Among Friends in the Folds of the Iron Curtain
A Close Intellectual Circle
In Grisha’s Moscow studio, Archival had the pleasure of filming close friend and fellow Russian Nonconformist artist, Boris Orlov.
“We were very fond of Thomas Mann, for example, just as we loved the philosophical literature of the Russian ‘Silver Century’. Then books such as, say Berdyaev and Lev Shestov were our core readings, we read them from cover to cover. We were in Russia and, regardless of the Soviet attack on the intelligentsia, the libraries were still well-preserved and we would take these books from them to read.
our friends brought suitcases of Russian books from abroad, published by western publishers
In more recent times we would take the books legally from the library and on the eve of perestroika, our friends brought suitcases of Russian books from abroad, published by western publishers. Some people would read books in foreign languages. Grisha would read in French, whatever floats your boat, but we did not experience intellectual hunger here, and here we were completely aware of events. Say, in the late sixties, our minds were in tune with the philosophy of western existentialism. We were metaphysicians. Naturally, this is Sartre, Camus, and at the time, the same Russian existentialists, Shestov and Berdyaev who were writing after immigration. All this was available to us and we read it all. The whole literature of the time, all bestsellers, Marquez for example, would be sat on our tables and discussed over tea. It was the basis of our conversation. Then we made friends with writers, our circle didn’t consist of just artists, but also men of letters- well-known writers who were our contemporaries. All the big celebrities, such as Sorokin, Rubinstein. They all used to sit in our workshops so we took in first-hand what they were writing at the time. It was a close intellectual circle.”