Katerina Poladjan’s novel “Music of the Future”: Socialism between apathy and alcohol book | BR culture stage

Actually, they want to listen to punk. At least that’s Janka’s music. She is in her early 20s and lives with her little daughter, mother and grandmother in a communal apartment in a citythousands of versts or miles or kilometers east of Moscow”.

1985 – also a turning point

But there are no loud guitars in Katerina Poladjan’s novel “Music of the Future”. Instead, Chopin’s funeral march, constantly on the radio. Once again an elderly General Secretary of the Communist Party has gone to the eternal hunting grounds, in this case Comrade Konstantin Chernenko. The news reached people on March 11, 1985, the same day that a certain Mikhail Gorbachev was elected head of state.

For her, 1985 marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet system, says Katerina Poladjan in an interview: a year of new beginnings that also meant decline. “It’s this ambivalent atmosphere,” says Poladjan, “something has come to an end, but you still don’t know exactly what will follow. I found that interesting because I also saw a parallel to our time.”

Kitchen concert with KGB informers

On the evening of this historical day, Janka wants to give a concert in Kommunalka’s kitchen. Problem: Her guitar is broken, she desperately hopes for a new instrument to play her songs. This is the big arc in Katerina Poladjan’s novel. Hour after hour, he follows Janka and the other characters in an unexcited yet intense language.

In addition to the musician, who dreams of a self-determined life, and her family, there are the scientist and KGB informer Matvej Alexandrowitsch and other residents of the communal apartment, as well as Janka’s friends Pawel and Andrej (both of whom are used to buy the guitar). The Kommunalka, especially the kitchen with five stoves, clotheslines and dried mushrooms hanging from the ceiling, becomes the focal point of a big, small world.

Basic feeling of melancholy

Poladjan says she was interested in how people lived back then; and above all for how they managed to keep their dignity in everyday life. “There is no privacy in such a communalka. People dig into each other’s brains. There aren’t that many ways to escape.”

The characters in the novel – and with them the narrative strands – are linked by a fundamental feeling: melancholy. “We have a shitty life,” Janka’s mother Maria Nikolayevna likes to say. An apt commentary on the reality of life in a dying socialism, in a society marked by a lack of illusions, apathy and alcohol. At the same time, Maria, who works as a museum attendant, hopes for the coming spring, the tender green of the birch, for change. And yet: The sentence from life is oppressive. Also because it is still valid – after all the following epochal breaks. The music of the future is in a minor key, especially for people like Janka. According to Katerina Poladjan, she stands for a forgotten generation.

The future will be worse anyway

The author explains that in this generation everything will only get worse in the future. “I don’t want to reveal too much now, but there is this one sentence from her [gemeint ist Janka; A.d.R.]: ‘You forgot me.’ That’s how I feel too. And I see the parallel to today. Our children will grow up with all the problems we have now. And that’s tragic.”

Even if so much is sad – Katerina Poladjan’s novel is just as funny again and again. And he develops a beautiful game with art, not only, but also with Russian literature, the motto igrayem (in German: Let’s play!) below. There are many subtle allusions: here Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, there Bulgakov’s “The Master and the Magerita”, there finally Vladimir Sorokin’s early novel “The Snake” – and Chekhov anyway.

Yevtushenko as the leitmotif

book cover "music of the future" |  Image: S. Fischer

“Music of the Future” by Katerina Poladjan

One of the sentences that resonates in its own way is that of the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko: There are no uninteresting people. Every destiny has a story – like the planet. The novel “Zukunftsmusik” is actually a variation of this sentence. “That’s touching,” says the author with a smile, looking at her characters, who, with all their desires and fears, “bravely wandered through the day.”

Meanwhile, in the city so far east of Moscow, the apartment fills up in anticipation of Janka’s kitchen concert. The curiosity about their future music is great, as well as their hope for the new guitar. When will she finally sing? Everyone discovers this for themselves, following the many stories of Katerina Poladjan. We’re waiting for Janka, driven by the longing that she might let people forget the life they’ve been given for at least a few songs.

The novel “Music of the Future” by Katerina Poladjan will be available on February 23 S Fisher published.

This review runs in the Bayern2 book magazine “Diwan” on March 13th. here let’s go to the podcast.