Book 3. The Space of Love (1998)
Alexander began speaking quietly, the way Siberian people do, and yet at the same time there was no mistaking the feeling of inner tension in the heart of this young Siberian fellow already showing streaks of grey in his hair.
“When I read your book Anastasia, I was a post-graduate student at Moscow University. I was interested in philosophy and psychology. I studied Oriental religions, and was really immersed in my studies. And then along came Anastasia. Not in some far-away land, but right in my own neighbourhood — Siberia, where I was born. And I could feel the tremendous power, logic and significance in her words! I could feel a kindred spirit — something that really spoke to me! The foreign theories I had been studying paled in comparison to the extraordinary feelings that now welled up in me. I dropped my studies and rushed home, as though from darkness to light. I really wanted to see Anastasia and talk with her.
“I came home and began making trips with Yegorych in the boat to the place you describe in your book. Yegorych and I figured out just where it was. From time to time other people would come and want to meet with Anastasia and ask about this spot. But we never took them there. The local residents had sense enough to realise what was happening and not give encouragement to the ‘pilgrims’. But one time we — or, rather, I alone, without Yegorych — took a whole group of people to this place.”
“Why did you do that?”
‘At the time it seemed like I was doing the right thing, something good. It was a party of six. Two of them were prominent scholars and, from what I could tell, they had con-siderable resources at their disposal. Or those backing them, the ones who sent them, had considerable resources. The other four in the party were their security guards, armed with pistols, and something else besides. And they had two-way radios. I was invited to accompany them as their guide. I agreed, but not because of the money.
“I had a long talk with them first. They didn’t conceal the goal of their expedition — a meeting with Anastasia. Their leader was a grey-haired, pleasant-looking chap named Boris Moiseevich. He realised that Anastasia, all by herself, could do more for science than many research institutes.
“They planned to take her out of the taiga and set her up in a nature preserve where she could live under conditions she was accustomed to. And they’d guarantee her protection. Boris Moiseevich told me that if they didn’t do this, someone else would. And anything might happen. Anastasia was an extraordinary phenomenon, and they felt obliged to protect her and study her.
“Boris Moiseevich had an assistant named Stanislav, a bright young man who claimed to be in love with Anastasia, even though he had never met her in person. I agreed with their arguments. They hired a small ship from a co-operative. They had a truck deliver barrels of aviation fuel to the ship.
“When we arrived at the spot, they set up tents on a prom-ontory and summoned a helicopter on their two-way radio. The ’copter was outfitted for aerial photography; it also had a video camera and some other unusual equipment. Every day
the helicopter would fly low over the taiga and take pictures, one quadrant after another.
“The two scientists made a daily examination of the pictures taken from the air. Occasionally they would travel on the helicopter themselves to a spot that interested them. They were looking for Anastasia’s glade, where they planned to land the ’copter. I could only imagine the noise the ’copter would make landing in Anastasia’s glade, scaring all the living creatures around. I remembered Anastasia had a baby and thought the roar from the ’copter might frighten him too.
“I tried to persuade the scientists that after determining the location of the glade they shouldn’t set the ’copter down there. I proposed that once they determined the location they should draw up a map and go to the glade on foot. But Stanislav explained that Boris Moiseevich would find it difficult making the long trek through the taiga. Stanislav shared my concerns about disturbing the peace of the taiga residents, but assured me that Boris Moiseevich would be able to calm down both Anastasia and her baby It all came to a head on the fourth day”
“What came to a head?”
“It happened when the ’copter flew off on a routine film- ing-and-photography trip, and we were busy back at our base. One of the guards noticed a lone female figure approaching our camp from the direction of the taiga. He reported this to Boris Moiseevich. Soon the whole camp was watching the woman approach. She was wearing a light cardigan and a long skirt, and the kerchief on her head was tied in such a way so that it covered her forehead and neck.
“We were standing together in a group, with Boris Moiseevich and Stanislav out in front. The woman came up to us. There was no fear or embarrassment showing in her face. And her eyes... She had the most extraordinary eyes — they looked at us tenderly, with kindness. And we could feel a warmth from her gaze. It seemed as though she was looking not at our group as a whole but at each one of us individually; We were all overcome by a feeling of excitement we couldn’t explain. It was as though we had forgotten about everything else and were simply drinking in this warmth, basking in it — the warmth radiating from those extraordinary eyes of hers. And nobody even invited her to sit down and rest from her journey.
“She was the first to speak. And with a calm and unusually tender voice she said:
‘“Good afternoon, people.’
‘And we stood there without uttering a word. Boris Moiseevich was the first to respond.
“‘Hello,’ he replied for all of us. ‘Please tell us who you are.’
“‘My name is Anastasia. I have come to you with a request. Please call off your helicopter. It is very harmful for these parts. You are looking for me. Here I am. I shall answer any of your questions I am able to.’
“‘Yes, of course, we’ve been looking for you. Thank you for coming on your own. That takes care of so many problems,’ Boris Moiseevich began. But he still didn’t ask her to sit down, even though there was a table and folding chairs by the tent. Nor did he take Anastasia aside to talk with her privately He too was most likely distracted by her unexpected appearance. He started in right away telling her about why we had come.
“Yes, that’s very good... You came to us on your own. It was you, in fact, we had come for. Don’t worry we’ll call off the helicopter right away’
“Boris Moiseevich at once ordered the senior guard to radio the ’copter pilot to return to base. The order was carried out immediately. Then he turned to Anastasia and began talking with her in a calmer and more even tone.
“Anastasia, the helicopter’s coming now. You will climb aboard along with our colleagues. You will show our colleagues the glade where you live with your son. The ’copter will set down wherever you indicate, and you can fetch your boy Well take the two of you to a nature preserve near Moscow Everything there will be arranged just as you say. That’s only right. Nobody will disturb you there. The preserve is under twenty-four-hour guard, which will be reinforced once you settle in there. Just occasionally, scientists will come and talk with you at a time convenient for you. These people will be thoroughly prepared. You will find them interesting to talk to. And they will be most interested in your views on certain natural and social phenomena, as well as in your philosophy ‘“If you like, we’ll provide you with a worthy assistant. Someone who will be constantly at your side and can catch your inner meanings. In spite of his young years, he is already a prominent and talented scholar. Besides which he has fallen in love with you even before meeting you. The two of you, I think, will be worthy mates — you have the potential to become a fine, happy couple. He is worthy of you not only because of his scholarship but in his lifestyle too. Here he is.’ And at this Boris Moiseevich turned in Stanislav’s direction, and beckoned him over.
“‘Come along, Stanislav, don’t dawdle! Introduce yourself’ “Stanislav came over and stood facing Anastasia. He looked a little embarrassed as he started speaking.
“‘Well, it looks as though Boris Moiseevich has already pro-posed for me! I know this may seem a trifle unexpected for you, Anastasia, but I really am ready to ask for your hand. I am prepared to adopt your son and treat him as my own child. I am ready to help you in working out a host of problems, and I ask you to consider me a friend.’
“Stanislav made an elegant bow before Anastasia, then took her hand and kissed it. He presented a most handsome and elegant appearance. And if only Anastasia had changed her clothes, they would really have looked like a most worthy and attractive couple.
‘Anastasia replied to Stanislav in a tender, serious tone:
“‘I thank you for your kind attentions to me. Thank you for caring about me.’ And then she added: ‘If you really feel you are strong enough to share your love and make another person’s life happier and more fulfilled, then remember — there may already be in your circle of women friends someone who is dissatisfied with her life, unhappy about something. Pay attention to her, love her, make her happy.’
“‘But I want to love you, Anastasia.’
“‘I am already happy with another. Do not waste your energies on me. There are women out there who need you more than I do.’
