Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Natasha KOT


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Islandia
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What’s it like to be you?
Boring because it’s just always boring. You always crave something interesting, you find it, and then time passes and your interest disappears. The cycle then continues.

Nothing ruins a target like a direct hit. How do you fight with this cycle?
I don’t. It’s a continuous change of interests and constant attempts to try and learn something new, but since I am far from being 27 years old, drugs and women do not fall into the category anymore – time passed for that long ago. Yet I am left with different hobbies, interests, objects and everything else.

What interests you now?
This is exactly the time when there are no interests at all as if some sort of line has been passed. I’m in limbo and I’m trying to figure out what interests me. I’m faced with the question of where to go for the New Year and I’ve realized that I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m so not interested. I have to go in the hope that I will find something there, wherever that will be. It’s that boring. It’s not a scary thing, rather a creative hiatus. It will disappear in the near future most likely.

When traveling, you visit temples and make sure to put a candle in each one you go to. Is there a certain place on your list that you want to visit?
It seemed cool to me to put up a candle in places of worship. There are still many places left. It’s easier to say where I’ve done it than vice versa, although that would be difficult as well. It’s not a goal, but rather just a thing I do. I really like cult architecture: temples, basilicas, monasteries, cathedrals, churches. If I see anything like that then always check it out. Abroad, for instance, in Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal, it’s so much easier, because it’s hard not to run into such architecture no matter where you go. But it’s not a mission that Vova Petrov is going to put candles in every single church of the world. In Europe, in some churches, due to the fact that the architectural monuments are very, very ancient, they are trying to preserve them without jeopardizing them. Therefore they don’t use paraffin or wax candles, instead, they use electric candles. So you just come up, throw a coin and the light comes on. This is very annoying. You come in being so thoughtful, spiritualized, and instead of a candle, you have a light bulb. Literally, you see how God is at the top of the switch doing “click”.

‘Исландия’ [YouTube chanel – ed. note] could have the name ‘5%’ as an example of the expected target audience percentage. Why is it worth creating media for the 5%? 
I don’t want to seem like a spiritualized person who is trying to bring culture and intelligence to the masses, because he believes that this is necessary for society – it would be a lie. Everything that I do, I do for myself. I’m selfish. Therefore, I want to surround myself with intelligent people. I want smart people in my project. I don’t want people to say: “This is the dude that makes ‘Хата на Тата‘ or ‘Міняю жінку’.” I like to surround myself with smart people and look smart because of them. It’s a very cool thing.

What is the wisest thing you’ve ever heard in your life?
I always hear something wise. I’m very lucky. There are a lot of smart and wise people around me. Given that my social circle is extremely narrow, the density of smart people in this circle is at least 95%, so I’m the luckiest person in this manner. I constantly hear something clever, wise, sometimes I produce it myself as it seems to me. It’s difficult to remember everything, but something that I’ve heard from my intelligent friend that I use in everyday life:

 Stillness is the flip side of precipitance.” Not everything that should happen will happen here and now, sometimes your pause, silence, and doing nothing will create a greater and much better result than your activity.

The wise thing that I learned and that I can use – to wait. I’ve already mentioned that I consider myself the champion of Ukraine in sitting on the shore of the river and waiting for the body of my enemy to flow by. As practice shows, the corpses of enemies always appear. Sometimes in very large flocks. Sometimes it happens that in one moment 10 corpses of enemies swim all at once and you are perplexed because you expected to see only one. A traffic jam on the river of sorts. By the way, regarding “stillness is the flip side of precipitance,” I don’t like to lie on the couch, but there are days when I stay at home without doing anything and roll around on the couch. I feel ashamed of myself while doing so, but it’s a post-soviet syndrome, and since I am a child of the Soviet Union, it is genetically embedded in me. What a shame that a Soviet engineer missed a day of work. Yet while doing so, you end up coming up with a tiny idea that that forms the basis of a huge project. This does not mean that you need to sit on the couch all day and invent things. That’s nonsense. There are people who like to invent, but they do not know how and do not want to implement it. Don’t look at them as a good example.

Who was or currently is the biggest teacher in your life?
Everyone to an extent. I’ve had a lot of life teachers. All of them are people from whom I studied myself. Probably the biggest teacher in life was the mythical Maria Ivanovna. I am sure that this is the key teacher for every single person. The mythical Marya Ivanovna is that teacher in kindergarten or that teacher in primary school who gave us real-life advice. For example “Don’t get into an argument, you’re better than that” or “silence is golden” and so on. Then when you grow up and if you are lucky, you understand that Maria Ivanovna was right all along. Many seemingly simple things that you ignore are taught by teachers, grandmothers, educators, who themselves do not use those things in life, yet they are correct. If you are lucky to learn them, then you will be fine. But anything can happen in life so it is quite possible that it will be easier for you in tough situations and you will be happier in easier matters.



