During presentation of Spaces – at 21st International Book Trade Fair in Minsk – Igor Polyakov gives autographs to fans and shares his plans for the future
Mr. Polyakov first gained media attention in 2009, when he wrote the script for Tango: October, which he also directed. Screened at the KinoVarka Alternative Film Forum, it won a prize for its originality, showing only the legs of men, women and children, wearing all manner of footwear. Faltering, hurrying, stumbling or stopping, they alone told the story, accompanied by atmospheric music. Seemingly, chaotic, it revealed meetings, partings and changeable disposition. Each pair of legs reflected the emotions experienced by their owners.
Igor’s impressive My Cook’s Secret – a ‘musical-culinary mystery’ – also premiered in Minsk to acclaim. It tells of a successful Parisian cook, with a chain of restaurants in Paris and Cannes, who mysteriously gives up his business and moves abroad to work in a local cafй. Filled with vividly drawn characters, the film explores deep psychological motivation.
Igor’s novel, Spaces, has received much praise from critics - including famous Belarusian writer and popular TV host Tamara Lisitskaya, who calls Mr. Polyakov ‘extremely wise’, with a ‘feel for the music of life’. Professor Anatoly Andreev - a literary critic and doctor of philological sciences – admires its ‘modern artistic language’.
The book explores the faith and love allowing us to overcome difficulties and our ability to empathise with others while searching for meaning in life. It seems unthinkable that more novels will fail to follow and Mr. Polyakov certainly doesn’t refute the idea, smiling enigmatically. His thoughts remain largely hidden and his character defies the usual assessment. I tend to classify people – as kindly, intellectual or chivalrous perhaps – but I’m at a loss to decide on Igor’s true nature. He is hard to pin down: like the horizon – ever elusive. However, he is certainly charming, with an open smile and brown eyes radiating inner peace, despite his self-contained air. His wall of reserve is not completely impenetrable, since it allows spiritual light to shine through. I settle on classifying him as a spiritual and serene person.
His words add to my final opinion, when he tells me that he was born with haemophilia. He laments that people tend to focus on this ‘disability’ – setting him apart from ‘healthy’ society. “However, my parents brought me up like any other boy: I attended kindergarten and school and played football in the courtyard with other youngsters. I graduated from Gomel’s Frantsisk Skorina University as an engineer-programmer and later continued my studies abroad – focusing on foreign languages and bio-medical engineering. I gave up those studies to return home, as I was missing my family greatly. As to what I value most, I’d say sincerity, communication and ‘home’. I learnt this from my parents, who are wonderful. My father has now died but my mother continues to fill my life with a sense of care and comfort.”
Igor tells us about his book, mathematics, artistry and life’s meaning.
You moved from mathematics to artistry – which is no surprise. Many artistic figures, including writers and poets Omar Khayyam, Mikhail Lomonosov and Lewis Carroll, were also mathematicians. Are exact sciences artistic?
Someone proclaimed: ‘Mathematics is God’s language’. We, mathematicians, probably feel the most artistic of all [smiling]. A literature club operated at the University during my studies but I failed to attend. I’m definitely not a ‘freelance’ artist – or an introspective philosopher or an egghead. I’m rather an artist with a mathematical emphasis. To be more correct, I’m an author – an ordinary author.
Spaces has a character called Prof. Shestakov who lectures in geometry at the University. Is he based on a real person?
No, I invented him. I want my readers to ‘feel’ various spaces. Geometry involves one, two or more spaces – which intersect or remain parallel. Space surrounds us and is encircled within a larger space. We all live in a single world-space. As our world was created by ‘someone’, so can we create our own world-spaces: outside and within. We can decide upon their size, depth and brightness. In mathematics, there exist limit-infinities and the infinity of limits. Similarly, some of our ‘worlds’ die with their creators while others live on; somewhere, it’s raining and, elsewhere, the sun is shining. We are constantly moving from one space to another – staying for a short time in one and living long lives in others.
How long did it take you to write the book? Was it easy to agree its publishing?
