Just at the time of the paralyzing vaccination campaign in Germany and the controversy surrounding the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, a volume with drawings has been published that takes you to an archaic, high-tech Russia of the future. In it, a doctor tries to bring the vaccine to a village ravaged by an epidemic. The artist and musician Yaroslav Schwarzstein, who comes from the Russian provincial town of Tula and now lives in Hanover, was captured by Vladimir Sorokin’s novel “The Snowstorm”, published ten years ago, and translates figures and scenes into language, now more anatomically precise, now pointillist translated into distracting pen drawings. Schwarzstein’s collection of sketches, which the publisher ciconia ciconia published under the title “Blizzard”, like Sorokin, skillfully takes up classic styles in order to recombine them into a fairytale mix.
Sorokin continues a great Russian tradition, both Alexander Pushkin and Lev Tolstoy wrote stories with the same title. In the idiom of Tolstoy or Chekhov, Sorokin tells of two companions – “Sputniki” in Russian – who set off on a medical mission to a place only twenty kilometers away, where they never arrive.
The European educated doctor, whom the author gives a big nose and erotic excitability, has the second vaccination against a disease in his luggage that turns people into monsters with superhuman powers. In this winter world one drives horse-drawn sleighs again, which are, however, driven by fifty apparently genetically engineered mini-horses through a treadmill mechanism. The luscious miller’s wife, who obediently cares for her poisonous winzmann, but immediately gives herself to the intellectual, seems to also capture the relationship of the large country to its rulers and creative people in one picture.
Schwarzstein depicts the doctor with his reflective pint glasses in old master hatching and subtly caricaturing like Horst Janssen or Wilhelm Busch. On the other hand, he gives the beautiful miller’s wife the smooth porcelain volumes of the merchant’s wives that Boris Kustodiev dreamed of in the early Soviet era. Rather impressionistically frayed, he strokes the features of the bread coach, who lost his loin strength at an early age, and whose tenderness is for his graceful little draft animals. For the artist, the white pages become a snowy emptiness, on which birch trunks, people in shaggy furs and their fragile horsepower vehicle emerge as black dots, spots or line ornamentation, which, like many Schiguli-branded Soviet cars, repeatedly breaks down on the way.
Sorokin and Schwarzstein conjure up a poetic-prophetic fairytale world in which the intellectual becomes guilty and fails through hubris, the man from the people perishes – and both are collected by a Chinese transport train with huge horses as high as a house. The white hustle and bustle destroys the feeling of space, the heroes leave the street, turn in circles, but also ram a mysterious crystal pyramid in the snow, which turns out to be a super drug, and the nose of a giant who has frozen to death next to his empty vodka bottle. Our picture, which alludes to the “corpse of Christ” by Hans Holbein, shows the doctor who, after trying to reach the village on foot, crept into the sled’s operating room to warm himself on the horse his Gulliver figure will blow up the casing and cost his companions their lives.
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