Stories behind my books: An Imperceptible Something
by Vadim Babenko
Our American business developed slowly. The first few years we had neither money, nor experience, nor connections. We made many mistakes but still held out until the quantity of our efforts turned into quality. We caught a break, and quick growth followed.
We hired many new employees. They were divided into two, nearly equal, sections: an American part, engaged in marketing and sales, and the Russians, who developed our technologies. Between these two halves arose an intense, sometimes hostile, opposition.
Almost the entire Russian part consisted of programmers who had just been taken out of Russia. The whole American side was of sharp, skilled men who had worked in successful hi-tech corporations. These were very polarized communities. The mediator between them was me: I managed all the internal life of the firm, while my partner was responsible for all the external.
The marketing and sales boys had no love for the programmers because of their “wildness” – a total lack of the communication skills customary within an American company. The programmers disliked our Americans, sensing their contempt and mockery. I must admit, it was also hard for me to deal with the programmers – by this time I had distanced myself quite a bit from Russian habits and manners. Nevertheless, the situation required it, so I tried my best to reconcile these groups with each other.
When enough programmers had arrived to yield some kind of critical mass, I suddenly sensed that my attitude toward them had shifted. I completely and definitely felt that in the Russian part of our firm something imperceptibly bright and lively was recreated and extended throughout: some sort of particularly Russian spirit from time eternal, which had once been so dear to me. I had been sure it had breathed its last, crushed and destroyed under the years of Perestroika’s “re-structuring.” Almost all the programmers were young people who had grown up in the 90s, the years of a terrible decline in everything intelligent and spiritual. Nevertheless, I understood that some important part of it remained – though it was disguised by the veneer of a new age.
And then I noticed the two polarized halves were no longer so hostile. An interest arose in each toward the other – on its own; my efforts did not play a noticeable role. As for the programmers, this was natural: having gradually become acclimated, having ceased to hesitate and be frightened, one way or another they began to understand the country in which they now lived. But the Americans also, without having, it would seem, any reason to do so, sought to learn – feeling, as I did, that there indeed was something about the Russian part of the company that was worth getting to know. With increasing frequency they began to ask me questions about Russia, Russian life, culture, and so forth. All the more often, the American and Russian employees conversed together, despite the language barrier. We even started holding Russian parties with plenty of vodka – which became very popular among the Americans…
I realized my notions of the country where I had grown up and then left were one-sided and not quite accurate. The animal instincts that had been unleashed at the beginning of the 90s could not suffocate an essential inner force, inherent in the earth and its people. Nevertheless, I was still far from going there again – even for a short vacation.
Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – PG13
More details about the author