I worked on it for almost a decade and never thought seriously of publishing, although I had a vague dream. I sent my work to Belarusian Registr Publishing House and, two months later, was told: ‘All our staff are on holiday. Please, call later’. I decided not to knock on that door anymore… but it opened anyway [smiling]. I received an invitation to take part in a literary contest of extracts and short stories – organised by Registr. I sent in an extract and… won. The publishing house became interested in the whole text and proposed publication free of charge.
It’s a classic example of talent winning out! Do you think authors need to be pushy to succeed?
We need to push like grass piercing the asphalt. Ecclesiastes reads: ‘Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days’ and: ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might’. In my view, it’s vital to keep a balance. You need a break-through but you shouldn’t step on others in doing so.
The book reads as an author’s confession. Do you agree?
A literary confession presupposes sincere talk on issues concerning the author. My book mentions a character finally falling asleep after enduring great troubles; he experiences a state in which dreaming is combined with reality and examination, in a strange space which appears empty yet unclear. He cannot sit, walk or lie in this space. I’ve personally experienced such a state.
Was writing the book a kind of psychotherapy?
All writers do this – since writing requires you to evaluate your thoughts. Some fully identify with their characters, while others are inspired by real people in their inventing characters.
Writing produces a legacy which remains forever – so there must be a sense of responsibility?
This is true. It’s vital for my words not to destroy others’ spaces…
Would you like to see your book screened? I know that you are on good terms with the cinema…
I’d love to. In writing ‘Spaces’, I wanted to reveal that feeling of life being a dream state. It would be great to see this idea screened! However, it would need wide public appeal, as well as being original – like works by Tarkovsky and Fellini. I don’t wish to appear immodest but I do aim for this level.
Reading ‘die-hard lucky’ blog
Looking through your Internet blog, I can see that you are a truly unique writer. Your style is simple yet poetic – resembling classical writers. Meanwhile, your language is clear to young people. In your stories, you often recall your father and devote poems to him. You write letter-recollections and often speculate on God. In addition, you sometimes address those who could hardly be found in the world of people. Are you a lonely man?
Yes and no. On the one hand, I have my family – who are close to me – and I have friends and numerous acquaintances. I live an active Internet life. On the other hand, I’m fine with my own company.
This is a great personal achievement. People behave differently in adversity – such as when they suddenly lose their mobility after an accident or have health problems.
People are different: weak and strong or both. I’m afraid of some things and feel no fear regarding others.
Do you consider yourself to be lucky?
My blog is entitled ‘Journal of a Die-Hard Lucky’. I’m truly lucky – despite everything. I could have died several times but continue living. Fate has allowed me to flip situations around and succeed. My disease has taught me much but it would be silly to assert that it has been easy. Of course, it would have been great to be healthy but I can do nothing to change my body. Who knows whether I would have done all I have if I’d been born healthy - or whether I’d have found such great friends…
One of your blog stories reads: ‘My mother brought me several Smena magazine issues. One featured Alexander Men’s Human Son story.’ Were you in hospital at that time?
Yes. Those nights were sleepless so I began reading. I was always searching for something and I love to philosophise and read all kinds of literature – including ecclesiastical and pseudo-ecclesiastical. On reading Men’s book, I felt that I saw God – not depicted on an icon but as a living man. I began speaking to him internally and praying. Several days later, I was baptised and, since then, have done my best to always carry light in my soul, in my life and in my artistry.
By Alisa Krasovskaya
Igor Polyakov’s Spaces
<img class="imgl" alt="" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-427.jpg">[b]During presentation of Spaces – at 21st International Book Trade Fair in Minsk – Igor Polyakov gives autographs to fans and shares his plans for the future[/b]<br />Mr. Polyakov first gained media attention in 2009, when he wrote the script for Tango: October, which he also directed. Screened at the KinoVarka Alternative Film Forum, it won a prize for its originality, showing only the legs of men, women and children, wearing all manner of footwear. Faltering, hurrying, stumbling or stopping, they alone told the story, accompanied by atmospheric music. Seemingly, chaotic, it revealed meetings, partings and changeable disposition. Each pair of legs reflected the emotions experienced by their owners.