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Sergey Dovlatov: “They Don’t Ask God For Supplements” - Great And Terrible
Sergey Dovlatov: “They Don’t Ask God For Supplements” - Great And Terrible

Video: Sergey Dovlatov: “They Don’t Ask God For Supplements” - Great And Terrible

Video: Sergey Dovlatov: “They Don’t Ask God For Supplements” - Great And Terrible
Video: Колыма - родина нашего страха / Kolyma - Birthplace of Our Fear 2023, March

Sergey Dovlatov left behind a lot of aphorisms, some of which are clearly autobiographical.

  • “Dozens of books have been written about the dangers of alcohol. There is not a single brochure about its benefits”.
  • “I've read so much about the dangers of alcohol! I decided to quit forever … read. "

Others have to do with the issue of genius.

  • "Genius is the immortal version of the common man."
  • “Genius is not opposed to the crowd. Genius is opposed to ordinary artists”.
  • “Talent is like lust. It's hard to hide. It's even harder to simulate. "

Such attention to these two problems in Dovlatov is by no means accidental, since creativity is a continuation of the personality, which forms destiny.

Bohemia in flip flops

Sergei Donatovich Dovlatov (1941–1990) was a Russian prose writer and journalist, whose fame arose after his emigration to the United States in 1978. In Russia, Dovlatov began to be published and filmed only after 1990. By birth, Dovlatov belonged to a narrow circle of the Leningrad literary and artistic elite.

Father is a theater director, mother is a literary proofreader. Perhaps that is why Sergey, spoiled by the refined intellectuality of his home environment, did not study well at school. However, this is not uncommon among talented people. In the book "Craft" he wrote about himself:

"Infinite twos … Indifference to the exact sciences … Awkward epigrams … A heavy burden of sexual innocence …" 1.

His school friend D. N. Dmitriev recalls:

“Serezha and I studied very average, if not bad. Of course, he and I were decent hooligans, and our tricks were known to the whole school."

In all likelihood, here one can assume the presence of unstable and excitable character traits, formed both against the background of an innate predisposition, and in connection with the peculiarities of upbringing.

Over the years, some disregard for generally accepted norms of behavior grew into bohemianism, which remained in the writer's blood until the end of his life. So, already being an adult, “Seryozha regularly went out into our yard in a terry dressing gown and slippers. Accompanied by Glasha's fox terrier, he walked to a beer stall, which was not far from us. Of course, this behavior could shock many of the inhabitants of our house."

In 1959, Dovlatov entered the Finnish language department of the Philological Faculty of Leningrad State University. He studied there for two and a half years, making friends with the future Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Brodsky. But the disorder took its toll: in 1961, Dovlatov was expelled from the university for academic failure.

The author's recollection of this period, from the book "Craft":

"A divorce marked by three days of drinking … Idleness … Summons from the military registration and enlistment office."

As usually happened in such cases, Dovlatov was immediately drafted into the army, and he served in the internal troops for three years.

“And I ended up in the escort guard. Obviously, I was destined to go to hell …"

Like any talented person, he used this not the easiest time of his life for creativity. According to the memoirs of Joseph Brodsky, Dovlatov returned from the army, "like Tolstoy from the Crimea, with a scroll of stories and some stunned gaze."

The novelist's intuitively chosen path turned out to be the very path that allowed Dovlatov to realize himself and led to the well-deserved fame. He enters the Faculty of Journalism of the same Leningrad University, from which he was once expelled, is published in a student circulation, and his first stories appear in the magazine "Koster".

Literary outcast

In the early seventies, Dovlatov lived in Tallinn, by this time (1972-1975) the memoirs of one of his acquaintances belong:

“But sometimes he fell into a kind of inexplicable deep gloom. He closed himself in, withdrawn into himself and turned into a completely different person. It was absolutely impossible to get him out of this state, he had to cope himself. It happened as unexpectedly as it began."

Dovlatov's quarrelsome character did not become more flexible over the years. He constantly found himself in various scandalous situations, which he himself provoked. Dovlatov seemed to deliberately strive for a state of anxiety and disorder, methodically destroying any relationship with friends, women, and bosses. This circumstance did not contribute to a creative career.


It is known that the set of his first book, Five Corners, was destroyed at the direction of the Estonian KGB. After such a fiasco, the magazines preferred not to mess with the disgraced writer. Only in 1974, the Yunost magazine published the Dovlatov story “Interview”, written on a purely production and therefore “passing” topic. But such creativity clearly did not suit him. He began to publish his works in "samizdat", as well as to send them abroad to emigre literary magazines. The retribution was not long in coming: in 1976, Dovlatov was expelled from the Union of Journalists of the USSR.

During these years, Dovlatov's dependence on alcohol was manifested. He drank it down for five days once a month. And he himself was surprised at this circumstance:

“How did I turn from a fat, fearful boy, and then a romantically in love young man into an alcoholic and a bully?.. I was completely convinced of my complete unfitness for life.”

In the spring of 1978 the first book by Sergei Dovlatov was published in the American publishing house "Ardis". The competent authorities persistently hinted at emigration, but the writer was "stubborn."