“Boris Moiseevich decided to come to Stanislav’s aid.
“‘That other — is he the one whom you met with, Anastasia? No doubt you mean Vladimir. He’s a long way from being the best example of our society.’
“‘Whatever you say about him, it will not change my feelings. I cannot control my feelings.’
“‘But why did you choose Vladimir to meet with in the first place? He’s hardly what you could call either religious or scholarly, or even someone who leads a normal lifestyle. He’s just an ordinary businessman. How did you happen to fall in love with him in particular?’
‘At some point I began to realise,” Alexander went on, “that Boris Moiseevich, Stanislav and the rest of the group had one clearly defined goal — to seize Anastasia, to take her by any means possible and use her only in their own interests, against her will. And it didn’t matter whose idea it was — their own or on orders from somebody higher up, they would try their hardest to carry out their plan. And
nothing — not even the most persuasive arguments — would stop them.
“Perhaps Anastasia understood this, too. She could hardly be ignorant or unaware of their intentions. And still she continued treating the men standing before her as kind and decent people, even as friends. She spoke sincerely and forthrightly on the most sacred of topics, and it was her attitude and sincerity which restrained, or rather forestalled, violence. She was so ingenious at countering Boris Moiseevich’s and Stanislav’s attempts to cool her feelings toward you that she showed all their arguments against you to be patently absurd.
“People say a woman in love sees only the good in the one she loves, no matter what he does or who he may really be. But her arguments were of quite a different sort. After the first flurry of excitement over Anastasia’s appearance had passed, I was able to quietly switch on my tape recorder.
“Later I would often listen and analyse what Anastasia said. I remember it all. And that ‘all’ was enough to turn my whole consciousness upside down.”
“What turned your consciousness upside down?” I queried,
wondering what Anastasia had said about me. And Alexander went on:
“When Boris Moiseevich asked: ‘How did you happen to fall in love with him in particular?’, Anastasia countered with a simple, direct reply:
‘“There is no point in asking me a question like that. Nobody who is in love can explain why they love the person they do. For every woman in love there will be only one man who is the best and most significant person in the world — and that is the one she has chosen. And my beloved is the very best one for me.’
“‘But still, Anastasia, you cannot fail to grasp the absurdity of your choice. Even if it happened spontaneously, it’s still
absurd. That first breath of passion should have been chilled by your will, your abilities, the logic of your mind. They should have shown you how unworthy this man was compared to others. Think about it, carefully’
‘“When I think about it carefully I come to exactly the opposite conclusion. In this case any further reflection is a waste of time. It only adds to the mysterious inevitability of what took place. Better just accept everything as it is.’ ‘“What, accept an absurdity? A paradox?’
“‘It only seems to be that way at first glance. You have made a long trip here from Moscow. You had quite a challenge getting to that spot on the riverbank. You ask questions about my love. But you do not seem to have grasped hold of another paradox — namely that this love can be better and more clearly explained by events that happened in Moscow. And it would have been better for you to reflect on them right there. It would have saved you coming all this way.’
“‘What kind of events happened in Moscow?’
“‘On the surface they are very simple. But only on the surface. Right after meeting with me, Vladimir, whom you call a simpleton, an unremarkable and even malicious person, abandoned everything and left Siberia to go to Moscow. He went there to keep his word to me — to organise a fellowship of purer-minded entrepreneurs. Even though he had no money left, he still acted.
“‘In Moscow there is a two-storey building at 14 Tokmakov Lane. That is where the people used to work who were in charge of the first association of entrepreneurs. Then the people in charge left and the association started to fall apart.
“‘Vladimir went in there and things started to pick up again in its empty offices, both the large and small ones. There he wrote various letters addressed to entrepreneurs. He worked in his office from early morning until late at night and even stayed there to sleep. People would come and see him or just
turn up and start helping him. They believed in him and what he was doing. I asked him to do this when he was with me in my glade here in the taiga. I told him how important it was.
