The widow of Mikhail Zhvanetsky spoke about the finds in her husband’s archive

The widow of Mikhail Zhvanetsky spoke about the finds in her husband’s archive


— Natalya, we can’t get around the topic of incomprehensible hate at the opening of the monument to Zhvanetsky in Rostov-on-Don. What explanation can you give for the, to put it mildly, strange reaction to the memorialization of your husband? And why was it installed in this city?

— I’ll say right away that the monument was made with “people’s money”, by our Rostov friends with Misha. Why Rostov? Every year we attended readings there on a “barge” – that’s what this ship was called underground, but it was actually a motor ship where Zhvanetsky read works written in the summer.

Since 2009, such meetings were held in Odessa – listeners flew to us there, but since 2014 we decided to move to Rostov. And now the guys who always met us there ordered a monument to a local sculptor.

— How do you evaluate his work?

– I like it. It was done from a photograph, of course. But my point of view is that there is no point in saying: similar, not similar… No one will make Mikhail Mikhailovich similar, his image is only with me. But I’m definitely satisfied with the work.

“And yet a wave of discontent arose.

“Let everyone forgive me, but those who opposed the installation of the monument seemed somehow marginal to me… One lady, speaking, said that Zhvanetsky accused the guys sitting in the trenches of something… How can I comment on this if Misha didn’t catch the special operation? They also showed me obvious fakes with superimposed sound. Another ardent opponent – I don’t mention his name so as not to advertise again – was against it simply because he is an anti-Semite.

— We encountered something similar during our farewell to the poet Lev Rubinstein, what can we say… Let’s talk about the good. What events are being prepared for the 90th anniversary?

— On March 6, we will unveil a memorial plaque on the house in Moscow where Misha lived. Dozens of my interviews will be aired on television – I am now recorded several times a day: TV, podcasts, newspapers… I admit, I was not ready to talk so much, but when such an anniversary is taking place, no one should worry about my capabilities – I must work according to complete… So I, like a robot, told, told, told. I tried to be emotional, but at some point I realized that I was repeating myself somewhere – now I hope that our people are not watching all channels at the same time.

— I know that long before the landmark date, preparations for exhibitions began…

— Yes, one of these days an exhibition will open in a friendly gallery: on March 5, in the evening, for our own people, on the 6th for all visitors.

– What is going to be there?

— Posters, manuscripts — in general, that part of the archive that the organizers considered the most interesting. Plus drawings by Rezo Gabriadze.

They also connected the magazine “Zhvanetsky’s Store” – Misha published it for about fifteen years. Do you remember that Irtenyev and almost all our famous comedians participated in the creation of the numbers? And also cartoonists: the originals of their drawings are presented in the gallery along with magazines. I have already seen this exhibition – it turned out very nice.

And with the second project we are going to Norilsk in March, and in April to Novosibirsk – we hope to add there, in addition to Rezo, drawings by Norshtein’s wife Francesca Yarbusova. She drew animals – and I collected Zhvanetsky’s stories about pets and animals into a separate book: we will also show the result of this collaboration to the public.

Finally, our famous artists, including Yuri Stoyanov, Igor Zolotovitsky, Sergei Makovetsky and Nonna Grishaeva (plus a lot of young people with them), will try to read Misha from the stage.

— In 2023, all media published news about the opening of the memorial office of Mikhail Zhvanetsky…

– It hasn’t opened yet. At this stage, only the premises became the property of Mosconcert, they founded a new site on its basis, and placed old photographs, posters, portraits, and quotes from works in the corridor near Misha’s former office. A start.

But the building is old, with a bad roof, the ceiling is constantly flooding – until the city repairs it, I can’t move, such a large-scale renovation is beyond my capabilities.

— Does this place deserve to become the first Zhvanetsky museum in Russia?

— This is his main office from those that were in public space. The only one closest to him was the one in our apartment.

— Due to the current political division of Ukraine and Russia, there is a problem of accessibility to the all-Union share of the cultural heritage remaining on Ukrainian territory. As for Zhvanetsky’s archive: is everything in Moscow or a significant part of his life remains in Odessa?

– Of course, most of it is here. There is something in Odessa, but these are household things, not the most important. I don’t know about the video sequence, which belongs to Ukraine—it’s always difficult; different companies filmed it over the years. I have no copyright on the video, only on the texts.

— In the fall of 2022, we talked with you about the process of sorting out the “archival rubble” – then you were just approaching them. What did you find most striking and valuable during this time? Which unknown piece surprised you the most?

— I found a miniature that was never printed. It represents a conversation between a young wealthy son and an elderly father, whom he is taking to Paris. I was struck by how Mikhail Mikhailovich shows the enthusiasm of the first and the confusion of the second, there is something deeply human in this: I remember my already deceased parents, how I called them to Jerusalem, and they answered: “Somehow I don’t want to anymore.”

Everything that Misha wrote, he passed through himself, probably also believed that it was too late for him. Once we were going to an excavation in an ancient city, Misha replied: “I have a wonderful imagination – I know what I will see there. Can you not take me there?

— Will you allow MK to publish this find?

– Certainly.

– The last collected works of Zhvanetsky were published in 2021 – how soon will the discovered texts force a republication?

— I always collaborate with the same publishing house – they have published seven volumes of unique works. In the last year of his life, Zhvanetsky collected a new book – I have not yet approached this array, I simply did not have enough time – but here is the finished volume for you.

