“Putin is acting like a ‘hooligan’ and is quite capable of pushing the nuclear button,” says the Russian writer and Formentor Prize winner. “They won’t give me a Nobel, I’m sure, but I feel much happier with the silver medal”
“World War III has already begun.” Liudmila Ulístkaya (Dablekánovo, aged 79), the Russian writer of Ukrainian descent, exiled in Berlin, who will receive the Formentor Prize this Friday in the capital, Gran Canaria, endowed with 50,000 euros and awarded by the Foundation of the same name, it says without blinking an eye. Putin is “perfectly capable of pushing the nuclear button”, says this perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, who does not care about the award from the Swedish Academy and who laments the renaissance of Stalinism in her battered country.
–What does the Formentor Award mean to you?
-It’s a vitamin shot, as we’re all going through a major downturn. In the mind, in the hope and in the projection of the future.
– How do you comply with Putin’s mobilization order and what we see with so many Russian citizens fleeing the country?
-It’s a very painful moment. I think of my grandparents and my parents, who left Moscow at the beginning of World War II, and I once again feel a tremendous sense of universal catastrophe.
–He left Russia when the invasion of Ukraine began. Now Putin has the world on edge. How would you rate him?
-It is difficult. I find the character so off-putting that I never thought of defining him, but if I had to I’d say he’s someone of little talent, little grace, and no humanity. Someone who by the whims of fate has reached a very relevant position in the world. Behave and treat others with the same behavior as a ‘hooligan’, a slum hooligan, at night. I don’t like what is happening in Russia since I was born. There were a few days, with Gorbachev, when I thought something positive was going to happen. I look at politics with great sadness.
–Are you afraid of the start of World War III?
-Yes. It scares me, but I think it’s already started. February 24, 2022, when the Ukrainian invasion began, was the moment when I first had the feeling, and then the certainty, that this war had begun.
– Do you think Putin could push the nuclear button?
-Yes. Can do it. He is very capable. But luckily there’s a chain of command of three or four people between him and that ill-fated button, and hopefully one of them will stop him.
– Part of the Russian people has mobilized against the war. Neutralizing Putin, taking power away from him, would that be a big step towards the desired democratization of Russia?
The chances of removing Putin from power are very slim. In Russia, that organization has absolute power which at different times has had the political and secret police, with very different names, Czech, NKVD or the KGB where Putin grew up. She is so embedded in power and in society that she has her by the throat. Stalinism is reborn in Russia.
– Do you write about the situation in your country?
-It is very interesting the parallel between the present situation and the 1920s, when huge masses of intellectuals and artists were expelled after the Bolshevik revolution. The same thing is happening and I would like to find the words to tell it.
–Does that mean you’re going to write again? After publishing “Jacob’s Ladder,” he said he wouldn’t do it.
-Yes. I hope to write again.
Can words do anything against weapons?
“I don’t know exactly, but I know the words have to be spoken. Sooner or later all wars end. Peace comes, and to make peace means to negotiate, and to negotiate is to use the word.
Do you consider yourself banned?
The word exile is too much. I can buy a plane ticket and go back to Moscow at any time. But I’m afraid I won’t for a while.
The Nobel Prize will be awarded in just over a month. She’s a perennial candidate, does it take you sleep to win him?
-Absolute. I’m sure they won’t give it to me. I firmly believe that second place is better than first. I’ve been playing in the groups for years, but I’m more comfortable with the silver medal. Joseph Brodsky said the Nobel Prize stole a year of his life because of the interviews and all that crap. Second place is great for me.
–What do you know and what interests you in Spanish literature?
-The first adult book I read was Don Quixote. I was six years old. It was a lavish scholarly edition, much of it from my grandmother’s library. I was on it for a whole year and reading it, and I don’t really know what I understood. But it was an initiation. Then I became interested in the literature of the Latin American ‘boom’, in particular Gabriel García Márquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude was a fundamental book for everyone.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I have a very difficult relationship with the term feminist. Feminism is a very important movement of women who claim to be angry and need to convince the world of their courage and ability. But on a personal level, I’ve never had a problem with my gender. If I wasn’t successful, I never thought it was because I was a woman. I come from a family of strong women, very powerful. My grandmother raised the family in terrible years. My grandfather spent seventeen years in the Gulag. It was she who bore the entire weight of the family. I have always envisioned the example of brave, strong and independent women. The quality of Russian women exceeds that of men.
Are you afraid your books will be banned?
“I’m not in the least worried. In my childhood we read all forbidden books, and the more forbidden, the more attractive and attractive, like ‘Archipiélgo Gulag’. It is true that nowadays nobody is arrested for a book. Nobody is interested in the book anymore. performance of reading.
– It’s biochemistry. Is your scientific character in your novels?
I don’t analyze myself. My readers have to say that science may or may not be present in my books. But for me, science, biology, is very important. He is very present in my life. I will never forget the first time I looked at the microscope. It was the discovery of a new world.
Source: La Verdad