If you had an opportunity to meet any historical figure, or a character from a film or book, who would you like to talk to?
No one. 

Talking to historical figures, celebrities, heroes of comic books, film characters, actors, performers, in most cases is a huge disappointment. Heroes do not exist, heroes are created by our imagination.

We ourselves create them. You might say that a hero is every single person. Someone commits an act, lives right or wrong, and you choose him as your hero. You appoint a “hero” for yourself, completing it with your imagination, and then when you come across your hero in real life, it turns out that his or her eyes are not quite the same, the voice is different, the smell is weird, the way they walk is off, and they’re not as tall. The same story goes to women. You look at the picture on Instagram, you’re ready to sell your car and buy her a ring so that she goes on a date with you, then you meet her, and she says “hello” to you in a heavy or subtle voice and you are perplexed by the dissonance. The dissonance between reality and what you invented can be a very deep disappointment and getting to know your perfect hero is even worse. After all, a “perfect hero” is a person who is way better than you. The person you would like to be like, but you can never become that. So you find such a hero, look at him, admire him, and within you grows a huge inferiority complex and you think: “God, I’m so done. I will never be like that. Why live at all?! Why work?! I’ll go shoot myself in the head in a dark office. ” Therefore, let the heroes be somewhere else, and I shall remain where I stand. I will keep imagining them. To imagine sex with the desired person and actual sex with your object of desire are two completely different things. Very often, what we imagine, in fact, is way cooler. The same applies to heroes. A hero is emotional sex that you experience with every cell of your body and brain. Let your hero stay there.

Would you choose work or sex?
I choose work, of course. I would be so tired if I chose sex. At 42 it does not seem that interesting. If you asked me this question at 16, I would have answered in a different way, and that is still under doubt. At 42 I choose work.  

We like to ask this question, and often successful artists choose sex.
Haha well good luck to them. 

What current trend upsets you the most?
Nothing upsets or disappoints me in society. I am deprived of any expectations of society. I know perfectly well what people are, what society is. I know all their advantages and disadvantages very well, so it’s impossible to upset me in any way.

What books would you recommend?
None. I don’t like giving advice on what books to read. 

Then what books did you personally like?
“Matthias Sandor”, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne. “Baby and Carlson.” “Conduit and Swamp” by Leo Cassil. “The Bite of an Angel” by Pavel Krusanov made a strong impression on me. Mikhail Shishkin is great. Mikhail Shishkin cannot be read by people who are planning to write a book. After reading and grasping the level of his skill, you feel so miserable that you will never want to write a book because, in comparison, you will look like a worthless creature. Also, almost everything by Coragessan Boyle is good. He’s a good writer. This is what I’ve set aside for myself. Lipskerov. Be sure to read Erich Maria Remarque, because those who never read Remarque will never know how to suffer. If you want to truly love and suffer, then you need to learn from Remarque. After reading his books, a couple of episodes of high-quality suffering is guaranteed. Then you grow up and understand that you didn’t really need to suffer, but you still had that experience in your life. It’s like assembling a stool from IKEA, you had the instructions and you managed to do it. Great job. The same thing goes to Remarque – he is IKEA of emotions. You’ve gathered your suffering, you did it, you did well, it was in your life.

