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A thrilling page-turner that also happens to be the biography of one of Russia's most controversial figures This is how Emmanuel Carrère, the magnetic journalist, novelist, filmmaker, and chameleon, describes his subject: "Limonov is not a fictional character. There. I know him. He has been a young punk in Ukraine, the idol of the Soviet underground; a bum, then a multimill A thrilling page-turner that also happens to be the biography of one of Russia's most controversial figures This is how Emmanuel Carrère, the magnetic journalist, novelist, filmmaker, and chameleon, describes his subject: "Limonov is not a fictional character. There. I know him. He has been a young punk in Ukraine, the idol of the Soviet underground; a bum, then a multimillionaire's butler in Manhattan; a fashionable writer in Paris; a lost soldier in the Balkans; and now, in the fantastic shambles of postcommunism, the elderly but charismatic leader of a party of young desperadoes. He sees himself as a hero; you might call him a scumbag: I suspend my judgment on the matter. It's a dangerous life, an ambiguous life: a real adventure novel. It is also, I believe, a life that says something. Not just about him, Limonov, not just about Russia, but about all our history since the end of the Second World War." So Eduard Limonov isn't fictional—but he might as well be. This pseudobiography isn't a novel, but it reads like one: from Limonov's grim childhood to his desperate, comical, ultimately successful attempts to gain the respect of Russia's literary intellectual elite; to his immigration to New York, then to Paris; to his return to the motherland. Limonov could be read as a charming picaresque. But it could also be read as a troubling counternarrative of the second half of the twentieth century, one that reveals a violence, an anarchy, a brutality, that the stories we tell ourselves about progress tend to conceal.


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A thrilling page-turner that also happens to be the biography of one of Russia's most controversial figures This is how Emmanuel Carrère, the magnetic journalist, novelist, filmmaker, and chameleon, describes his subject: "Limonov is not a fictional character. There. I know him. He has been a young punk in Ukraine, the idol of the Soviet underground; a bum, then a multimill A thrilling page-turner that also happens to be the biography of one of Russia's most controversial figures This is how Emmanuel Carrère, the magnetic journalist, novelist, filmmaker, and chameleon, describes his subject: "Limonov is not a fictional character. There. I know him. He has been a young punk in Ukraine, the idol of the Soviet underground; a bum, then a multimillionaire's butler in Manhattan; a fashionable writer in Paris; a lost soldier in the Balkans; and now, in the fantastic shambles of postcommunism, the elderly but charismatic leader of a party of young desperadoes. He sees himself as a hero; you might call him a scumbag: I suspend my judgment on the matter. It's a dangerous life, an ambiguous life: a real adventure novel. It is also, I believe, a life that says something. Not just about him, Limonov, not just about Russia, but about all our history since the end of the Second World War." So Eduard Limonov isn't fictional—but he might as well be. This pseudobiography isn't a novel, but it reads like one: from Limonov's grim childhood to his desperate, comical, ultimately successful attempts to gain the respect of Russia's literary intellectual elite; to his immigration to New York, then to Paris; to his return to the motherland. Limonov could be read as a charming picaresque. But it could also be read as a troubling counternarrative of the second half of the twentieth century, one that reveals a violence, an anarchy, a brutality, that the stories we tell ourselves about progress tend to conceal.

