Caricaturist Boris Efimov sees his longevity as the result of some mystical power. As someone who was in the uncomfortable position of being one of Joseph Stalin’s favourites, and also was cited by Goebbels as being one of the first on the list of people to be shot once Moscow was taken by the Nazis for his portrayal of him as a half-man, half-monkey, Efimov often returns to the times when concepts of friends and enemies were easier to clearly define than in our ambiguous 21st century. Efimov portrayed many of the leading figures of history and became friends with people whose names now fill our school history books. He is all too aware that his 108th year could be his last, but he jokes at his own expense in this regard as only someone who has survived two world wars, two revolutions can.
DE I: Do you believe in God?
Nobody can talk seriously about God. Everybody tries to find some kind of answer for themselves, but they can’t find one, because although there is a desire to believe, there isn’t the context in which that belief can materialize. You look at me with pity…somebody of his age, and he’s all confused…
DE I: There is no real answer to that question. But it seems to me you always knew that there is such a thing as fate. Or do you prefer not to think about that?
You’ve hit a nerve there. We haven’t learnt yet, haven’t trained ourselves to be able to not think about things. The more you think, the more confused you get. You don’t want to think, but then you can’t not think. And that’s what get’s you in the loop. Let’s solve this together, how do we get ourselves out of this situation. To call on God is always a solution which is actively used by less civilized peoples. They think up a god, and worship him…What difference does it make why there should be a God, and why we should believe in Him. We know that if we worship him, then we’ll get out of trouble. I’m probably one of those types of people. I feel unwell, and probably I won’t live much longer, but I’ll live knowing that I was honest. I believed in God, what’s wrong with that? And if you don’t add some objection here of significance, I will always be angry that I couldn’t add you to the crowd of believers, even if they don’t really believe in God…
DE I: But when things are difficult, what else can pull you through?
What can we do? I think that we should have a cup of tea…
DE I: You were born in Kiev, and as far as I know there is a particular attitude to fate…and that deep down you never changed, there was always an idea of conscience, God, honour which for all of those 107 years went unaltered. Or is it the opposite, that your illusions were shattered, and you were bitterly disappointed by some things?
It’s difficult to answer that question. If you think that’s how it is, I’ll answer “you’re right!”…
There was one anecdote. A man announces that he is going to meet a very influential scientist and that he’s expecting him to answer a very important question. You see, he was in love with a girl and of course he’s concerned about her feelings, but he wants to know how the scientist rates his chances of success.
DE I: So what did the scientist say?
He said: “Go forth with courage, and you will have great success with her!” A few days went by, and the man returns to the scientist. “Your advice worked! You were absolutely right!” The scientist, for his part, asked how the girl had reacted. “I don’t know. She never showed up!”. This is an example of a question to which you don’t need to seek an answer. Act, believe and everything is in your hands. As you want to be, that is how it will be.
We’re wandering around a forest and we don’t know how to find our way out. One of these days soon, I’ll rise up and away, and all will become clear, and you will be left behind here in the fuss. But what can you do if Mother Nature is so stupidly conceived: what we know brings us nothing, what we want to know, we’re never going to find out. Let me kiss your hand…
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST ¹-1. "BORIS EFIMOV: 107 years in Russia or ‘What you wish for is what you get’"