Peter Mamonov: When The Abyss Hums
During the pandemic, we began to lose famous people not one by one, as usual, but in whole blocks. Which is very sad. We do not have time to recover from one loss, as immediately the next. July was particularly troubling. I knew many of those who had passed away personally and watched others with interest and attention for many years.
Today I would like to remember Peter Mamonov, who died from the coronavirus (and why else is everyone dying today from…).
His appearance in the Zvuki Mu group in the 1980s was a real phenomenon, a breakthrough, and the discovery of a new continent – just like in the case of my friends Sergey Kuryokhin, Yegor Letov, Yuri Orlov, Alexander Sklyar, Psoy Korolenko, and many others. In the second half of the 1980s, it began to seem that the completely degenerated Soviet stage and senseless officialdom were about to disappear. And in their place will come, new people, not just truly gifted, but posing fundamental existential problems – degeneration, pathology, passion, crime, sin, substance abuse, meanness, conformism, death … And starting from the openly and piercingly outlined bottom, young geniuses at that time were looking for an exit to other, transcendental zones. But they were looking honestly – not juggling, not passing off wishful thinking. They quickly became the leaders of a generation. They spoke on behalf of the awakening society – they spoke honestly, convincingly, and sometimes fantastically talented.
Pyotr Mamonov of the “Zvuki Mu” era was the brightest example of intellectual punk. He sculpted out of himself a collective image of a late Soviet man, brought to the point of grotesque. Dementia, the extreme stages of dipsomania and delirium tremens, paralysis of consciousness, paroxysms, and catalepsy Mamonov represented all that brilliantly. If society were capable of self-reflection, it would immediately recognize in “Zvuki Mu” not a cynical slander and caricature, but a piercing confession and an unbearable truth about themselves and those around them. Pyotr Mamonov was breaking the illusion that everything is going as it should. Letov said: “Everything is going according to plan.” Everything did not go as it should, not according to plan, and psychedelics only replaced the suddenly discovered catastrophe – quite in the style of Russian nightmares writer Yuri Mamleev. Mamonov was a well-educated intellectual, refined philologist, linguist, and literary critic.
In Plato’s “The State” in his story about the Er, there is an image of a “mooing abyss”. The stage character of Pyotr Mamonov was just that. The abyss bellowed about something of the utmost importance. And the audience listened to this humming spellbound.
Something happened in the transition from the 1980s to the 1990s. At some point, it all suddenly ended. The entire counterculture evaporated, instantly became marginal – but not for political reasons, but for some other reason. And those who, it seemed, in the 1980s were about to die, all the late Soviet pop trash suddenly came to life and with violent fury flooded the territory of the music scene. And this nightmare continues to this day … Mamonov had no place in the 1990s. The revelation of the ““Zvuki Mu” did not reach society. The same, however, occured with everyone else of this break through generation. Only those who died earlier than others were lucky.
In the 1990s, Mamonov began to do solo performances and act in films. But he did not deviate from his creative core. The culmination of his work was the role of the Russian fool of Christ in Lungin’s film “The Island”. This is a phenomenal film. Before and after that, Lungin shot unattractive, thoroughly understandable films with vulgar liberal overtones. Mainstream.
But “The Island” and, of course, Mamonov in “The Island” were a real breakthrough. The tradition of the Russian staretz, the paradoxes of holy foolishness, the grandiose scale of the secret, modest, deeply hidden Russian holiness appeared so convincingly and fully that it was impossible to pass it by.
I think the role of Elder Anatoly was the culmination of Pyotr Mamonov’s work. He always went to this – to the point where crime, sin, decay, and the abyss of human meanness are transformed under the quiet influence of the spirit. But this transformation is available only to those who have heard the “hum of the abyss.” Mamonov in “The Island” continued to play his main character – the hero of solo performances, an elderly oligophrenic of the era of “Zvuki Mu”.
But in the Russian spiritual tradition of Orthodoxy, which has become the main meaning of the life of Peter Mamonov in recent years, existential pain, searches, and torments have found their sublime resolution. We lose ourselves ony to find our real Self. We fall dawn in order to rise. We go crazy to return to the mind – but to a different, real, transformed.
On July 15, 2021, Peter Mamonov gave his soul to God. Precisely to God and precisely to the soul. To say so, one had to find both in the difficult labyrinth of life. He, apparently, with great difficulty, but how else, did that…