30 review for Limonov: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Wild ride memoir of a figure who can’t be pinned down. This is the most effaced I’ve seen Carrere the narrator (even in the superior THE ADVERSARY, I feel his presence. His main intervention is with the one central question that keeps recurring: Are we following a vile sociopath, or a brilliant chameleon? Limonov is at once racist, facist, and gay icon, Buddhist writer and jingoistic combatant. I am sure that he is a less rollicking figure than the cover text would have you think. I was disturbed Wild ride memoir of a figure who can’t be pinned down. This is the most effaced I’ve seen Carrere the narrator (even in the superior THE ADVERSARY, I feel his presence. His main intervention is with the one central question that keeps recurring: Are we following a vile sociopath, or a brilliant chameleon? Limonov is at once racist, facist, and gay icon, Buddhist writer and jingoistic combatant. I am sure that he is a less rollicking figure than the cover text would have you think. I was disturbed by this book – there is an early scene of graphic sexual assault that almost made me drop it – but the life is fascinating: from a nowhere Soviet city to the tail-end of literary Moscow to down and out as a New York hustler to a wealthy housekeeper to a famous writer to a Yugoslavian combatant to a dissident publisher to a spiritual prisoner to an anti-Putin rallyer to a facist, Limonov is a real-life Zelig and an interesting case-study. Carrere has incredible access, and with his usual knack for stitching disparate elements together into a sort of cohesion, I zoomed through despite my concerns. While this is nowhere near his masterpiece, THE KINGDOM, I learned a great deal about the last days of the Soviet Union. Limonov is an imperfect conduit for Carrere’s talents, but the book has stuck with me in the weeks since I’ve read it, in the weeks I struggled to even write these three short paragraphs.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    3.5/5 It didn't me long (about twenty pages I think) to discover that Russian renegade Eduard Limonov was a bit of a dickhead. No sooner had I thought 'OK, maybe he isn't that bad afterall' I wanted to kick him where it hurts moments later. That's not to say I didn't relish in reading of his exhilarating escapades, because I did. And that really is all down to Carrère's verve and passion for his subject. There were times when even he had a distaste for him, and he sits on the fence for the most p 3.5/5 It didn't me long (about twenty pages I think) to discover that Russian renegade Eduard Limonov was a bit of a dickhead. No sooner had I thought 'OK, maybe he isn't that bad afterall' I wanted to kick him where it hurts moments later. That's not to say I didn't relish in reading of his exhilarating escapades, because I did. And that really is all down to Carrère's verve and passion for his subject. There were times when even he had a distaste for him, and he sits on the fence for the most part. Even though they are friends, he still finds Eduard alluring and repellent in equal measure, never treating him like a hero, but just simply telling of this most unbelievable of real life characters. By subtitling his book a novel rather than a straightforward biography, Carrère instantly makes this much more fun to read. And I have to say, I personally don't believe every single thing that was written. But so what. It kept my head buried in its pages, that's what counts at the end of the day. Sheer force of will as much as talent catapulted Limonov from his dingy upstart in Soviet Kharkov, to the hip artistic underground of late-Sixties Moscow, before heading on to New York and then Paris, where his notorious first novel 'It’s Me, Eddie' was first published in 1980, under the deliberately sensational title - 'The Russian Poet Prefers Big Blacks'. After a scandalous interlude fighting in the Balkans with the Serbs in the early Nineties (the part that really got under my skin, as Limonov blasts a machine gun down on Sarajevo from the surrounding hills, never sure if anyone got killed), and perhaps disappointment at the subsequent failure of his literary career, Limonov switched to politics and headed back to Moscow, where his foundation of the ultra-Right wing, and now banned, National Bolshevik party eventually landed him a spell in prison. The ambiguity of the book’s genre is also appropriate, since Carrère’s main sources of information on his subject are Limonov’s own writings. Each one is devoted to illustrating another chapter in his unruly, transgressive, and eventful life, and ultimately there is no knowing how much they can be relied upon. Nevertheless, Carrère’s first-person narration, in which he draws on his own experience and skill as a film-maker, journalist, and novelist, lends his endeavour an air of reassuring credibility. However, like I said before, there were parts that seemed a little too unconvincing. Admiration for Limonov’s courage and odd integrity is balanced by repudiation of his often unsavoury politics, and apart from the political figures he brings into the mixture, from Trotsky to Putin, whom the supremely well-read Limonov either emulates or mirrors, the path of Limonov’s career suggests numerous literary prototypes, both real and invented. They range from the deeply ambivalent hero Pechorin in Lermontov’s 'A Hero of Our Time' to the internationally feted and envied Joseph Brodsky, a Nobel laureate. But perhaps the strongest parallels are to be drawn with the megalomaniac poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, the eternal revolutionary, who eventually shot himself in 1930 rather than compromise with a contaminated regime. Although I do admire the fact that Limonov had the balls to grab life by the scruff of the neck and make a name for himself, living a life most of us could only dream of, he was never really portrayed as a likeable person in the book. He certainly did things I despised him for, but at least at no point was I ever bored when reading this. Carrère tries hard to present Limonov as someone to brighten up the dull and the grey, and if that was him aim, then he pulled it off. Just don't go and expect a character to fall in love with, as you would most likely, at some point, want to jab him in the guts.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Monroe

    I hate writing a review for a three-star book. It can be great fun to write about the books you really didn't like and to write about the books that you really did like, but it's writing about the books that leave you feeling rather indifferent that's the challenge, and this is exactly how "Limonov" made me feel. The problem with the book is no small one: it's Limonov himself. Limonov, the "radical Soviet poet" heralded in the book's insanely long subtitle, is simply one of the most unlikeable cha I hate writing a review for a three-star book. It can be great fun to write about the books you really didn't like and to write about the books that you really did like, but it's writing about the books that leave you feeling rather indifferent that's the challenge, and this is exactly how "Limonov" made me feel. The problem with the book is no small one: it's Limonov himself. Limonov, the "radical Soviet poet" heralded in the book's insanely long subtitle, is simply one of the most unlikeable characters I've ever come across in literature. And not in a good way. He is referenced a number of times as being the hero of the story when, in 98% of these pages, he comes off as a fascist asshole. That's not just my opinion, either. Eduard Savenko ("Limonov" is just a pseudonym) openly avows his pro-fascist, pro-Stalinist, anti-democratic, anti-Western views to anyone willing to listen. He loves war and violence, to the point that he joins up with a Serbian militia during the height of the Bosnian war in the hope of fighting, and is even caught on film firing a machine gun at the besieged city of Sarajevo. He despises Soviet dissidents, who he views as traitors, and longs for the day when the sight of a Red Army soldier sent fear into the heart of visiting westerners. He's like that guy you knew growing up who hated everything everyone else loved just because everyone else loved it. All in all, he's a lovely fellow. The problem, though, is that author Emmanuel Carrère has chosen to portray this grotesque character as someone his readers ought to sympathize with. Sympathy, for this guy? The entire time I was reading "Limonov", I was hoping he would end up with a bullet in his head. Oddly enough, Limonov hates Putin. Carrère suggests that this isn't out of a disagreement with Putin's policies but because, unlike Eduard himself, Putin is a success. In short, he does Limonov better than Limonov. All of this is a real pity because Emmanuel Carrère is an excellent writer. There are moments, even one or two rather lengthy passages, where Carrère forgets about Limonov and writes about himself or events taking place in Russia. These are the best pages in the entire book and Carrère's voice is strikingly sharp and honest when writing about himself. If the rise of so-called "autofiction" (see: Karl Ove Knausgaard) has taught us anything, it's that a book's subject needn't have lived an extraordinary life. It's the writing, not the events written about, that really matters. Carrère seems to think that because Limonov has lived such a bizarre life, he's the perfect person to write a book about. On the contrary, "Carrère" would have been a much better book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vicky "phenkos"

