Every so often, one of my readers enquires as to why I do not write a book. The answer seems obvious enough: it has already been done. The libraries are groaning under the weight of millions of them – in our native France, everyone who can manage rudimentary verb conjugation feels compelled to bequeath his opus to an expectant world. With that many writers, who has the time to read? And besides, it has all been said already – and better – by Proust, by Borges, by Kafka, by the Great Russian classic authors of the 19th Century. What could I hope to add?
Yet when invited to contribute a chapter to a book being put together by one local financial institution, collectively authored by 20 (ah… make that 19…) of that first generation of expats involved in the creation of Russia’s first approximations to a capital market, and who were then mad enough to stick around as it all unravelled, crashed and burned (but to reincarnate in something rather less surrealistic), it seemed a very worthy undertaking.
I did caution them that my chapter was likely to be rather spicy; one of the wonderful things about Russia is that total absence of political correctness which we enjoy.
The story recaps some of the highlights of my 15 years before the mast – amidst the madness that was early post-Soviet Moscow, or at least what I can remember of it (no one who fully participated in the Great Party at the Edge of the Apocalypse made it out without sacrificing a few brain cells along the way…).
While I had imagined that I could jot it all down in an afternoon, I ultimately spent days, weeks, writing and re-writing what was meant to be an intensely personal account… an ego trip if you will, but that is what was requested of me. All in vain! My foray into the literary world was to fall victim to the very cowardice and group-think I have long decried in the Western media.
To make a long story short – while the initial drafts were received with great enthusiasm by the Moscow sponsor, when they forwarded the finalized version to London, the response from the publisher neatly summarized everything that is corrupt, cowardly, bent and cloyingly hypocritical about British Media and their coverage of Russia.
According to the UK publisher, to refer to convicted criminals – as “criminals”; to bent ministers – as “bent”; to purported journalists engaged in nothing more than propaganda-for-pay – as “propagandists” (thus avoiding a more colourful term) detracted from the credibility of my story.
In short, he demanded that my baby be gutted like an eel! Excerpts from his reptilian letter (highlighting is my own):
“… I am now attaching an edited version of the chapter by Eric Kraus. As discussed, as well as a more general edit, I have toned down the accusations and removed names where I think there might be problems. I believe the substantive points being made by the author are still there. More importantly I believe that the points being made are clearer and stronger for having been made less personal and more impartial.
… Being sued for libel is perhaps unlikely… What is much more likely is not being taken seriously – and that would be a pity because this chapter has the potential to make a valuable contribution with its first-hand/inside knowledge. Why might it not be taken seriously? Because personal accusations, whether true or not, will diminish the authority of the work (and of the book as a whole). There is no need to name names in quite the way that is proposed here. The same substantial points can be better made without this…”
Needless to say, T&B cleans such folk out from between his toes. I certainly do not intend to be censored by some pitiable denizen of a dying civilization that still imagines itself to rule the (air)waves. He – and his ilk – are fated to drown while clinging desperately to the status quo, as it disappears beneath the waves of history.
But – dear reader – let it be you who draws their own conclusions as to what adds – and what detracts – from the story! I have restored the London redactions, highlighted in blue. Do please tell whether you think it better with or without!
In fact, I would recommend that you buy the book, print my chapter, and just paste it in. I would be deeply gratified to find my little literary cripple in the company of the stories of my peers from those best – and worst – of times.
Given the effort which went into this Quixotic undertaking – I would strongly encourage all to forward around the present message to anyone who might be interested/amused/outraged – or best, some combination of all three.
To read the chapter click on the link below: