Sometimes you hear people described as having “never tasted life.” I am one of those people. I look and seem harmless; I’m reasonable, indecisive, well-behaved around others. I rarely consume alcohol; I don’t sleep around; I haven’t used drugs in five years. But I am full of idealism. And that is a lot more dangerous than drugs, alcohol, Satanism, cannibalism, coprophagy, necrophilia.
What motivates these people is irrelevant: whether it’s really political naïveté or just ordinary cynicism and prudence. It’s impossible to separate one from the other, and I’m not posing a question of moral judgment. Russian culture as a whole has acquired (very much at the wrong time) the possibility of palpable autonomy, and now each individual artist sincerely defends his or her innocence and independence. But it is precisely through this kind of “innocence” and “sincerity” that works of art become commodities – not because the artist believes himself a spineless, prostituted insect, ready to do anything for publicity, but for exactly the opposite reason: because he values himself and his work very highly and believes that media appearances won’t do him any harm.
in the Smolensky supermarket at the corner of the Garden Ring and Arbat among the piles of expensive luxurious foods I found a sprat paté for seven rubles; on the can it said it contained pearl-barley I took two figuring this must be a special delivery for neighborhood residents who come to the store every day and aren’t anywhere as rich as the plump middle-aged men who come here in their cars from other neighborhoods to load up on groceries for real I took the paté and started walking alongside the shelves of products; I wanted to find some inexpensive fish and I looked and looked at these beautiful foods lying there on these shelves and at the magazines which looked very odd against the background of all this food I walked around for so long that the guards keeping an eye out for thieves grew tired of watching me it was very beautiful there and I liked it; I remember I didn’t pay much attention to the other customers they didn’t really interest me especially as there weren’t so many of them they walked around hardly looking placing the products into these rolling baskets whereas I very carefully piously studied every single item and read their exotic names these magnificently packaged meals they could make your head spin (there was for example a product called “two rainbow trouts”) I wandered around so long that toward the end I developed a strange feeling; it was something like longing; it was a terrible suffocating longing and pity; I was very sorry for these fish this wine several hundred types of wine and all the cookies and the magazines the candies giant boxes of candies massive pieces of meat and fish; and I looked for a long time at these idiotic beautiful expensive toys lying there on the shelves of that supermarket and I thought that this probably was the main fuel of civilization (not because we all live in a consumer culture, but simply because everything else is just noise whereas food, say what you will about it, is protein food is the main guarantee of family happiness and prosperity everything happens because of food and so there’s probably nothing surprising about the fact that families collapse because of it lovers part over it and murders are committed because of it); walking around a bit more I thought of the fact that the suffocating pity I feel for these products is also a form of fetishism and also a symptom of reification; therefore it probably doesn’t make sense to feel sorry for these products that cause all these things to happen; I bought some fish fillets and two cans of that incredibly cheap paté which I named “paté for the poor”; walking out of the supermarket with these products I thought of how often in my confrontations with the face of the society of consumption sentimentality replaces disgust.