    Unable to get hold of a copy, I read a Kobo preview of this book, which I discovered quite by chance, whilst browsing through a list of titles. The name "Limonov" struck me as vaguely familiar. After a few moments, I remembered: Limonov, of course, the Soviet poet and gay icon of the 80s! An alluring figure that was a "bum" in New York and the darling of French intellectuals. What I didn't know, and found out from Carrère's book, was that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Limonov had fough Unable to get hold of a copy, I read a Kobo preview of this book, which I discovered quite by chance, whilst browsing through a list of titles. The name "Limonov" struck me as vaguely familiar. After a few moments, I remembered: Limonov, of course, the Soviet poet and gay icon of the 80s! An alluring figure that was a "bum" in New York and the darling of French intellectuals. What I didn't know, and found out from Carrère's book, was that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Limonov had fought alongside the Serbians in a nationalist war that resulted in genocide, and eventually ended up in Russia taking up the colours of a political party that combined adulation for Stalin with Nazi tendencies. Needless to say, I was bitterly disappointed... Carrère, who had known Limonov personally, was disappointed, too, but was also quite surprised to find out that a number of important figures within the Russian democratic movement (e.g. the assassinated journalist Politkovskaya) had spoken highly of Limonov. So he decides to further research Limonov and his party, and the result is this book. Carrère's style is incredibly eloquent and draws the reader in from the first few pages, so I guess my rating reflects my disappointment at Limonov's subsequent development than the writing itself. In a way, Limonov reminds me of Blacky in Kusturica's film Underground, one of my favourite films of all time. There are obvious differences; Blacky is the prototypical working-class hero who fights against the Nazis in the second World War, and not a queer character who traverses the globe in search of adventure. Both, however, lose their bearings after the Soviet collapse and the breakdown of Yugoslavia, and, interestingly, take up arms in a conflict - that was to become one of the bloodiest in Europe - with the side of the perpetrator.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    A unique first-person biography that covers exactly what the subtitle says it’s about. A sort of modern picaresque about a pesky, punker Russian poet who believes he's destined for greatness but for the most part finds himself down and out. About complexities of character and the nature of reality when skewed by ambition and either/or ideation about everyone else. Got it because it was highly recommended to me within a few weeks by three writers whose opinions I fully trust. Almost quit it about A unique first-person biography that covers exactly what the subtitle says it’s about. A sort of modern picaresque about a pesky, punker Russian poet who believes he's destined for greatness but for the most part finds himself down and out. About complexities of character and the nature of reality when skewed by ambition and either/or ideation about everyone else. Got it because it was highly recommended to me within a few weeks by three writers whose opinions I fully trust. Almost quit it about eighty pages in when he's in NYC in the early '70s and his beautiful wife leaves him. Was thinking I'm not so sure about this -- the style, the vibe, seemed monochromatic. I wanted some modulation, something to knock my interest up. Reading non-fiction, which I've done more this summer than I have in a while, really shows you how much you don't know about a subject. And this really showed me how little I know about the last few decades of the Soviet Union and the post-USSR years. It opened some doors in that direction although generally it's not a region and an era that excites my imagination. So as I read one night I said I'll give it one more day, I'll read tomorrow on the way to work and at lunch and we'll see if I'll put it down or not. The next day, with Limonov alone now and depressed in New York, thinking about how his wife said she buggered some SoHo artist guy with a dildo, our young rapscallion of a hero sticks a candle up himself and likes it as he brings himself off, which leads to doing it with homeless black guys in parks, which opens up the world of '70s gay New York and parties involving Mikhail Baryshnikov. Now that's more like it! (I love when I think about quitting a book right before it gets good -- so often there's a dip in energy or interest, often intentional I think on the part of the author, to emphasize the good parts to come.) From then on I was in it to win it as the story switched to Paris and the Balkans and Moscow and the Altai Region of central Asia, a place I now want to visit. Post-USSR politics were interesting enough, as were Limonov's emergence as the leader of a communist-nostalgic fascist oppositional group, The National Bolshevik Party, surrounded by his "nazbol" skinheads, but I was more interested overall I think by the POV, the authorial interludes, the bits about Buddhism (the central thematic sutra about how whoever thinks oneself better or worse or even equal to someone else doesn't understand the nature of reality), his mystical experience in jail, the author's meditation practice, and the part about the author's mother (renowned expert on the Muslim regions of the former USSR who predicted its collapse about a decade before it fell apart), the author's cousin (a journalist who was murdered for investigating the ways of the New Russian world). Felt it took much longer to read than it should have, though. The page count just wouldn't move forward for me no matter how many hours I dedicated to reading. (Seriously? Am I still on page 236?) But ultimately I'm glad I read it and will read the other bios by the author soon and whatever I can find in translation by Eduard Limonov himself.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    I’m reminded that until I was quite old I too adhered to the romantic cult of madness. I got over it, thank God. Experience has taught me that this particular form of romanticism is pure stupidity, and that madness is the saddest, most dismal thing on earth. 3.5 stars rounded down, largely because this first-person biography of Eduard Limonov is overly casual, it is too often conversational. Carrere also appears compelled to name-drop and insert himself with a depressing urgency. The life of this I’m reminded that until I was quite old I too adhered to the romantic cult of madness. I got over it, thank God. Experience has taught me that this particular form of romanticism is pure stupidity, and that madness is the saddest, most dismal thing on earth. 3.5 stars rounded down, largely because this first-person biography of Eduard Limonov is overly casual, it is too often conversational. Carrere also appears compelled to name-drop and insert himself with a depressing urgency. The life of this Russian author and activist does appear interesting if only because it draws into focus areas of particular fascination the years of Brezhnev and then Yeltsin. Limonov maintains a punk persona and reluctantly becomes a minor author, he is expelled around the time that Solzhenitsyn was given his walking papers. Carrere ponders parallels between the two as he does between Limonov and Joseph Brodsky as well as Limonov and Radovan Karadžić. All of this remains interesting but is hardly compelling. Honestly the article/essay on Limonov in the collection by Carrere that I read recently was far superior to this pastiche.