“Then came the trouble. They kicked me out of everywhere. They deprived the smallest hack … I began to drink a lot. The wife and daughter left for the West. We were left alone. More precisely - three of us. Mom, me and the dog."

Glory in a foreign land

The path to the United States, like many emigrants of that time, went through the European capitals to New York. And there were some adventures here. Having stopped in Warsaw, a drunken Dovlatov was detained by the police and managed to get into a medical sobering-up center.

But when he found himself in America, he showed extraordinary energy. He settled in New York, where he became editor-in-chief of the "dashing and liberal" weekly New American. She quickly gained popularity among the emigrant community. Books of his prose began to appear.

By the mid-1980s, Dovlatov had achieved a stable readership and was published in prestigious American magazines. For 12 years of emigration, he published twelve books in the USA and Europe. In the Soviet Union, the writer at that time was known only for "samizdat" works and his author's broadcast on Radio Liberty.


"Creative binges" regularly alternated with alcoholic binges, which Dovlatov hated and tried to fight with them. He did not drink for months, but the vodka was patiently waiting in the wings, and Dovlatov himself "remembered about Her, damned, from morning till night." Some authors suggest that drunkenness did not affect his work, but they were hardly right. And the very nature of "drunken writing" testified to the presence of a propensity for addictive behavior in all its forms.

Severe alcoholization could not pass without negative consequences for the writer. At some point, Dovlatov realized that he had nothing else to write about. His phrase “They don’t ask God for supplements” sounds like a sentence to himself. Dovlatov committed suicide in the expected way - he drowned himself in vodka. He drank, perfectly aware that every next binge could be fatal, since doctors had already diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver.

Read also: We watch the film "Dovlatov" together with a psychologist

Dovlatov entered his last drinking bout "slowly and reluctantly, like a tanker at the mouth." He lay on the couch all day and drank one bottle of vodka after another. As soon as the next bottle ran out, he shouted: “Lena! Vodka! " - and the wife was forced to run to the store, because due to the slightest delay, Dovlatov began to destroy dishes and furniture.

The way out of the binge sometimes took place with hallucinatory disorders. The "return to life", which he always carried out with the help of large quantities of milk, failed last time. Before he was fifty, Sergei Dovlatov died of heart failure in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

Talent and drunkenness

Dovlatov's literary work is distinguished by its great originality. The thirst for uniqueness reached the point of curiosities in him. For example, he invented such "literary chains" for himself: so that no phrase contains two words starting with the same letter.


The characteristic features of Dovlatov's prose were short sentences and the absence of metaphors in the text. That is why Dovlatov was so easy to translate into foreign languages, and perhaps this not least explains his popularity among American readers. In other words, he had his own recognizable and unique style of a talented writer.

Nowadays, Dovlatov's books - "Zone", "Suitcase", "Reserve", "Stories" - are included in the list of 100 books recommended by the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia for independent reading by schoolchildren. In New York, a street in the Forest Hills borough of Queens is named after Dovlatov.

Drunkenness and the presence of a hangover syndrome, of course, indicate that Dovlatov has alcohol dependence. The latter, over time, began to intensify both by affective fluctuations, and, possibly, by a creative crisis. Once again, we are faced with a life situation when talent is not able to withstand illness, when alcohol cruelly cracks down on a creative person.


Alcohol dependence syndrome with affective fluctuations.

The predisposing factors in this case were, on the one hand, personality traits: features of unstable mood and excitability, dysthymia, excessive opposition and self-confidence. It was this combination of psycho-psychopathological circumstances that served as the impetus and basis for the emergence, development and formation of alcohol dependence.

But something else is important to note. Only thanks to his creative talent, which plays a meaningful role, Dovlatov's life did not collapse at the very beginning of his path. It was talent that compensated for the self-destructive tendencies inherent in alcohol addiction, helped self-realization and thereby kept it in society.

See also: How to avoid mistakes when treating an alcoholic or drug addict

Drunkenness was forgiven him, because he worked outside of hard drinking. And, as happens in such cases, alcoholism was considered a "annoying fly" interfering with talent. But the clinic for alcohol addiction has its own course. And when the euphorizing and stimulating effect of alcohol was replaced by the asthenizing and depressing one, then the feeling of “exhaustion of resources” appeared. Talent once again proved to be powerless in the face of chronic alcoholism.


  • Genis A. A. A special case: philological prose. M.: AST, Astrel, 2009. S. 80, 118, 211, 214–215.
  • Dovlatov S. D. Collected works in 4 vols. / Comp. A. Yu. Ariev. SPb: Azbuka, 2001.
  • Efimov I. Uniqueness at any cost // Little-known Dovlatov. Collection. SPb: Zvezda magazine, 1995.
  • Kovalova A., Lurie L. Dovlatov. Saint Petersburg: Amphora, 2009.
  • Popov V. G. Dovlatov. M.: Young Guard, 2010.

Quotes from: Dovlatov S. D. Collected works in 4 vols. / Comp. A. Yu. Ariev. SPb: Azbuka, 2001. ↩

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