Andrei Zaretsky, Alexander Trukhanov (continued): “We did not have a name, but there was arrogance”

The second part of the interview with the authors of the bestselling book “Professor Fortran Encyclopedia” of the DataArt museum project is about those who helped, about meeting with the writer Uspensky, cooperation with the Enlightenment publishing house and business peculiarities in the 1990s.

The first part of the interview is here.

Sense of situation

Alexander Trukhanov: We started working on books in the year 87, plus or minus. At first, what we wrote was a complete crap, but it was also stolen from us. Come with comics in Funny Pictures. They told us: “The question has not yet been resolved,” and immediately thereafter, similar comics came out with the signature of a local artist, only with slightly different characters. In fact, it turned out to be a great blessing, because we understood our low level and decided to redo everything from the very beginning. After that there was a qualitative leap.

One of the sketches of the first illustrator of the book by Pavel Okalev

Andrey Zaretsky: It is fortunate that when we came to Enlightenment with our version, we were given an art editor. An amazing woman Lyudmila Vyacheslavovna Antonova. Now she is our great friend, and then she explained to us who we really are. She understood that we had brought a diamond, but it was so unprocessed that all the work needed to be done in a new way.

Before that, we had heard about actors, writers, how nervous they are, they can fail. When we wrote, I was a real psycho. Already lived in that world a little bit, when someone pulled me out of him, molested with his stupidities, I could react quite harshly. At night, he jumped up to write something and generally became different.

Passport for Kadabra – the hero of the book “I was in the computer city” – sent by one of the readers

A. T .: We often worked in a graduate student dormitory. They sat down in the corridor, all kinds of people walk past, life is in full swing … “Let’s discuss such an episode,” – I don’t feel like it anymore, but I need to add it.

A. Z.: Hands fell very often. Well, that in turn, and not both at once! Sasha and I perfectly complemented each other. Almost all the great philological decisions are his. I still remember the phrase Sasha uttered during one of the discos. Imagine: the Soviet Union, all the poor. “And this music was loved by John Smith, he is from a poor area, where everyone washes his own Mercedes.” Sasha knows how to find such phrases.

Disco in Chernogolovka. In a white T-shirt at the console – Alexander Trukhanov

A. T .: Andryusha called it a “sense of situation”. But without him, I would have stayed with this situation.

Assumption and arrogance of young authors

Andrey Zaretsky: Any of us alone would hardly have done this. Even without psychological failures. We are not Assumption, frankly. Here he is, of course, an outstanding writer, although the person, to put it mildly, is not the most pleasant. Once we came to an audience with the Great, somehow we organized it. He specifically mixed us with shit, right in the eye. Then we learned that at that time he was writing a similar book about Professor Chaynikov – also about computers. By the way, this is a bad job for him, and by that time we had already written our own. Two little assholes who came from nowhere.

A letter to Alyosha, the protagonist of the book “I Was in the Computer City”

A. T .: We had neither a name, nor even an understanding of where to go with this.

A. Z.: Insolence was. In the “Enlightenment” we were later told: “Guys, this is the first time we have seen young authors who have requested a circulation payment.” That is, young authors are always happy when they receive at least something. They gave a fixed amount – and rolled it off. We immediately asked: “If you will reprint our book, how can we get nothing?”

A. T .: Thinking about the future, we are still scientists. We looked at things more broadly, without complexes and roughly imagined how this world is physically constructed.

A. Z.: We understood that this was the right book, we felt with all my gut. The reason we started writing it is still incomprehensible. They gathered to earn some money, but then it was not the first goal. The process is very captured.

A. T .: I remember our laboratory, little one, the computer is standing. A little further – the printer. And someone complains about you: “Zaretsky scored a science. He is not interested. He’s doing some discos, something else. ” Energy is a lot of it. If somewhere close, it splashes out in the other direction.

In fact, Andrei’s huge plus is that he thought big. If a book, then let it be republished everywhere. If we write, then we write at the level. Set the task, as in science, and go! There are methods, tools too. We don’t find out what we don’t know.

A. Z.: We did not expect it to be so difficult.

A. T .: Even when there is a manuscript, where to carry it, with whom to negotiate? The Internet was not in the current sense, there was no normal software – all of them are unlicensed. Moreover, it was used by all government agencies. To at least somehow legitimize this, there was, for example, the Unix of Soviet authors. The usual Western Unix, but with a description in Russian – someone figured out and printed the instructions. This was considered normal. Buying software for $ 50 is difficult – it’s a waste of currency, a decision on which is made at the institute’s directorate level.

I typed a book in some kind of text editor. In the Lexicon, most likely.

A. Z.: I wrote only by hand. Although we all created together, played the role of a stenographer. Then they drove into the computer. When it became like a text, they made corrections. Something was thrown out in pieces, changed in pieces. Errors of novice authors: the first time we tried to write sequentially. Then, God forbid, one phrase remained from this kilometer of text.

