasmine always blooms and it is always wonderful and peaceful. The narrative contains a bit of Chaucer as various riders in Venya's car share their stories and their feelings of alcohol, history and literature as they sit with Venya and drink. The lives of Venya's companion's, their stories and their interactions lay bare the soul of the Soviet regime. At several points throughout, these stories inject quite a bit of Russian and Enlightenment literature and philosophy and Erofeev uses the interplay between these intellectual themes and alcohol to eviscerate Soviet Society. The level of alcohol consumed throughout is a personal tragedy and itself critique of the characterlessness and alienation permeating Soviet culture. Erofeev is insightful, humorous, brilliant, and sad. He is a world class writer who died too soon (at age 51 of throat cancer).