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Limonov, Zakhoder and others: excerpts from the book by Pavel Pepperstein “Velvet Wagon”

Date: December 8, 2023 Time: 12:23:16

Zakhoder came in, brought a tomato.

For some reason, everyone who knew Zakhoder constantly remembered this short rhyme. I don’t know who wrote this rhyme, maybe my mother, but I’m not sure. At the same time, as far as I remember, Zakhoder never went anywhere, he was a homebody, a dacha resident, and everyone who talked to him came to his well-kept dacha in Bolshevo. We did the same, often. Of course, I loved these trips to visit Zakhoder. I visited or lived in many dachas, some of them piercingly cosy, intoxicating the soul, others ascetically restrained, there were restless and disorganized dachas, simple Soviet-style, complex Russian-style, tower-shaped houses, some shuddering with their mystical secret, there were among them frankly gloomy, almost beyond the grave, but at the same time captivating. But in this round dance of dachas, I do not remember in the Moscow region of that time a more well-groomed, as if emphatically gourmet and neatly inhabited dacha house than Zakhoder’s dacha. This country house combined Russian bliss near Moscow with something very Western: in houses like this, as if licked inside and out by the enthusiastic tongues of their owners, it happened to me after visiting European lands: in Switzerland, in the Czech Republic .. All this was quite consistent with the character and habits of Zakhoder himself, a great flyer, relishing all aspects of his cozy existence with a touch of inextinguishable enthusiasm.

He was a mountain-man, a ball-man. That is a very big fat man. Perhaps my childish perception exaggerated his fabulous obesity, but he seemed to me a fabulous fat man, with a gigantic and, as it were, wavy face, dotted with large moles. There were not so many really fat people among the artists and writers of that time. Tolstoy was, as I recall, the poet Boris Slutsky, but if you put Boris Slutsky on one “side of the scale, and Boris Zakhoder on the other, I think Zakhoder would weigh more. But weighing poets is a shaky business, so let’s not talk about it. Like many fat people, Zakhoder liked to dress in loose white, as if he were a bit colonial. He lived in his country house with his wife, as well as two dogs and two cats. Tall Airedale Terrier, the second dog of small format, eccentrically cheerful. Cats, as usual, are elusive, well cared for.


As the man who gave the Soviet people Winnie the Pooh, he himself was often identified with their hero. Zakhoder somehow managed to appropriate this hero, although Winnie the Pooh was not invented by Zakhoder at all, but by the British writer Milne. Zakhoder has just translated a book about Winnie into Russian. In the early nineties, I found an interview with Zakhoder in a newspaper entitled “Winnie the Pooh is me.” I think that, identifying with Winnie the Pooh, he had in mind a reckless attraction to honey, denoting in this case the sweet and nectarine essences of the being. Otherwise, he was not like Winnie the Pooh, neither in appearance nor in character. Vinnie is simple and naive, giving Christopher Robin a reason to affectionately call him “my stupid bear cub.” Vinnie’s got sawdust on his head, yeah yeah yeah, but he composes growls and gapes (plus chants, yells, etc.) well and-no-no. Well, yes, Winnie is a poet, just like Zakhoder, who wrote these immortal lines for Winnie. But there was no sawdust on Zakhoder’s head, they did not even spend the night there; he clearly he was neither stupid, nor naive, nor simple-hearted, on the contrary, a very smart and resourceful guy, quite caustic. Despite his magnificent gourmand, despite his hospitable and hospitable disposition, he hardly belonged to the category of good-natured people.


For some reason, the Soviet authorities patronized Zakhoder: he and his wife were allowed to travel regularly to Paris and other countries in Europe, which is why the house was filled with all sorts of Western stuff, some gleaming household units little known to him. an ordinary Soviet person …


It was from him that I first heard of Tolkien. When he was a little older, Zakhoder, who knew me well and imagined the extent of my pranks, once took me into his office, took a heavy English tome out of the closet, and handed it to me with the words:

– Take, Pasha, this writer, about whom you do not know anything yet, will soon become one of your favorite writers. This book will become one of your favorite books.

I wasn’t wrong. He was The Lord of the Rings. Soon after, the book “The Hobbit, or Back and forth” was published in Russian translation. Zakhoder considered translating the entire Lord of the Rings epic, but this idea was not approved by Soviet children’s publishers. The Soviet government (manifested in the person of editors and publishers) did not want to publish The Lord of the Rings: it was too gloomy, too mystical. Yes, even with unwanted political allusions: Sauron’s all-seeing eye, etc. Therefore, I read The Lord of the Rings in samizdat – these typed volumes in home bindings went from hand to hand. I, of course, fell into an ecstatic state while reading them.

Until now, I still have two samizdat, hand-bound volumes of The Lord of the Rings stored somewhere in Rechnoy. The text is half blind, from the third issue. Some phrases and words could not be made out at all, but how did it stick!

Of course, I couldn’t read that English volume by Zakhoder, I had no qualms about studying English, but I spent hours looking at the maps of Middle-earth in this book. Maps of non-existent countries – I loved it! I myself was constantly drawing maps of states and lands I imagined: the island of St. Albert (older name Elliber), the Duchy of Blumaus (originally pagan Maun), the totalitarian Kylinia, the depraved pirate republic of Manauta, the island Kaerode, the island of Amphion, inhabited in the 20th century by descendants of the Russian White Guard, the majestic Centrapolis, where the remains of the ancient Jupiterian cult survived, the seas of Tung and Miyat, dotted with countless islands, the land of the Zogot shadows, where the foot of a living person has never set foot, the Chinese colony of Zhang-He, the paradisiacal Oleander Islands, where people do not know clothes and death, the city of Uviduwe (English name Widwell) , where there is always a civil war, the black Anggerakuang, who lives under the rule of sorcerers, the democratic archipelago of mermaids, where they vote with mother-of-pearl fins rising from the waves of the sea, and so on to infinity.

Why, after all, did the Soviet authorities so often allow Zakhoder and his wife to walk around Paris and other Western European cities? At the time, they were reluctant to let them go on such trips, either due to some sort of merit, or occasionally letting them out simply on a masterful whim. But most often they refused, even if it was about trips to socialist countries, and the wording of the refusal sounded like this: “His trip from him was recognized as inappropriate.” Why, then, did the Soviet authorities see fit for Zakhoder to buy a new juicer of an improved design in Paris? Unlike his colleagues in children’s poetry, Sergei Mikhalkov or Agniya Barto, Zakhoder did not particularly flirt with the Soviet authorities, did not write poems about the October star or the pioneer tie. He didn’t fit in with the spies and informers either. Such things suggest people who are sarcastic, penetrating into different circles, with cunning eyes. But the fat Zakhoder was not interested in anything other than his affairs and pleasures, and he did not support any acquaintance with people or circles that could occupy Soviet power. I think he was thrown abroad by his looks (especially in combination with his wife). Apparently, the Soviet authorities were secretly proud that we have such people, so fat, happy and prosperous.

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Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor is a full-time editor for ePrimefeed covering sports and movie news.

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