Enlightenment Publishing House

Andrey Zaretsky: In “Enlightenment” we were very simple. My aunt’s husband, Viktor Nikolayevich Likhachev, worked in the government of the RSFSR. I come to him, I say: “We wrote a book with a friend. We don’t know what to do with it. ” He asked what the book was about, and right in front of me called the director of the Enlightenment. He said that his nephew wrote something: “Look, right in the trash, or later.”

I went to this principal, he immediately called the chief editor of the elementary school and re-kicked me. She took the book, made out that it might be interesting, and then proved it to her. When we later rewrote the text for the fifth, tenth and one hundred and fifth times, she was ready to conclude an agreement with us. When I asked about the lottery, she went to the director to punch them. Then we already discussed the story with sequels. On the one hand, of course, they helped us. On the other hand, I’m thinking now, if there hadn’t been a call from Uncle, we would probably have gone to Enlightenment anyway. Because before that they already went to the “Funny Pictures” and we were a little fooled there.

Alexander Trukhanov: Not a little, but completely. But it benefited. We rethought a lot.

A. Z.: Yes, such strikes are necessary. A boxer will not become a boxer until his entire jaw is broken. Anyway, we would go. Theoretically, it would turn out that we would go the wrong way. The worst thing is if we got to someone who would say, like Assumption, that we are shit. And then, as in “Funny Pictures”, I would rewrite the book for myself. We are fortunate to have come across decent people.

A. T .: The idea was so unusual that a traditional writer would not have accepted it. I think he would have gotten another book, artistic, albeit stolen. All these breakthrough cases – feedback, computer, cutouts – this would not have happened. None of the then authors needed this.


Andrey Zaretsky: In “Enlightenment” we came with an already drawn book. The comic book format was then popular, it was used both in Murzilka and in Funny Pictures. Initially, our nugget friend Pasha Okalev was to become an artist. We hung out at discos together. Pasha is a tall handsome man; the girls loved him with terrible force. He went to ballroom dancing, and to art school. I drew beautifully. But Pasha drank. The publishing house realized that because of this he would not draw a book, and they found us a professional artist Elina Desyatnyk. Based on the images developed by Pasha, she certainly did everything in her own way and very professionally – the pros are the pros. But initially all the sketches and heroes were Pasha. We really wanted to draw with him, but it didn’t work out.

Sketch of Pavel Okalev

Alexander Trukhanov: Pasha was not a professional, but as an amateur, he drew only when there was a mood. He painted perfectly, masterpieces turned out. But when the mood disappeared, he did not work, he also drank. The technological process was violated, this is unacceptable for the publisher.

A. Z.: All the first visual images – both the professor and the cat – Pasha. He invented Fortran absolutely brilliant. Professor – therefore, bald, gray-haired, with glasses … A bit like Dr. Aibolit. A canonical such professor for a child. Bright memory of Pasha, unfortunately, he still drank.

Sketch of Pavel Okalev


Andrey Zaretsky: After the release of the book, we received a huge number of letters. Publishing House “Enlightenment” even had to allocate a separate room for them. At first I answered all the letters, then I realized that this was impossible. Compiled a few templates. “Dear Vasya!” Then the template – bang, and at the end: “I’m so glad you said this and that.” For personalization to be. I sent five hundred such letters, and read about a thousand. “This is the first book I read with pleasure.” “We take this book from each other at home.” There were a lot of kind words. Including, about computers: “I’m so glad that I finally got a computer.” Although such, but he has it. People cut printers, inserted floppy disks. Everything that we offered them, they did.

Andrey Trukhanov: Children asked for advice from Kadabra, from the Professor, asked for advice, finding themselves in difficult life situations. One girl wrote that she had lost a book that belonged to her older sister, and could not find another anywhere. There were such sentimental stories, as many tears welling up.

A. Z.: At first I didn’t think that to answer even 100 letters was difficult. But two hours a day at the computer was only enough to write 30 pieces. We must read, come up with something personal. It would be terribly interesting for me to see those 500 people who nevertheless received these letters.

Professor Fortran’s answer to one of the letters

A. T .: I still accidentally meet people reading our books. For example, at an exhibition in America, at the stand of his friends, he talked with a lady manager. I say: “But I am such and such. I used to write books. ” – “What books?” “Yes, these are.” She: “It can’t be!” It turned out that she moved to America and has been living there for a long time, but she has a book, and she shows it to her children.

A. Z.: Only in those circulations of which we know about two million copies of the book were published, and according to some versions, there were twice as many. In Belarus, a different cover was made. How much is published there, I do not know. But to be honest, we are only happy about this.

A. T .: Glad yes. Because, even if we received some additional money, they would still end. But there is fame, and such an unofficial one. When you meet people on the street, you go to visit: “Is it really you?” Or when a famous and very successful person tells you that he remembers how he read your book when he was little.

