From "The Book of Water"
I went to Krasnoyarsk at the end of October, 2000, to write a book about Anatoly Bykov. I took my little girl with me -- "Tiny Nastya" as I named her in the pages of my book The Hunt for Bykov. The editor, to my wildest dissatisfaction, seized the text (an author in prison can't stop this) and tore out several episodes from the book. (When I got the book and discovered the cuts, it was as if they'd torn off my foreskin it was so awful. I hope that the publisher corrects this on the second printing, putting back in everything that has to do with my little girl.)
She's tiny because the last time I measured her she was all of 157 cm tall. When I was put in jail, she'd just turned 19. Tiny Nastya finished all her lessons at the Literary Institute in one year and then dropped out. She writes wonderfully fanatical stories and she pastes the craziest collages from cut-out magazine pictures. And she, of course, isn't my daughter, although I call her my little girl. She's my girlfriend. There's a 39 year difference between us. The youngest "grass widow" [a widow whose husband is still alive yet inaccessible, ie., in jail - Ed.] in all of Russian literature.
We arrived in Krasnoyarsk, changed a couple of apartments, and finally settled into an apartment on the corner of Gorky Street and Lenin Street, right behind the Lenin Museum. There, in 1897, Lenin used to visit some exiled workers who lived there. Circumstance saved this log-framed house from demolition when they started to build apartment blocks in the center. They turned the house into a museum.
I woke up around 8 in the morning, walked into the kitchen, put some clothes on and sat down to write. The apartment was very cold; there was frost and outside, snow fell. Little Nastya stayed under six blankets, sweetly sleeping in the bed. I didn't feel like abandoning my warm puppet, but I'd already received an advance for the book, and I wanted to get into the working tempo. At the same time as I was writing the first chapters I continued meeting with those people involved in the tragedy of Anatoly Bykov. The nature of the book -- witnesses, evidence -- meant I didn't have to wait until I'd gathered all the information to start writing. I began chronologically, with Anatoly Bykov's childhood and youth. The material about his childhood and youth was put together by me in the town he was born in, Nazarovo, and then carried on in Krasnoyarsk.
In my book The Hunt for Bykov there's a bit about my visit there with Nastya. There are also some photos of Nastya in the book. She looked funny -- in an orange hooded coat a military backpack on her shoulders. She started going into the stores in Krasnoyarsk like that by herself. We lived without any excesses -- the party always swallowed up all the money. Usually we'd buy some chicken at 41 rubles a kilogram, or frozen salmon, potatoes, rice, pasta, and for me a plastic 1-liter bottle of port wine for 40-45 rubles a bottle. When she'd return with her backpack on, you could hear it -- she'd stamp her feet up the stairs forever. In her teeth she'd have some kind of green ice cream. Both of her cheeks were flush red. In her case her radiant childish looks were deceiving -- in fact, inside of her is a traumatized, self-reliant creature using every ounce of her strength. Her longest work was called "The Pit Bull Girl" -- a forty-page misanthropic take on the world. Her favorite singer is Marilyn Manson. In the hall of our Moscow apartment we'd hung an A2-sized full-color portrait of him. Her favorite hero is Chikatilo, whom she affectionately called "Andrushka."
"He's so defenseless," she'd say.
In Krasnoyarsk they started preparing for the New Year. We decided to go out for a long walk, after I'd told her that they'd brought clumps of ice to the center of town and that they were planning on making ice sculptures out of them. And that there were even giant lizards.
We got dressed, grabbed a camera and left.