Out of all the people you’ve met, who struck you the most in terms of personality?
This covers how spoilt I am. There are plenty of people around me who I can say have memorable personalities. It so happens in my life that most people with whom I am not acquainted with think that I am short, fat, angry, constantly insulting everyone, and I, in turn, do not hesitate to insult strangers on the Internet. If I don’t know a person personally, then the person does not exist for me. Therefore, when I insult someone on the Internet or when I make a sharp remark, I talk not to a person but to a character of sorts. It’s as if insulting a coat hanging on a hanger. I simply do not see the person behind the picture. I’m merely insulting the coat. It often happens that when we get to know people in real life, the stereotypes we had of them are destroyed, and you begin to see a person, not his coat. Quite often behind this coat, you discover very interesting and powerful personalities. And I don’t just meet anyone, it’s not a 90s chat. Prior to social networks, people used chat rooms: you chose your nickname, went online and talked with everyone about everything. It was just a stream of conversational thought that you could join at any second. Now you have to base your arguments on something. There were moderators who deleted unnecessarily offensive posts. From time to time, the chat met up in reality, usually in a restaurant, where 20 people sat down at a large table and got drunk. Those chats were a way for people to go out into the real world. But I don’t use that sort of thing. Sometimes someone asks for someone else about a meeting with me, or a meeting at an event, or meeting mutual acquaintances. Very often, after a virtual contact, you meet powerful personalities in life. Yet I can’t choose someone specific… If you base it on criteria of intelligence, then I can’t isolate anyone at all, because for me it’s absolutely normal when a person has brains. I am spoiled that way as I’ve already mentioned, I take smart people for granted at this point. In my life, I have these vivid pictures, like from a film. For example, a woman with bare breasts on a French beach in a long white skirt, with a one-year-old boy sitting on her shoulders, and her panama hat is blown off by the wind. Or a surfing coach, with a mysterious smile, who speaks only two words during the whole training session and who looks like an Olympic champion with a perfect body, as if carved from marble. But you will never be able to talk about anything with him because he is Portuguese and does not speak English. You just see the image of a person who seems to have come off the picture. Like a scene from a movie in which you participated. It’s like the cathedral of St. Paul, not Peter, namely Paul in Rome, which for some reason no one goes to, but which is no less beautiful but stands on the outskirts. You go into the columned hall and feel like a hero from the film “Prometheus”. Remember that scene when he enters a huge hall with columns. When you walk in such a place alone, it feels as if you are not just transferred to another story, but as if you are outside of time and space. These are the pictures I remember. But remembering the scale of someone’s intelligence and the scale of a personality… What is the scale of personality?



What film reality would you like to experience?
Good question. “3:10 to Yuma” – a lawless world where you are allowed everything. Punishment exists there, but it’s short-term, primitive and easy to avoid. You can kill anyone you want, or you don’t if you don’t want to: prairies, lots of space, conscious loneliness. It’s very beautiful. I really like that. Also in the cartoon “The Lord of Time” which is an old french cartoon. Check it out.

What is your personal definition of beauty?
Firstly, the scale. It’s beautiful when it grand. Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind when you ask a question about beauty is a woman – a certain type of a beautiful woman. I’m a man after all. When I begin to think about beauty as a concept, then I think of scale, the grandeur. The ocean. On my last trip, I was in Kastis, the Bay of Biscay, and there was this very wide sandy beach, probably 300 meters long. I went into the water and sand dust hung from nowhere in the air. So there I was in the ocean, looking at the bright sun, which was so bright because it was the beginning of August, in the thick fog, in a scenery of pure beauty. It’s really impossible to describe. Beauty cannot be described if it’s not that beautiful girl in your fifth grade that you decided to fall in love with. Why did you choose her? Because you thought she was beautiful. Usually, those girls turned out to be nightmares.

What have you learned from your daughter?
Not to try and patronize people. I don’t raise my daughter in a sense of telling her what to do. I don’t tell her what to do until she asks. When she asks of my advice or what I think – only then I speak. Until then I don’t mind her business. I don’t tell her what time to be back home, what time to leave, what to do. I’ve never checked her school diary. I told her to throw it out and to get a notebook instead. I learned from her to let her be and not to interfere in the lives of others and how others live.

What’s your most precious memory from your childhood?
I almost said Brezhnev’s funeral. It’s just that it happened at the same time that my parrot died. My mother left me alone at home, and I remember how I sat on the window, we had these wide window sills since we lived in a stalinka in Dnepropetrovsk, so we had very tall ceilings. Anyway, it was Brezhnev’s funeral and it was shown on TV. I remember it so clearly how I was sitting on the windowsill crying because my parrot died. I was 3-4 years old. This is not a valuable memory, but for some reason, I thought of it right now. You see, I’ve been dealing with very expensive psychoanalysts for almost 10 years now. This is no longer a communication about solving internal problems, it’s about educating myself. Honestly, I don’t understand many human values, because I’ve passed it all a long time ago. For example, now my childhood memories are of no value to me, but my daughter’s childhood memories are. That is the memories I have of my daughter’s childhood. Her childhood fell on a psychologically difficult period for me, when I could not understand who I am and what I am. I had money, but it turned out that you also need to deal with yourself and understand who you are. I missed my daughter’s childhood. What’s good about Facebook is that you make a post, forget about it, and 10 years later it pops up and reminds you of something from your life. Now I’m reliving such moments when I find my photographs of my daughter. These memories are valuable to me. It is valuable that I at least slightly recorded something for myself and that I didn’t miss everything. That is of great value, it brings out tender feelings in my soul. Yet in relation to my own childhood… I remember it very well, all the resentment and the joy. But insults do not upset me, and joy does not please me anymore. Yes, it was fun, but I’ve already reminisced about those memories so many times that I’m fed up with it. It’s like eating your favorite childhood ice cream every day that you discover in the supermarket next to your house –  you’ll be sick of it in a week and thus forget about it soon.