Drawing of our first printer

A. Z.: People from the IT sector say: “I already know which one is the best present for my colleagues. When I see Avito, without thinking, I buy. ” I was told that 3 thousand rubles is the average price now. There were appeals to print a few more circulations for some events, but first you need to deal with copyright.

Fight for survival

Andrey Zaretsky: Perestroika has everything shattered. The real question was about survival. Thank God, they still paid me a salary at the institute, although it is clear that at that time it did little. Prices soared constantly, everyone was looking for ways to feed their families. When we left the institute, Sasha began to do his own thing, I decided to open a publishing house. He called it the “Children’s Academy”, and even managed to raise money by subscription. He promised people that we will write books about robots and a bunch of other things. But the money came in 1992, already turned into candy wrappers. It was no longer possible to print books normally on them – I made smart coloring books and thus got acquainted with printing. In smart coloring, it was also about computers and programming. Since there was no money for colored books, this idea came up – we will draw, and you guys should paint. One part was made on the basis of our books with Sasha, the other I just came up with later. About the numbers, something else. There were very good books for that time.

Good people helped. One started up, another gave money for paper and print. Pashin, a friend of Lesha Syrtsov, painted pictures. I sold these books in the subway and due to them my family lived for six months, probably.

I remember how grandmothers and the police drove me. Some aunts did not believe my stories and were touched. An intelligent young man is selling coloring books. Maybe stole. For the author to stand and sell – then it was hard to imagine. Yes, and with an earring in his ear – a suspicious type.

Alexander Trukhanov: I was asked to leave the institute earlier than Andrei. There was no money, no prospects. At that time there were also adventurers who dropped the weight on the ice from the bridge, it cracked, and these unfortunate scientists wrote down how many pieces were split. Mathematical models of the proton subsystem of ice were made in Chernogolovka by our friend theorist Vanya Ryzhkin. The Finns invited him. They have icebreakers, billions of revolutions, some special ice fields are frozen. Russian Vanka arrived for two weeks, painted everything for them, received sneakers and a bottle of brandy as a fee. We then drank it together, and you, Andrei, traded sneakers for him. He said: “You are as healthy as an elk, you don’t need sneakers.”

Article by Andrei Zaretsky, Alexander Trukhanov and their colleagues in the French Journal de Physique, 1987

A. Z.: I don’t remember anything, you’re lying, I guess!

A. T .: Maybe I’m lying, but there were times. Now we understand that the icebreaker, its model, the very structure of ice – to figure this out, you need crazy money. And then the Soviet scientist was worth a penny. I left science, was engaged in computer graphics for television and much more. Now I officially represent in Russia the interests of several Western companies related to television topics …

A. Z.: At that wonderful time, there were pirated publications, one attributed to us with Sasha. Our heroes are drawn, but we have nothing to do with this book. Sometimes I read: “Good guys. They wrote a wonderful “Encyclopedia of Professor Fortran,” and then an opus called “Home School” – some kind of ge … “. So “ge” is not for us.

90s business

Andrey Zaretsky: The guy who helped me with the coloring books was a merchant. At VDNH, half of the Moscow pavilion was rented. His wife – a young girl – was engaged in art galleries. I accidentally heard their conversation. “Let’s buy this picture, and then we will realize it. What a business! ” “What do you know about business?” I’ll bring two Royal trains now, I’ll sell them – this is business. ”

Cat X on the cover of another pirate edition

In 1994, I founded my company. After some time, the bandits came. They said: “Guys, we will protect you. It costs $ 500 a month. ” Every month two such cabinets came, we even made friends. At one point alone comes. I ask: “Where is Serge?” – “But Serega was overwhelmed.” Everyday answered so. “We will now go with Peter.” At the same time, I was a small businessman. We are reading now what happened in big business – hair on end. How many people were shot then!

In general, we wrote a book in one country, and it came out in another.

Alexander Trukhanov: We received neither fame nor money and were practically out of work. The very structure of the Academy of Sciences at that moment was covered with a copper basin – the area was leased. In the former laboratories they even made moonshines with processors for sale, because out of work there remained hungry cool electronics engineers who could automate any process. When all this was boiling over, a more or less stable period began, I met a man in the bookstore who sold comics about Pencil and Samodelkin and claimed that he was the author’s son. We talked, he said that taking a character and selling rights to it is more profitable than writing books: “So I survive. Not from the books themselves, but from the rights to the heroes left from the father. ”

Another of the sketches of Pavel Okalev

A. Z.: At one time there was a boom in Angelica. I had an idea to write a continuation, as if by chance. His wife was beaten up – she has an education with a philological bias. But it did not grow together. In general, time is terrible on the one hand, and beautiful, on the other, of course. Everything was seething around.

When I am about to die, I will definitely know that we have done something good in life. Although now each of us has his own business and we live a rather interesting life, the “Encyclopedia of Professor Fortran” is the pinnacle of our human career. We also have plans for the future, but we are still in a position to search for the ideas that people in the world today are so rich in with who are so rich in information.

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