‘“I worked out a plan of action and presented it to him. The goals were achievable, provided he carried out the plan in the order that had come to me in my dream. He was supposed to write the book first. And then use the book to explain a lot of things and spread information. It was the book that was to have found and brought together pure-minded entrepreneurs. And provide him with the funds for carrying out this plan.
‘“But Vladimir did everything the right way as he saw it. He hardly thought of me at all. He realised the significance of the plan and put it into practice. Only he did it his way, and changed the sequence.
‘“That way the goal was unachievable. He did not know this, and he acted with incredible persistence and resourcefulness. Other people who believed in the idea started helping him. The new entrepreneurs’ association very slowly began to sprout and grow in size. It was incredible, but things started moving just a wee bit. They were getting together. And these were pure-minded entrepreneurs. There is a list of their names and addresses — you can go check yourselves.’ “‘We looked at this list. It was published in the first edition of the book. But I’m sorry to have to disappoint you, Anastasia. It will be a disappointment! The list included such enterprises as Kristall, a Moscow distillery. Its product is incompatible with any concept of the divine.’
“‘Everything in the world is relative. And perhaps this Kristall is not so bad in comparison with some others. Besides, we are talking about thoughts pure enough to change everything. Today’s reality is the result of yesterday’s thinking.’
“‘I can agree with what you are saying there. Still, your Vladimir failed to organise a fellowship of pure-minded
entrepreneurs. I assure you, Anastasia, you’ve pinned your hopes on the wrong man.’
“After changing the sequence of events, Vladimir was unable to reach his goal. He did not have even the slightest opportunity or any funds to circulate information beyond Moscow. He came up against adverse circumstances and he lost the offices where he could have continued his work, he lost his means of communication as well as his sleeping quarters. He left the building in Tokmakov Lane, along with the little group of local people who were helping him. He could not afford to pay his assistants for their work. He left without a kopeck to his name. He had no place to live and not even any winter clothing. He had forsaken his family and been forsaken by his family And do you know what he talked about with his little group of helpers as they headed for the metro along the icy streets? He talked about starting everything again from scratch. Even under those conditions he was working out a plan, trying to get something going. After all, he is an entrepreneur. They, his helpers, followed him; they listened to him and believed him. They loved him.’
“‘What for, if I may ask?’
‘“You go ask them, these Moscow people, what for — ask them what they found in him. Go to the building on Tokmakov Lane and ask the security guards there why each time they came on duty they would bring him some food in jars or wrapped in cloth, to give him a decent supper. They tried to do it in such a way so as not to offend him with their charity These burly security guards, who did not have to answer to him, cooked borshch and other kinds of soup at home and brought it to him so he could have something of a homemade meal. They loved him. Why?
“‘When you visit that building, go have a talk with the pretty woman who used to work as a secretary there. She is a former actress, she played the lead as the kind alien-girl in
the film Cherez ternii k zvyozdam (Through the thorns to the stars). She played her very well. It was a good film, calling upon people to care for and love the Earth. Ask her why she, an employee of another firm in the same building, tried to help Vladimir inconspicuously — and she did help him. She was not his secretary, but she helped him. Why did she endeavour to bring my beloved coffee or tea for his lunch? She made it look as though it were her firm which was supplying her with the sugar, tea and biscuits. In fact she brought everything from her own home. She was not rich. She loved him. Why?
“At the same time he, Vladimir, was still losing his strength, he was dying. He was physically exhausted. But even on death’s doorstep he kept trying to reach his goal. He is an entrepreneur, after all. And his spirit is strong.’
“Anastasia, you’re talking in metaphors. What do you mean when you say he was dying? In an allegorical sense?”’
“‘In a literal sense. When he was in Moscow, his flesh was just about dead for several days in a row. People in such a condition usually lie motionless. But he was up and about.’