You were engaged in political PR technologies and political performances. Can you give an example of a “perfect” performance?
Zelenskiy. Obama These are large-scale political performances. Or what is happening with the British Crown is very cool: every step is perfectly calibrated. The crown is moving to a new level, retaining the right to a monarchy. In fact, the British Empire remains the only classical empire in the world, despite the number of crowns, sheiks, crown princes in other different countries. They transform along with the time in which they are. It’s all done with such quality. Various minor political performances have all been dull and boring for a very long time now. Progress happens very rapidly right now, and what we did 7-10 years ago which seemed substantial to us at the time, is now not even a spit into the void, not to mention eternity, but a mere child picking the sand of the desert with a stick. Of course, I am very pleased that primitive technologies that do not mean anything now have made a name for me in Ukraine and even in Russia, but from the world-scale point of view and a world history perspective – it’s nothing. It’s even embarrassing to say that I had anything to do with it.

Would you like to be a part of world history?
Of course.  

As who?
As a writer. Can’t imagine anything else. 

What genre?
Do you know what’s the problem with most modern writers, especially Ukrainian and Russian ones, and all those people who say that they will someday write a book? Every time you talk to them you ask: “What is your book going to be about?”. They always answer: “Well, about my life, thoughts, and feelings”. Children who were brought up on ‘How I Spent My Summer’ essays dream of writing a book. Seriously?! Try to write a children’s story. Try to write a short little fairy tale. Write “Kolobok”. Just sit down and write “Kolobok”. What could be more primitive than the “Kolobok” or “Ryaba Chicken” story? It’s a piece of dough, twisted into a ball that rolls through the forest, talks to animals and in the end, one of the animals eats it. That’s it. A primitive tale that has been around for eternity. So sit down and write a fairy tale since you think that children’s writers are not serious guys. Or tell your child a story or a story of your own.

Most people think that their lives are so interesting, that the situations that happened to them or their thoughts are so valuable and important. No dude.

Sit down and write a bestseller. Write James Bond, write an erotic story, a short love story, a novel. Try to write at least something that does not concern you. Then you shall understand what it is. Everyone is capable of overestimating the self. Therefore, none of these people will ever become a writer. I wanted to write a book for about 20 years now. I was one of the first authors at udaff.com, back in those distant years. It seemed to me that I was such a counter-cultural writer, I received all those likes and I thought that it was so cool. And this year I was in Biarritz at the G7 Summit, and I ran into the security organization of the G7 Summit quite closely. I looked at it, talked with different people, got into different situations, which were absolutely legal, but nonetheless. There was all this beauty around, the bazaar, restaurants, the summit, the people around me – it all made me think that I want to write a simple bestseller. An ordinary action movie about how someone shoots at someone. I just want to write a spy action story. That’s all. For me, it was an insight. All my life I tried to write down some clever thoughts, write a thin book that would puzzle people and change meanings. And here I am now suddenly wanting to write some kind of spy novel. I lost my mind. But what difference does it make what you wrap these smart thoughts in?! In the wrapper of an academic paper in philosophy, which at best will be a manual at the university you work in. Although I put this in the wrong way. My good friend, Sasha Kulik who has Ph.D. is publishing his own textbooks. I say this in no sense to offend, but really, what’s the difference what cover your thoughts have: a scientific paper very few would read or something that reaches the masses. If your thought can change the mindset of a huge number of people through a colorful cover of a bestseller then why not. If you want to increase the number of people who idolize you, and we all strive for fame, then writing a best seller is the perfect way of doing so.

Do you want to apply the same approach to your work, in particular to Исландия?
No, because you can’t embed that sort of thing into the entertainment format of television for one simple reason – a person spends money on a book. He goes, chooses a style, spends time, money, and actually reads it. We don’t spend money on TV and don’t even choose anymore. When was the last time you consciously turned on a channel?

If you consider Netflix a channel of sorts, then recently. But it’s a platform, and if we are talking about television in a traditional sense then it’s been a very long time.
The process itself when you take the remote control and click on it until you find something you want to stop on. We don’t know when and at what time something starts. It’s a very rare occurrence nowadays unless you’re watch Shuster’s or any other political show. Before we looked up programs in newspapers and waited for something to be on TV. So a book is more of a tradition where you go after it, choose it, buy it. It becomes yours. On TV you just scroll and stop by accident.  Although I assume that I am wrong, and I will definitely think about the thought that you voiced. Perhaps you are right and in primitive television formats, you can still embed deep thoughts.