  7. 5 out of 5

    J

    A sort of dual literary/historical biography and autobiography, Carrere recounts the life of a shockingly worldly right wing agitator while at the same time discussing aspects of his own life, of how Russia in the 90s looked to actual Russians, and of his own simultaneous admiration and disgust with his subject. Limonov is sort of like a punky Russian Celine: a misanthropic fascist whose disgust with the world comes from having seen and lived in so many bizarre, twisted parts of it that it boggle A sort of dual literary/historical biography and autobiography, Carrere recounts the life of a shockingly worldly right wing agitator while at the same time discussing aspects of his own life, of how Russia in the 90s looked to actual Russians, and of his own simultaneous admiration and disgust with his subject. Limonov is sort of like a punky Russian Celine: a misanthropic fascist whose disgust with the world comes from having seen and lived in so many bizarre, twisted parts of it that it boggles the mind, and yet who still seems like an approachable, somewhat humane person. A poor youth in rural Russia, An underground poet (back when that phrase actually meant anything), a bum and lecher in New York, a respected author in France, a pitiful tag-along in the Yuogsloavian conflicts of the early 90's, a determined but ultimately pointless political activist in Yeltsin era Russia, a weirdly contented political prisoner in Putin era Russia...ad infinitum. Our world, as supposedly "globalized" as it is, just doesn't tend to produce or allow many human beings who can have anything approximating that range of experiences and lives. Carerre teases apart and interrogates a singular, and in many ways remarkable person who seems equal parts epic and, frankly, pathetic. And he does so with a generous, thoughtful style that almost reads more like a novel than the story of a real, flesh and blood person.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Riitta

    A weird book about a really weird and unsympathetic man. I’m not sure that Limonov is worth a book, but if he is, it sure was written by the right guy. The book with its stupid hero is well-written, exciting, surrealistic and funny. I totally get the hype.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Apo

    I read this book only halfway and then decided I have a better use of my time. it is very very linear. Limonov did this. then he did that. the following day he went there. he did this. then he did that. the end.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    By and large this is quite a story and what a life this man led. Limonov was many things to many people at many times, Kharkovite bohemian, a tailor, author, convert, poet, prisoner, politician?...pretend soldier?...lover, husband, father, fascist, communist and capitalist?... In many ways this has all the hallmarks of a sprawling Victorian novel or bildungsroman epic. Zapoi (extended Russian drinking sessions which last days) tales, which spawned all sorts of monsters and disasters. With many ex By and large this is quite a story and what a life this man led. Limonov was many things to many people at many times, Kharkovite bohemian, a tailor, author, convert, poet, prisoner, politician?...pretend soldier?...lover, husband, father, fascist, communist and capitalist?... In many ways this has all the hallmarks of a sprawling Victorian novel or bildungsroman epic. Zapoi (extended Russian drinking sessions which last days) tales, which spawned all sorts of monsters and disasters. With many extreme and controversial subjects covered, not least the suicide attempt which led to a spell in a mental institution, an escape from that mental institution, which resulted in him being put into a more secure unit and then heavily sedated. Then there was his many peers, the ones who didn’t die, who rotted away in prison or the factory earning poverty wages. Limonov is certainly a memorable chap, powered by petulance, jealousy, paranoia and sheer determination and the drama, oh so much drama! But above all he was totally ridiculous. So many times we find Limonov prancing about like a scorned, pantomime dame nursing a hangover. One of those types if he can't find any drama to latch onto then he will create it himself. Either way this depicts excess in many colourful and creative forms which certainly keep this a lively and enjoyable affair, as he flitted from Kharkov, Moscow, New York City and Paris, with some sideways journeys into the Stans and the Balkan wars. A slightly irritating aspect to this, is that Carrere is unable to keep his own ego in check, and he spends a suspicious amount of time talking about himself and his various travels and escapades, which would be good for his autobiography, but not so relevant in what is supposed to be someone else’s story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David Helgason