And I discovered a whole box of manuscripts – everything in there is unknown to the reader.

— How old are these texts?

– Both old and new. From the past, I realize that not everything needs to be published – there are feuilletons on purely industrial topics, which was customary in the USSR.

— In the style of the film magazine “Wick”?

– Yes. But modern works, oddly enough, are very sharp, there are even discussions about the future, which today it would be better not to make public, because they will be interpreted completely in the wrong way, even if you write on your forehead that it was created ten years ago.

“I always think with a shudder that Zhvanetsky’s briefcase was a “theater prop” around which a certain mythology developed. And at some point she will be debunked.

– How exactly?

– It turns out that there were several constant attributes of the performance – and not just one, which belonged to Mikhail Mikhailovich’s father and was covered with the “patina” of time.

– If he were not the only one, then why would there be so many people willing to buy him for unrealistic money? I, however, have the feeling that these are not buyers, but pranksters trying to figure out how I will behave, how I will sell this portfolio. I don’t know why this is being done. But the briefcase was the only one 100 percent, it was definitely his father’s, always the same throughout all the years of performances.

– What is your evidence?

– Look at him. This thing looks decent from a distance, but up close you notice: all the edges are torn, sealed with a stapler – Mikhail Mikhailovich repaired it himself.

Zhvanetsky never carried his briefcase in his hands: there was a special bag on wheels, and there were notebooks, spare glasses, medicines, a wallet – and a special compartment for the briefcase…

— One gets the impression that satirists (and I’m basing this on the examples of Mikhail Zoshchenko and Arkady Averchenko) become more and more sentimental and lyrical as they age, gradually moving away from the “ridiculousness” and mischief of youth.

– Without a doubt. Misha, of course, did not become sad, but he looked at the problems of society and human weaknesses more softly. He no longer had the youthful enthusiasm to jump on stage and surprise everyone…

He didn’t say funny things on purpose, but observed some phenomena, his brain “worked,” he went on stage and spoke out. Moreover, in Soviet times this was fraught. Misha was saying something into the microphone, some people appeared, shouting: “Where is he?!” And Zhvanetsky got into the car and quickly drove away…

His later works are beautiful, they are piercing, but more lyrical, although some of them turned out to be very funny. But this is funny to us – but he always wrote seriously.

Until the last day I wrote something here at the table…

— In which of Zhvanetsky’s texts do you see the last address to the reader, farewell to contemporaries and words addressed to descendants?

— He has several farewell texts, and they were not written in his last days. In his creative, theatrical way, he tried several times to tell the audience: “I’m leaving” – that’s how his imagination worked. His famous “Portrait”, where there were the words: “I can say firmly about myself. I’ll never be tall. And beautiful. And slim. Michel Mercier will never love me,” Misha wrote in his youth, before he was thirty. Read this: this is a monologue of a very adult and wise man.

And if we take the last farewells, then this is his little story “I got sick” – remember, about the birds, the garden, the house, the grass, about everything that appears before the eyes and touches the beholder, where there are the words “you had to get sick to see this “

With the permission of Natalya Zhvanetskaya, “MK” publishes three works in our new “KS” section, two of which are being published for the first time.

Just this Paris for him

From Moscow to Paris, Air France flight 1811. Son, about forty years old:

– Dad, give me the bag. Dad, I’ll cover you. Dad, would you like some whiskey?

Dad… about eighty years old. Gray hair, blue lips, doomed, indifferent eyes. The eyelids barely move. Looks straight ahead. A plaid tie on a plaid shirt. He took off his jacket and pressed it to his chest. The son rejoices:

– Finally, dad! Paris! 40 minutes left. We arrived early, at 10 am.

– Early, son, early… Late, son, late!

* * *

It’s great to sit all day and look at the thermometer.

Immediately behind it is the sea.

Beyond the sea is the sky.

And behind me are everyone who is older.

Soon we will set off towards the sea.

All increasing speed and producing no wind.

If only you could see us!

We only move in a straight line.

And for the first time we don’t care about America. To Britain.

But who will remember them in this haze, in this great, free flight.

No voice, no sound. And the air does not fill your mouth.

And there are no strangers.

Everything is made of people…

Let’s leave with an ellipsis…

Medicines, phone books, notepads, gifts, and congratulations fall into the beautiful silence.

Everything is not needed.

Everyone was late.

* * *

My way

In our country, I leave the stage alone and undefeated. I have struggled all my life with bad taxis, shops, service industries, management, and I can say:

“It’s time.

Draw. I’m leaving. I give way to the young. I say goodbye to the public.

I did what I wanted.

I did what you wanted.

I made you laugh and upset myself. When the first audience fell in love with me, I began to understand: I fought for people, but they loved me for my talent. I suffered and uprooted, and they admired my temperament.

I was bleeding, but their spirits were rising, and when I felt that I was engaged not in life, but in literature, I said to myself: it’s time. Live quietly. Look through a piece of paper.

I had hobbies. There were moments of consistency. But I received the main fire in that youth, when I thought that I was helping people not to laugh, but to live… And when I felt that I was not helping people to live, but helping them to laugh, I realized that it was time for me and I was leaving.

Of course, I won’t go far.

Of course, I will be with you, of course, I will be there, but it will no longer be the one who thought, but the one who understood. I will be with you as long as I can.

But the one who was thinking has left, so let us see him off, citizens, with applause.”


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