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Translator's preface

More than any other writer today, Limonov extends the great Russian tradition of rebel-writers. Limonov has become the champion of a legacy which spans from Avvakum to Radishchev to Dostoevsky to Mayakovsky to Gorky to Solzhentitsyn. As was true with each of his predecessors, Limonov his life and his works projects an image of scandal and struggle to his contemporaries. Many are scandalized by his exposure of what they consider shameful; others are embarrassed by his uncompromising political position. Yet, in spite and because of this his defiant voice is instantly recognized by millions. The distinguishing quality of this writer comes from his life and his writing converged into a signal feat of rebellion it threatens the authorities both political and literary. Just as with the other rebel-writers, Limonov is now in prison. Unlike Gorky and Solzhenitsyn, however, who in their later years were ensconced in a comfortable settlement with the status quo, Limonov grows more defiant with age. In The Diary of a Loser, 1983, Limonov is prophetic in his expectation of his old age:

Retirement Insurance Policy! Indeed! Me, fishing at some creek in Oklahoma, drinking Schlitz-lite, wiping my bald skull, sniffing the old cunt, my wife-granny?

Oh, no! It's better to be a lone wolf, to have a clear vision of the rubber-insulated electric chair in your future, and in spite of that, rejoin my guys and cry out in a hoarse voice: Kill 'em! For that is life! Kill 'em all! Those who are not with us are against us!

This is a first English translation of The Diary of a Loser in its entirety. This is a surprising fact since it is Limonov's only major book written during his sojourn abroad (1974-1991) which has not been translated. The other two novels (It's Me, Eddie, English translation in 1983; His Butler's Story, translated from French in 1987) belonging to the New York trilogy have appeared in French, English and other European languages. Moreover, The Diary is widely recognized as his best literary achievement. The Diary displays Limonov at his best both as a lyric poet of rare intensity and originality, and as a prose writer of an extraordinarily compact and memorable language. The Diary stands as the only work where these two voices the I of the sophisticated lyric poet, and the I of the tough, ruthless and sarcastic prosaist coexist to create a cohesive narrative. In fact, throughout the narrative, Limonov manages to interweave three related but distinct stories: the heroic life of the protagonist (Eduard's future), the desperate account of his love for Elena (Eduard's past), and the day-to-day trivia of the present that makes Eddie's story poignant and tangible.

The Diary's first entries overlap with It's Me, Eddie; the final entries describe Eddie's employment at the millionaire's house, the subject of His Butler's Story. While The Diary is linked to other parts of the trilogy by its themes and characters, it stands apart in its form. The entries are succinct, two-three paragraph recordings of Eddie's life: his fantasies, his real experiences, varied impressions of New York, and political and philosophical statements.

There is no apparent sequence to the journal's entries; gradually, however, there emerges an image of the narrator and his story. The reader learns that Eddie is a lonely Russian poet living on welfare in a hotel subsidized by the city for the underprivileged. (Eddie slept in the streets before he moved into the hotel). He is a defiant loser, humiliated by, yet scornful of, the New World, and this civilization which he wishes annihilate. And it's not just to the ground as it says in the International. But go deeper, uprooting, leaving behind no trace, just dust destroy it like the conquerors destroyed ancient cities and then plowed over it.

Eventually, Eddie finds work, gets off welfare, starts a relationship with the millionaires' housekeeper, rents an apartment and seems to begin his integration into American society. But as the finale of The Diary shows, the promise of successful integration is a ruse. Eddie will remain true to his nonconformist identity; he will remain loyal to the glorious tribe of losers.

The main value of this book the feature which will insure its posterity is the vivid and accurate portrait of the protagonist. Though this hero does not enjoy the respect afforded to the established characters of the Russian literature of the 19th century, Eddie'c very lack of established-ness coupled with his defiance in the face of personal loss makes him one of the most viable protagonists of the 20th century. Eddie has become an aspect of Russian consciousness, particularly that of a Russian abroad. Now, in one way or another, every Russian has to deal with the Eddie within. This is why, ultimately, this book had to be translated.

In translating this work I have tackled the problem that plagues every translator: How to reproduce in another language the impact the text carries in the original. The main challenge here was to re-capture the distinguishing quality of Limonov's narrative mentioned earlier: the interweaving of the two voices, one lyric, even tender, the other tough and abrasive. As can be expected, I ran into particular difficulty translating the expletives which according to their context were used pejoratively or endearingly. Russian is blessed with a rich lexicon of strong words. Moreover, every Russian specimen of mat (four letter word) can be used as a verb in all of its inflections.

The other difficulty was in translating the words Limonov borrowed from English: party, drink, T-shirt (tishotka), and others. This parallel edition of The Diary makes it easy for the reader to judge how I managed in this translation to match the original.

It was my great fortune to have assistance from my friend and colleague at Colorado College, Neale Reinitz. An expert on Edmund Wilson and 18th-century English prose, Neale proved invaluable in finding just the right English words when no dictionary proved useful.

I thank my student Suzanne Sataline who proofread the final copy of this translation. She has made numerous incisive suggestions every one of which has made this translation better.

I'm grateful to Vasily Gydov, the manager of this project.

Alexei Pavlenko

Dedicated to losers

Eduard Limonov Diary of a Loser | Diary of a Loser | From the Encyclopedia Britannica