    Dizzying read. Had to check several times that, yes, it’s not a made-up allegory on something or other... but an actual biography.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bernardo Kaiser

    There's nothing wrong with having a miserly, nasty person as your main character. Look at Blood Meridian, this litany of terrible people. Rabbit Run, the slowly unraveling of one of the most egocentric, irresponsible characters in modern literature. Or Journey to the End of the Night, where the hatred of the narrator for every single person is palpable. All great books. No work needs to be moralizing. However, there's a line between writing on characters of low morals and lionizing them. It's cl There's nothing wrong with having a miserly, nasty person as your main character. Look at Blood Meridian, this litany of terrible people. Rabbit Run, the slowly unraveling of one of the most egocentric, irresponsible characters in modern literature. Or Journey to the End of the Night, where the hatred of the narrator for every single person is palpable. All great books. No work needs to be moralizing. However, there's a line between writing on characters of low morals and lionizing them. It's clear that, at some point, Carrére found itself completely involved by the romantic figure of Limonov and started to see him how he sees himself. Carrére firmly believes that Limonov is worth of all the self-aggrandizing ideas that he considers himself worth. Even if he doesn't say that explicitly, it's clear by how the story unravels that even if he can look at him critically, that's what the author actually believes. And, with this, Carrére reproduces all the gross misogyny and racism Limonov expouses. Raping a woman becomes a curious anecdote. Having sex with a black fellow is a curio - see, not only he had GAY sex but he did with a BLACK. See how low he reached? He's so quirky he even has sex with black men! Beating his wife is a dramatic moment, one where he is also the victim - not only the battered wife, of course. Women are rude, crazy, domineering arrivists and are all dumber than Limonov and craving for the writer's dick. The author's impressed relativization of Limonov's gang of neo-nazis and skinheads at the prologue of the book is nothing short of laughable. In reality, Limonov is a frustrated little man, a perhaps talented writer dominated by self-hatred. He only knows one language: Power. He is completely obsessed by it, in love with the idea of power, and he's constantly moving political loyalties demonstrate it (someone ever told Carrére's that he and his merry band of nazis changed sides from being Anti to Pro Putin?). There's nothing avant-garde about celebrating totalitarianism and in the wake of fascism disguising itself as counter-culture, this book feels horribly dated and naive.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Célia

    It was good. Well the first part was great, and by great I mean really great. I would have rated five stars if it wasn't for the second part. But we all know Carrère, he wants to make us think that he's such a genius (which he maybe is I don't know), so he talked about his life, he tried to make himself an historian (which was really not good, I got bored and didn't understand, even though I studied Russian history), and it didn't work. Apart from that, I have to say that I like Carrère's style in It was good. Well the first part was great, and by great I mean really great. I would have rated five stars if it wasn't for the second part. But we all know Carrère, he wants to make us think that he's such a genius (which he maybe is I don't know), so he talked about his life, he tried to make himself an historian (which was really not good, I got bored and didn't understand, even though I studied Russian history), and it didn't work. Apart from that, I have to say that I like Carrère's style in general and it was well written. But I thought that he was clumsy sometimes and got embarrassed and bored by some parts. There are many references to Russian litterature, so if you're not confortable with that you will miss some points. But it was worth it. Good book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amy David

    While reading this, I cared a lot less about Limonov himself and more about the experience of growing up in the final years of the Soviet Union and how policies viewed as progress by the West were often devastating to the Russian working class. The author's own experiences growing up in France are set out as a contrast, and he is tempted, at times, to make Limonov into a hero, but ultimately presents a measured portrait of radicalization while coming to terms with the fact that Limonov does, at While reading this, I cared a lot less about Limonov himself and more about the experience of growing up in the final years of the Soviet Union and how policies viewed as progress by the West were often devastating to the Russian working class. The author's own experiences growing up in France are set out as a contrast, and he is tempted, at times, to make Limonov into a hero, but ultimately presents a measured portrait of radicalization while coming to terms with the fact that Limonov does, at his core, deserve to fail. Five stars for its relevance to politics under Trump and insight on Putin, as well.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stacia

    It's not quite a traditional biography, but it is a fascinating & fast-moving look at the man (admirable? reprehensible? both? neither?). Worth reading, especially for fans of world/international politics, outcasts, & rabble-rousers. It's not quite a traditional biography, but it is a fascinating & fast-moving look at the man (admirable? reprehensible? both? neither?). Worth reading, especially for fans of world/international politics, outcasts, & rabble-rousers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Molnar

