about the author

Sergey Bolmat was born in Saint Petersburg in 1960. In 1998, he left Russia and moved first to Germany and later to France. Since 2010, he has lived in London. In 2000, he published his first novel in Russia to great critical acclaim. To date, he has published three novels, two collections of short stories, many articles and essays, and a biography of Nikolay Chernyshevsky. Some of these books were shortlisted for literary awards, translated into many European languages, adapted for radio, and optioned and developed for film. His short stories written in English appeared in such publications as The Higgs Weldon, The Willesden Herald, Litro Magazine, and Ghost Parachute.

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Six Characters Pursued by a Bear  

Sergey Bolmat

As an author—I mean as a character of an author—I must be able to make other characters do whatever I like. I mean if I am a real author, as a character among other characters who are not real, I must be able to do whatever I, the author of I the character, like not only as a character but as a real author too. Other characters, whoever they are, must do whatever I like, as an author, a character. No matter what they want, as characters. Who cares what they want apart from me, the I character—and also, possibly, the reader, as a character? They don’t exist as real people, the other characters. We do. I am a real person, a real character and so are you.

Let’s say, a character works in a bank. I character makes this A character embezzle a large sum for me, as an author, a trillion dollars, because A depends on me as a character and because this is what I want as a character and as a real author too. And also because it is entirely possible, isn’t it? What do they do in those banks anyway? They generate numbers; they add zeroes to a single digit. Just add twelve zeroes for me will you, A? Good. Done.

Now, I am, generally, not a monster, as a character, but A goes to jail. His wife, a medievalist, kills herself. One of his children becomes a drug addict, another one, the small a—a...a pickpocket, eventually. The third child dies early. I write poignant, honest, unpredictable stuff, acutely aware of the current human condition, multilayered, with intricate plots, with meticulously developed powerful maverick characters. Some of them perish, though. I have principles. I am sorry, A. I am sorry, a.

A trillion dollars, it’s a lot of money. What shall I do with it as an author? I mean, not as a character of a real author but as a real author with principles. As a real author I am piss poor, I must confess. As a real author I live with my parents. My parents provide for me because I am principled and honest, and acutely aware of the current human condition. I am thirty-nine. I have no income of my own; none at all. This is who I am as a real author. I am devastated. I don’t know what to do. How am I to cash a trillion dollars as a real author? What should I do? What do I do in such a situation not as a character but as a real author? What would Dan Brown do, as a character? What would Bono do?

If I am truly a real author and not just a character I must find some way to cash this money for real. Otherwise I am just a character because true authors must be able to get away with whatever they want. If I, as an author (and not a character) live with my parents and depend on them entirely financially it doesn’t mean that I can’t change this situation at once, as an author. I must be able to. If I am a real author (and not a character a or A, or any other character) I shouldn’t be subject, like any other character, to anything but my own will. No one should be able to boss me around, as a character of the real author, especially the character of a reader, however real this character may be.

Imagine, if you will, B, a character of such a person, a reader. I can do with B whatever I want if I am a real author. I can make B a Chinese triad boss whose real name is You. You can launder this trillion for me. No, no, it’s all right, You keeps reading, You doesn’t stop because I can make anyone, as a character, do whatever I want, and You too, whoever You is. Legally, I can even make U2 do some weird stuff for me too, pro bono. Sorry, You. Generally, I am a person of great taste, as you will see. You will thank me before You dies.

But what will You do with a trillion? Jesus would, probably, deposit this money somewhere offshore. As a character, he would, probably split his trillion into smaller parts and deposit them in secret in many offshore accounts. Dan Brown could make him do that, as a real author. I can make You do it. No one will ever know. You will never know even if You works for the government. You will do it for me and disappear. I will make You another person. From now on You will be Will.

But how, Will may ask, as a real author, will I be able to enjoy this money in real life? Oh Will, I will live a little! But first, I will cover my tracks, Will. Mark will live a little! Who is Mark? I is Mark now, Will. Mark will become a huge philanthropist because you should share even if You is Will, and donate as Bono undoubtedly would even as a character, and I as Mark will too, Will. Mark will sponsor a lot of scientific research, Mark will stop wars and make people live happily ever after till they become tired of their happy lives and commit suicide en masse out of sheer boredom, if I will, Will, as Mark.

Tell you more. If Mark is rich, Mark will let all the characters do whatever they want. Mark won’t care anymore if Mark is truly rich as a real author and not as a character. Let those goofs follow their own weird logic. They can be free now too, like Will and Mark. Let them all do whatever they want. A can be free now. His wife, the medievalist, can change her mind in the last moment. They can live happily ever after. a can stop stealing. B can be whatever B wants to be. Be happy, B. See?

Oh, and Mark will marry D, a film star.

Mark my words, Will.

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