You’ve had endless amounts of interviews and meetings with different people, what is the most memorable question you’ve ever been asked?

The most memorable question that was asked is most definitely: “Do you continue to communicate with Durnev?”. I was asked this question 100 million times and I’m so sick of it.

A question I cannot forget and a question I remember best of all. I thank you for not asking it and for not planning to. But you see, I still mentioned it, even indirectly. Honestly, this is just awful. I love Durnev with all my heart. He is like a childhood friend to me, a person with whom nothing connects me in adulthood, but who took up so much space in my life that he would remain in it forever. So yes, he is like a childhood friend. Even though he is younger than me I have the feeling that I went to kindergarten with him, that I went to school with him, studied at university, and then went to the army, got married and life drifted us apart, and I have my own life now, and I go to the factory to work, and we simply don’t have time to see each other, because he moved for another city. We remember, know, and exist in each other’s lives to some extent.



If you could travel in the past and change something with the knowledge that you possess now, then where would you go and what would you change?
I would go to my childhood times, to one August day in particular when I was in a forest near the Vostochny micro-district, in Krivoy Rog. I would go up to my 14-year-old myself who sat with a girl with whom he slept with just an hour ago and I would pull out the first cigarette from my hands that I was about to smoke. I thought I was so grown up since I’ve just slept with a girl, so why not smoke now. I would say to myself: “You little bitch, if I see you with a cigarette again I will break your hands.” And I would never smoke in my life. I really have no regrets, I don’t regret anything. I don’t even regret smoking. It just seems to me that smoking was the most stupid and senseless thing I’ve ever done. I don’t understand why I smoked. It was probably aesthetic and fun. Maybe because everything is very easy for me and it’s not a problem for me to part with alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, marijuana. I don’t get addicted to anything at all. It’s not a problem for me to part with a person too. Even when it’s hard, it’s not an issue for me. I can withdraw from anything. When I look at people who smoke and who cannot quit, I am truly sorry for them. This is probably the only time I empathize. I don’t know why, but looking at how people smoke, it seems to me that they are simply destroying themselves. I talked about the fact that I do not educate people, but if I could make sure that something changed, I would make sure that people would stop smoking cigarettes. Particularly cigarettes. If you want to smoke tobacco in a pipe – smoke. Want to smoke marijuana – smoke. I would make sure that people never approached cigarettes and all these electronic gadgets. Cigars are okay.

What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
I would like Ivan Urgant to ask me: “Vladimir, today the 10 millionth copy of your book has been sold. What do you feel about this? ”I would answer:“ Vanya, what can I feel? Well if it’s sold then it’s sold. What’s the difference? It is much more important when the first copy of your book is sold, but not 10 millionth as it already happened 10 million times, so what is there to feel? I don’t feel anything. Your studio sofa is hard and stuffy. ”I would like to hear this question.

When shall we expect your bestseller?
I don’t know, but judging by how often I talk about it as of late, it will probably happen soon. It’s quite scary to write a book. It’s scary because I’m used to being the best in everything I do. It doesn’t matter whether it provokes a positive or negative reaction, people admire you or consider you to be an asshole. Even in the role of an asshole, you have to be perfect. 

I’m either perfect at being an asshole or I’m perfect at being excellent. 

These are two sides of the same coin. Any person reacts to your activity either negatively or positively. In the matter with the book, I have no confidence that it will cause either delight or a wave of resentment. I worry that it might be uninteresting. When I gain the strength and feel that I can create something substantial, then I shall do it. A lot has been written off the record – my entire Facebook, for instance. Vladislav Ivanenko, editor-in-chief of Playboy Ukraine, once gave me my book for my birthday. He took out the material from ЖЖ [ed. note: LiveJournal], not even from Facebook, collected some of my poems, essays, prose, put them in one book, printed it, and brought it to me as a gift with the words: “Write, dude, just write a book. Look, I’ve gathered your 150-page book already, so just sit down and write a book”. So technically my book was already published, but I have the only copy. I think I will manage to do it before I turn 45. Or maybe I will do it tomorrow. I don’t know. I just can’t do things for a long time. If I take up something, it is very important for me to do it quickly. I can bear an idea for a long time, even a year or two, or in this instance, I’ve been carrying an idea of a book for 30 years, but I could just sit down and write it within a month. An ignited process is one that cannot be stopped.



Translation: Elena Savlokhova