    Time is too fresh to have rehabbed Limonov, he's only been dead a year, and only a few of his books were ever even translated to English, all impossible or near impossible to find today. In life he never kowtowed to the idea of what a respectable writer should be, past anything admirable, into absurdity and worse. Until this month's release of the new Adam Curtis documentary, which features him as a main character, I don't think anybody in the English-speaking world had tried to reconcile his bi Time is too fresh to have rehabbed Limonov, he's only been dead a year, and only a few of his books were ever even translated to English, all impossible or near impossible to find today. In life he never kowtowed to the idea of what a respectable writer should be, past anything admirable, into absurdity and worse. Until this month's release of the new Adam Curtis documentary, which features him as a main character, I don't think anybody in the English-speaking world had tried to reconcile his bizarre life, the toast of the West in the 80's, the East in the 90's, and then elder statesman in the 00's, not in the U.S., but in Europe at least to the extent that in France this autofictive biography could be written. So let's set him up in the constellation of writers. Céline may seem closest on first blush, as a fellow contrarian traveller of the underworld, but Limonov is no collaborator and no misanthrope or racist. Always on the side of who he perceives to be the underdog - this is what makes him naggingly heroic to the timid Carrère even when his actions are the opposite. In his sometimes damning, absurd, doomed, fascinating late-life political project he's a bit like Mishima, but it's not about the purity of tradition, it's about being against, again always on the side of the underdog, but not all talk like most writers, incredibly, willing to act and permanently ruin what could be a very comfortable life (Knausgaard being like a synthesis of Carrère and Limonov: a comfortable liberal who details the banality of that existence until it starts to feel perversely adventurous and transgressive). What makes Limonov untouchable and Mishima normalized in the West? I think part of it is Mishima's disciplined appeal to historical ultranationalism is just easier to understand than Limonov's anarchic anti-capitalist subversion in the wildly confusing world of post-Soviet Eastern European politics. Unlike most dissidents, who are made relatively tame or compromised products of society as soon as they outlive their dissent (I think of another character in the Curtis documentary, Chai Ling, who led protests at Tiananmen and then - not noted by Curtis - went on to work at Bain), Limonov could never be defused, even when it led to his undoing over and over again. Carrère does his best to be understanding of his subject's contradictions. Of how political spectrums familiar to the Western world aren't so handy elsewhere. Appropriately for a self-consciously workaday writer, the best example of this is unintentional. Torn up about following Limonov through his misguided dalliances with fascists, he wonders - purely theoretically - if the values of his own country, class and era will someday appear "grotesque, scandalous, or just plain wrong." Facing those words exactly on the opposite page is the name of outspoken pedophile Gabriel Matzneff. To Carrère, Matzneff is a familiar face in the world of French intelligentsia, referred to elsewhere as a "libertine dandy" and - again, with unintended irony - compared to Limonov as someone who would merely write about supporting the Serbs in the Bosnian War as opposed to actually going over there sympathetically and eradicating any social standing he had left in the Parisian literary world. But of course, he chose to write a book about Limonov and not Matzneff, and so on some level understands the core of "decency" that drives both Limonov's successes and failings, his astounding life and in some ways pathetic end. Because no one else was or will ever be a Russian dissident writer, down and out in New York City, asshole bi sex worker bohemian punk id to Brodsky's demure date-one-student-a-year professorial Nobel laureate ego, who entertained Ferlinghetti at the Upper East Side townhouse he was working in as a butler, his manuscripts all rejected in America, then published as a phenomenon in France, translated around the world before going back to Russia after the fall of Communism, diving into politics as an opposition figure in Russia, certainly an idiot but perhaps much worse in Serbia, teaming with a fascist thinker against the oligarchs and then splitting to join with democrats against Putin, still writing (what sounds like) great work, spending time in Central Asia as some kind of dreamy wannabe Che (and apparently befriending a trapper in a post-Soviet hippie redux of Dersu Uzala), then spending years as a political prisoner, reaching a brief apotheosis as a genuine inspirational Solzhenitsyn-figure before winding up mostly forgotten, hounded by the police and dying more or less used up as a writer and figure - rebel by rote yet all the same with a uniquely uncompromising outlook that invited admiration in Russia and elsewhere, at least to some degree in most places other than America, where he's not been in print for at least a quarter century - and for most of his books, never. Carrère, even before the unfortunate Matzneff asides, is at pains to self-identify as a milquetoast upper crust liberal, deeply, amusingly entrenched in French culture (there's a solid 10-15% about himself, his Russophile mother, and his meetings with Limonov) whose desire for comfort and stability he can recognize as a political failing even as he refuses to renounce it. I think the key to understanding this book - which I don't think American readers really did - is that this isn't just self-deprecation. Maybe in America, especially pre-Trump America, stability seemed self-evidently good and Limonov a fucked up freakshow metaphor for the free market monstrosity they helped create in Russia and refuse to give a shit about, conveniently tainted and untranslated. But guess who represents the culmination of Western stability? Horrifying, completely hollow ghouls like Trump and Matzneff, one disturbingly free of thought, the other disturbingly full of it, raping and pillaging our dying world and using the language of our supposedly enlightened Western society to get away with it. Russia isn't a cautionary tale - it's us too. The worst part is the stability, the anti-human misery set into stone by Putin (like it is, in smaller increments, by American presidents). Ideals have all been traded for money and the dead-eyed downtrodden are looking for anything that can create a new narrative of meaning. Limonov definitely didn't have the answer for that, and only during a incredibly bizarre period of Russian history did his bizarre thinking even briefly make any sense at all. But he wasn't trying to get away with anything. In his sometimes-fuzzy, sometimes-clear, sometimes-generous, sometimes-self-serving way (the way of the bohemian novelist), he was trying to find something meaningful in a completely rudderless world. We're going to have to find that ourselves, one way or another, but almost nobody is even trying anymore, it's too unrewarding, almost as likely to be a dead end as not trying at all, as the denouement of the book heartbreakingly shows ("It's a shitty life," Limonov tells Carrère, after Carrère reassures him his life makes a biography worthwhile.) But the relentless, pure, boneheaded searching of Carrère's Limonov is at least as fascinating (whether the books are as good - who's to say until they all come out in English), and the grungy postpunk Soviet visuals would be just as generative as the austere postimperial Japan of Schrader's fatally theoretical Mishima. Who has the energy to actually be against the powers that be anymore, more than just pastel Instagram stories? We saw a little bit of it in America this past year, for better and worse. But so much more must be done, and in an increasingly confused and difficult and doomed world, it's hardheaded, uncompromised, unforgiveable, fame-obsessed, stupid, brilliant Limonov who feels prescient.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Balmer

