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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

I Wonder, Is It Worthwhile?

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Don't you sometimes just get fed up with politics? Goodness knows, I do.

Every once in a while, I shut off my computer and look longingly at my bookshelves, which grow more extensive and heavily laden with each passing year.

There are literally tons of books that I am just dying to read, although ever since the dawn of perestroika I have had virtually no time for pleasure reading at all. I can hardly remember the last time I picked up anything other than a political-science monograph or the latest statistical report of some government agency. Except for the books that I read together with my daughter, I haven't just read a novel in years.

"Yes," I say to myself longingly.

"Fifteen years ago I would have killed to buy any one of the books that now sit gathering dust on my shelves..."

Back then, such books were a special luxury available only to the nomenklatura via a special-delivery system (which, by the way, I was interested to learn, still exists for the benefit of top-level bureaucrats). Even so, the really good books were only available through illegal means.

I remember the night that I first laid my hands on George Orwell's "1984."

It was a huge typescript in a miniscule font that I had to read overnight in order to pass along to some other hungry closet reader.

My daughter often leaves me notes on the kitchen table when she goes to sleep, which I find after returning late from another interview or information quest: "Mom, I miss you." It is sad but true that of my five jobs, I have the least time for the most important: my daughter.

"Can't you talk about anything but politics?" she asked me in despair the other day. I'm not sure.

I look at her and I think about 1990, when she was just 2 years old. We had just returned from the States where I had held a fellowship working at the Chicago Tribune.

The Trib newsroom gave me a microwave oven as a farewell gift and my suitcases were loaded with dried milk and powered juice drink. I even brought back matches for some reason. Grocery shelves in Moscow were empty then.

I remember seeing some kind of Azeri marmalade, a damp sausage that seemed to have been made mostly of paper and rotting potatoes on offer at the store nearest my house.

I remember standing in the middle of the store thinking, "What am I going to feed my baby?"

Nowadays I don't even bother leaving the house to buy groceries. I just visit an Internet site and order most of what I need online. Within a few hours, everything is delivered right to my kitchen — washed potatoes, milk, juice, whatever.

Maybe I shouldn't complain. I survived a life that most normal people will and should never know.

I have lived to see full bookstores (true, there is a lot of junk these days and I was unable recently to find a copy of Turgenev for my daughter), Western-style grocery stores and a Benetton outlet just a couple miles away from my door.

Can it be that the long-condemned consumer mentality has made me fed up with politics?

I don't think so. The other day I was talking to an old friend who said, "You know, it is no fun anymore [working in political journalism]. There's no passion anymore."

I knew what she meant. "Yeah," I told her, "it doesn't even feel like fighting anymore like it did during perestroika and later. No one listens now and no one bothers to fight back. Those behind the Wall [that is how we talk about the Kremlin] are too busy enjoying themselves to even listen to what we have to say.

"The people whom we like to think we are fighting for — like those women in Tula whose kids have eaten nothing but potato soup for the last year but who still say that they will vote for whatever candidate for governor President Vladimir Putin tells them to — aren't listening either."

I don't know. Maybe it is just fatigue that comes at the end of a long winter and the beginning of spring.

Maybe next week, things will look up and I'll get back on track.

But now I still wonder, is it worthwhile?

Yevgenia Albats is a freelance journalist based in Moscow.