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You watch the episode from the Russian TV show Школа злословия (The School for Scandal ) with two co-hosts -- a
writer Tatiana Tolstaya and a script- writer Dunia Smirnova. These TV hosts invite and interview cult figures of Russian culture and politics. It is Dunya who usually initiated their talk, which tends to revolve around a guest’s life-changing moments -- happy and traumatic: a lucky break, a tragedy, or some kind of personal revelation that redirected their lives. The three are sitting at the table and voicing their thoughts mostly focusing on guests’ stories. However hosts allow themselves to ruminate about their own troubling problems.

I offer you an episode of an interview with a writer, a scriptwriter and a film director Pavel Sanaev, whose first novel Похороните меня за плинтусом (Bury me Behind the Baseboard ) went on to become one of the most acclaimed Russian contemporary novels, and the main character, the second-grader Sasha Savel’ev, became one of the most enduring of all fictional creations in the modern Russian fiction. The perspective of the little boy makes the eccentricities of adults, members of his dysfunctional family, seem commonplace. The presence in the family of two antagonists – mother and daughter is essential to the narrative and serves to portray the old structures of family domination in the Soviet Union in a highly comic way. Ultimately Pavel Sanaev managed to reflect the most ordinary Russian family’s experiences and mundane aspects of everyday life. There is something very disturbing about this story, but it is also ludicrous and underlines that Russians are more than capable of laughing at themselves. In 2008 Pavel Sanaev’s autobiographical novella was used by director Sergei Snezhkin as the basis for his film with eponymous title.

In this episode Sanaev discusses his school years, his first literary experiences, his stepfather who inspired him, the events in his life that at first appeared as the failures, but in the long run led to success. He is telling his life’s story and brings many sophisticated bits and pieces to enrich an often standard picture of what we call now the Soviet past.

You might want to know that Pavel Sanaev’s stepfather, Rolan Bykov was a popular dramatic and comic actor and a film director of best-loved children’s films, including acclaimed Чучело (Scarecrow) (1984).

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