    This book totally overwhelmed my expectations. I picked it up following a friend’s suggestion and, never having heard of Eduard Limonov, an obscure Russian writer, a social outcast with an obnoxious personality, I honestly did not expect to like his biography. Maybe this book would be better described as a fictional memoir since most of the events are not fact-checked, but rather based on Limonov’s own writing and it is not always clear whether he can be completely trusted, especially since he ha This book totally overwhelmed my expectations. I picked it up following a friend’s suggestion and, never having heard of Eduard Limonov, an obscure Russian writer, a social outcast with an obnoxious personality, I honestly did not expect to like his biography. Maybe this book would be better described as a fictional memoir since most of the events are not fact-checked, but rather based on Limonov’s own writing and it is not always clear whether he can be completely trusted, especially since he has himself said: “Objectivity is not among my attributes”. Nevertheless, he is a man who values truth, however painful or uncomfortable that truth may be, and he doesn’t seem to hide even the lowest moments of his life. Eduard Limonov is a man who has seen it all. Growing up in a hopeless industrial town of communist Russia, he fueled his early ambition into Poetry. He developed a pitiless view of the world, admiring strength and despising weakness, always dividing between winners and losers. That view probably originated from his troubled youth, when he had to come to terms with the law of “survival of the fittest”, where one had to be ready to kill (i.e. be feared) in order to survive. Yet at the same time, this “philosophical punk” is always on the side of the underdog: of criminals, of social outcasts and gays. It is never really clear whether he is a hero or scumbag and maybe he liked to live in that in-between ambiguity. His romantic and at times dangerous life was driven by an unending quest for success - fame and more than money - always trying to excel in what he does and then move on to the next thing. The worst part is that at the end of his life neither he nor we are able to clearly tell whether he reached what he was longing for. Was it ultimately worth it? More than for his resilience, for his reckless life and his political ideals, I found myself to deeply respect Limonov for his strong sense of purpose, his directiveness, and his clarity of mind. A captivating read which reflects on what’s important in life and how it ought to be lived to make the most out of it. I also highly appreciated the context it gives on the historical events surrounding the fall of the Soviet Union, as well as the insights into the Russian mentality and literary culture.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Giuseppe Barba

    Larger than life

  19. 4 out of 5

    P

    Brilliant book about what I consider to be an awful man, despite the author quite openly trying to convince me to like him. I find Carrere's books to be very hit or miss but he has a really enjoyable approach to biography in both this and his Philip K Dick book. Brilliant book about what I consider to be an awful man, despite the author quite openly trying to convince me to like him. I find Carrere's books to be very hit or miss but he has a really enjoyable approach to biography in both this and his Philip K Dick book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol Switzer

    Limonov is a crazy Russian guy that does literally everything, tells everyone, and is still a real politician. Political correctness does not play a role. Apart from the wild life he leads, for me, the most interesting part was the peek into what happened in the transition from Soviet Union to Russia, those years when the wall came down, and hi end shopkeepers everywhere in the world began to have Russian-speaking salespeople. This is a biography but not really. It pieces together Limonov’s life Limonov is a crazy Russian guy that does literally everything, tells everyone, and is still a real politician. Political correctness does not play a role. Apart from the wild life he leads, for me, the most interesting part was the peek into what happened in the transition from Soviet Union to Russia, those years when the wall came down, and hi end shopkeepers everywhere in the world began to have Russian-speaking salespeople. This is a biography but not really. It pieces together Limonov’s life mostly from his own writings and has quite a bit of autobiographical detail as well. The author himself is half Russian and I am more intrigued by him than the protagonist. Will definitely seek out other books by Carrère

  21. 4 out of 5

    Luke Craig

    Fascinating biography of a man who I think I've decided was a scumbag Fascinating biography of a man who I think I've decided was a scumbag

