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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Memoirs Based on Truth and Deception




As a teenager, Andrei Konchalovsky treated his younger brother Nikita Mikhalkov as his slave, making him fetch another bottle of vodka for a party, for example, or keep a lookout for parents when he was with a girl in her apartment.


Nowadays, some 40 years later, in spite of the fact that Mikhalkov is much more popular in this country than his brother and is even being seriously considered for the job of Russia's next president, Konchalovsky is still first in the family hierarchy.


Just two weeks before the world premiere of Mikhalkov's film "Barber of Siberia" in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, Konchalovsky released his second volume of memoirs, which immediately jumped to the top of the Moscow bestseller list.


For the titles of both of his books, Konchalovsky, who is in his early sixties, took a line from Alexander Pushkin: "T'my nizkikh istin nam dorozhe nas vozvyshayushchy obman," which, loosely translated, means: "We prefer one lofty deception to myriads of base truths."


Exactly one year ago the author hit the bookstands with his "Base Truths," and it was an instant success. "Lofty Deceptions" was scheduled for this winter.


Not many people believed that the author could repeat his earlier triumph, not least because "base" sells better than "lofty" in a country that just did away with 70 years of aggressive, glorifying propaganda.


But it is no accident that Konchalovsky is the only Russian director to achieve reasonable fame in Hollywood. He knows what the masses want and how to sell it to them. And whatever the title, the content is the same: sincere and sometimes cynical exhibitionism.


In his first volume, Konchalovsky recalls dozens of sexual encounters, starting with an initiation rite that has been practiced for several generations in his family.


"When I was 17," writes Konchalovsky, "my father said he would do as his father did for him," and phoned an experienced lady friend of his, the wife of a general, to tell her he was sending his son to her "to introduce him to adulthood."


This detail is all the more titillating for the Russian reader in that Andrei and Nikita's father, Sergei Mikhalkov, is the celebrated author of the words to the Soviet national anthem.


The second part of his memoirs begins with a scene where the author looks at himself in a mirror and sees "not a face, but a wrinkled ass" and wonders: "Why do I love myself, when there is nothing to love? Maybe because my conscience sleeps, self-satisfied? Or maybe because there is no other I, but only as I am now? And I have to love what there is. ..."


"Lofty Deceptions" is on sale for 45 to 50 rubles ($1.97 to $2.19) at bookstores and up to 90 rubles from downtown street sellers.