“‘Possibly thanks to you, Anastasia?’
“All during those forty-two terrible hours I never ceased warming him with my ray, not even for a moment. But it was not enough. My ray could not retain life in a body if the spirit were weakening. But Vladimir’s spirit was fighting back. In its struggles his spirit did not notice death approaching. It helped the ray Then other little rays came to the aid of my ray. They were altogether weak and unconscious, but they were there. These were the rays of those around Vladimir in Moscow — people who loved him.
“‘His practically dead flesh began to be filled with life. When confronted by sincere love, if it is strong enough, death retreats. The immortality of Man3 is in love, in his ability to ignite love within himself.’4
“‘I say, Anastasia: dead flesh can’t walk about. You’re still speaking in allegories, not scientifically.’
“‘The criteria of human science are always temporary. There are truths that are valid beyond the present moment.’ ‘“But how then can modern scientists be convinced? We need results from objective measuring devices.’
‘“Fine. Go to the Kursk Terminal.5 There’s an automatic photo booth in one of the adjacent metro stations. During that bad period Vladimir had his picture taken for an I.D. card — one of those small colour prints. You may still be able to find it at the building at 42 Leninsky Prospekt. Or Vladimir himself might have it. Take a careful look, and you will see all the outward signs of a dead body; the automatic camera captured even the death spots on his face. But you will also see life in his eyes. And a fighting spirit.’
“And yet you were the only one who could rescue him, Anastasia. Tell me how it is that you ended up spending so much of your energies on him} Why?’
“‘I was not the only one who came to his rescue. Ask the three Moscow students why they rented an apartment for him at their own expense? When he finally realised the reason he was failing and set about writing the book, why did they, right in the middle of an exam period and trying to earn more money wherever they could, spend their evenings keyboarding Vladimir’s text into their computers? Why? You can ask the same question of many Moscow residents who were at Vladimir’s side in his times of need. The solution to the mystery lies in them, not in me. Why did Moscow and her people help him and take care of him, why did they believe in him?
‘“The city of Moscow was also writing the book. I am thrilled with that city! I have fallen in love with it! No amount of roaring machines or senseless cataclysms devised by the technocratic world can nullify the embrace of kindness and love from the hearts of its people. Many, many residents of this city are reaching out for kindness and brightness — for love. Through all the bustle and the clamour of roaring machinery they feel its tremendous power and grace.’
‘“But, Anastasia, what you say is really incredible and overwhelming. It couldn’t happen all by itself. Once again it shows the incredible scope of your abilities, the extraordinary possibilities of that ray you possess. You have evidently used it to enlighten the Moscow people who got in touch with Vladimir. You won’t deny, now, that you did that? And that you were the one who made all these miracles happen!’
“‘Love is what makes miracles happen. And I did use my ray to make careful contact with all those in communication with Vladimir. But all I did was to give a bit of strengthening to the feelings of goodness, love and bright aspirations that they already had. I only strengthened what was in them already
“And the book was published by Moscow The first print- run was small and it was a pretty slim volume. But people started buying it. It quickly sold out. Far from distorting the events he had witnessed in the taiga, it honestly described the feelings he had experienced. In the eyes of many readers I
came out looking clever and good, while Vladimir appeared stupid and none too bright.
“‘People in their homes reading the book did not take into account that Vladimir was with me one on one in the remote Siberian taiga. Everything back then was still extremely un-familiar to him. And I do not know who else could go so far into the taiga with no gear at all. Or how such a person would behave upon seeing what Vladimir saw Vladimir was honest in the way he depicted everything. And yet for many people he began to look stupid. And here you are asking me: Why did I choose him? And why do I love him so?
“‘In the process of writing the book, Vladimir was already turning his thinking around on a great many things. He grasps everything very quickly. Anyone who has the opportunity of talking with him cannot fail to notice that. But he never tried to paint a rosy picture of his former self.’”