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Fox

    a fascinating read about a fascinating character - it's always a pleasant surprise when non-fiction brings you all the suspense and drama of a novel a fascinating read about a fascinating character - it's always a pleasant surprise when non-fiction brings you all the suspense and drama of a novel

  23. 5 out of 5

    Avital

    The full title says it all: "The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia". It's a fantastic book, a biography, defined as a novel by Carrere, intersected with bits of memoir of Carrere. Usually, I dislike when someone dealing with someone other then himself puts himself in the article/interview/book, but here it sheds some light on Limonov and works wonderfully well. He discusses art, sex, ambition, f The full title says it all: "The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia". It's a fantastic book, a biography, defined as a novel by Carrere, intersected with bits of memoir of Carrere. Usually, I dislike when someone dealing with someone other then himself puts himself in the article/interview/book, but here it sheds some light on Limonov and works wonderfully well. He discusses art, sex, ambition, fascism, Stalinism, old age and authors' jealousy.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vuk Trifkovic

    I don't think it's coincidence that biographies of Limonov and D'Annunzio garnered so much attention. To be frank, I'm probably more enthused about the book because I had so many prejudices about Limonov. Obvious biases notwithstanding in Carrere's book, I feel I get a better sense for the character now. It is confusing what to say about the book itself. Most of the book is basically a digest of Limonov's writing. Which felt bit superfluous. I felt I should have, you know, been reading Limonov him I don't think it's coincidence that biographies of Limonov and D'Annunzio garnered so much attention. To be frank, I'm probably more enthused about the book because I had so many prejudices about Limonov. Obvious biases notwithstanding in Carrere's book, I feel I get a better sense for the character now. It is confusing what to say about the book itself. Most of the book is basically a digest of Limonov's writing. Which felt bit superfluous. I felt I should have, you know, been reading Limonov himself. Even when he was more directly involved, Carrere sits on the fence or simply lacks insight into what really happened. In the end, I figure Carrere simply relishes in ambiguities and complexities of his object, and so should the reader. Everything beyond that - well, we'll either have to wait for other, perhaps more comprehensive and critical biographies, or just make our own minds up in the meantime.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Madhuri

    Loved this work for its maverick hero who plods doggedly to achieve his dream of fame. Emmanuel Carrere paints Limonov in the most romantic light: a person who sides with the weak, a Buddhist teacher, a charismatic charmer, a monogamist whose wives keep leaving. A person tormented by the glorious memories of Stalinist Russia where people were afraid of the police. Like the biographer, I continued to wonder whether I was reading about a loser or a man with a vision of greatness. He was in equal p Loved this work for its maverick hero who plods doggedly to achieve his dream of fame. Emmanuel Carrere paints Limonov in the most romantic light: a person who sides with the weak, a Buddhist teacher, a charismatic charmer, a monogamist whose wives keep leaving. A person tormented by the glorious memories of Stalinist Russia where people were afraid of the police. Like the biographer, I continued to wonder whether I was reading about a loser or a man with a vision of greatness. He was in equal parts dodgy and admirable. Perhaps the line would have fallen squarely in admiration had he found the right revolution at the right time, and that is a reminder of how all men of note walk the tight line of roguishness and greatness.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Munden

    I particularly enjoyed this book by Carrère. It's a fascinating window on Soviet Russia/Russian Federation of the last 40 years. It's also a strangely depressing book (depressing in a good way, if that makes sense to any of you). I couldn't help but think of these lines from Neil Young: "See the losers in the best bars Meet the winners in the dives Where the people are the real stars All the rest of their lives." I particularly enjoyed this book by Carrère. It's a fascinating window on Soviet Russia/Russian Federation of the last 40 years. It's also a strangely depressing book (depressing in a good way, if that makes sense to any of you). I couldn't help but think of these lines from Neil Young: "See the losers in the best bars Meet the winners in the dives Where the people are the real stars All the rest of their lives."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Agnès

    A very interesting biography of Limonov - starting with his childhood in the USSR in the 60's, going through his time in the US from 1974, his literary success in France in the end of the 80's as well as his role in the Balkan wars with the Serbian militia to end in jail under Poutine. An extraordinary (literally) life, and a beautifully written book, where Carrère and his writing process is very present. À lire! A very interesting biography of Limonov - starting with his childhood in the USSR in the 60's, going through his time in the US from 1974, his literary success in France in the end of the 80's as well as his role in the Balkan wars with the Serbian militia to end in jail under Poutine. An extraordinary (literally) life, and a beautifully written book, where Carrère and his writing process is very present. À lire!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Blue Tango

    It is interesting to have an overview of the recent Russian history, a part from that I didn't find The limonov described very interesting or insightful character. On top of that Carrere's style is, in my opinion, more focused on showing off than on communicating sth and looks quite self-promoting and narcissistic to me. It is interesting to have an overview of the recent Russian history, a part from that I didn't find The limonov described very interesting or insightful character. On top of that Carrere's style is, in my opinion, more focused on showing off than on communicating sth and looks quite self-promoting and narcissistic to me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    If there are other books like this one, I'd like to find them and read them. If there are other books like this one, I'd like to find them and read them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nemalevich

    What a shameful shame.

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