Viktor Jerofejew

Portrait Viktor Jerofejew
Viktor Jerofejew [© Ali Ghandtschi]

Viktor Yerofeyev was born in Moscow in 1947. His father was an interpreter for Vyacheslav Molotov, among others, and was also the Soviet ambassador in France. Yerofeyev studied philology and linguistics at Lomonsov University in Moscow and received his doctorate on Dostoyevsky and French existentialism.

In 1979, he collaborated on the literary almanac »Metropol«, which caused a political scandal when it was released, resulting in Yerofeyev’s expulsion from the writers’ association of the USSR. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yerofeyev re-released the almanac, which he referred to as an »X-ray machine that scanned the whole of society«, in a series of anthologies.

His debut novel »Russkaja krasavica« [1989; Eng. »Russian Beauty«, 1990] depicts with ambiguous humor the rise of a Russian femme fatale from the provinces to Moscow’s privileged circles through naivety and calculation. The partly grotesque analysis of society became a bestseller. In »Choroschi Stalin« [2004; Eng. »Good Stalin«] Yerofeyev reflects on the power structures that prevailed under Stalin, particularly in the entourage of consultants, translators, and diplomats to which his father also belonged. The novel-like autobiography ultimately illustrates how artistic and political freedom mutually dependent. He also dissects contemporary Russia, of which he is often a controversial critic, in the essay collection »Russkij apokalipsis« [2005; Eng. »Russin Apocalypse«, 2009], which brings together 55 texts from a period of 15 years resulting in an often bitingly commented chronicle. In the satirical and surreal political parable novel »Akimudy« [2012] he raises the dead and escalates the tense relations between Russia and the fictitious state that end in a crucifixion on the Red Square. In 2014, his story »de profundis« [tr: From the Depths], about the beauty and abysses of the Russian soul, was included in the e-book bundle »Russland erzählt« [tr: Russia Tells]. After the adult fairy tale »Rosowaja mysch« [2017; tr: The Pink Mouse], his essay collection »Schtschel« [tr: The Gap] was published in 2018. The book contains documentary records and literary texts about the nature of man and creativity, about freedom and loneliness, and about the peculiarities of several literary works. Yerofeyev’s »Encyclopedia of the Russian Soul« [2021] is a philosophically-ironic mixture of novel, crime novel, and encyclopedia.

Yerofeyev is currently living in Germany on a scholarship and writing his new novel, which will be published in German under the title »Der große Gopnik« [tr: The Great Gopnik] in 2023. »It is a book about the parallel lives of Putin and myself. […] In the beginning I wrote with a lot of irony, but then things changed in Russia. […] Now Putin has given me a finale with the war against Ukraine. It’s terrible, but it’s a serious ending for my book«.

Date: 2022