Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, Mr. Pomeranstev’s sparkling collection of essays, takes us, as the subtitle promises, directly into 'the surreal heart of the new Russia.' Here are the country girls who pay thousands of dollars for courses on how to catch a millionaire and the oligarchs who pay millions to the Kremlin in order to become billionaires ... Mr. Pomerantsev’s focus is centrally on television and the Kremlin’s obsession with its own image, but the book—his first—also provides great insight into the inner life of Russia’s glitterati in Moscow and in London ... Readers looking for a book about Kremlin politics will not find it here. Key political actors are mainly not discussed, and Mr. Putin is a latter-day Godot, omnipresent but offstage ... In Russia today, Mr. Pomerantsev powerfully demonstrates, the Kremlin’s modus operandi is to keep everyone on tenterhooks, all too aware that 'it can grab us and pull us in at any moment.'
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is an entertaining if at times bleak chronicle of these years, depicting a world 'where gangsters become artists, gold‑diggers quote Pushkin, Hells Angels hallucinate themselves as saints'. The cast of characters is so bizarre they must be real, from bearded nationalist bikers to self-help cultists and their supermodel victims ... This mercurial quality is part of what makes Putinism so elusive for its opponents – what exactly are they up against? – and Pomerantsev captures it well ... For Pomerantsev, the west’s willingness to accept the Russian elite’s money is the ominous sign of a 'slow patient co-optation' by the Kremlin. But one could equally argue the opposite: that many of the features he describes – the glamour and the graft, the vast gulf between haves and have-nots – are lingering symptoms of Russia’s own integration into a globalised neoliberal order, and that its many failings hold up a funhouse mirror to our own.
Pomerantsev’s almost complete refusal to mention Putin’s name can be taken as a suggestion that we focus too much on him, that he’s so big he no longer requires discussion — or that we do not and cannot ever know who he truly is, so why even bother? ... Instead Pomerantsev focuses on a group of apparent outliers, using them to tell the story of today’s Russia ... Yet in Pomerantsev’s telling, they aren’t outliers at all; they’re characters playing parts in the Kremlin’s script ... despite its keen observations, what Pomerantsev’s book lacks is deep background for that audience. Readers of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible aren’t given a clear sense of why the Kremlin is deploying its propaganda so forcefully (does the author mean to imply, perhaps, that it’s simply a matter of power for power’s sake?) or of why Russians are so acquiescent. In a sense, this makes the book feel truly post-Soviet.
It is the corruption, cultural and political oppression, orchestrated by the Kremlin, that increasingly occupies Pomerantsev ... Pomerantsev is particularly entertaining when observing the changing fads of the television industry, but for the most part he focuses on the sad, sometimes surreal, form corruption takes today. Most political intrigues lead back to the Kremlin and, as Pomerantsev amply demonstrates, Putin’s authoritarianism has many guises.
Pomerantsev offers a peek at what’s behind the Kremlin’s smoke and mirrors: modern Russia’s authoritarian landscape ... Via a series of short vignettes, some humorous, others tragic, the author tells of those who successfully manipulated the iniquitous justice system and others who were exploited and penalized by it ... a gripping and unsettling account of life in grim post-Soviet Russia.
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is a portrait of Putin’s surreal new Russia, an alternative reality composed of intersecting alternative realities. A native Russian speaker with a slightly odd accent, the author spends a lot of time with prostitutes, gangsters, emotionally unstable supermodels, television journalists, and 'political technologists.' He is probing, inquisitive, voyeuristic—as journalists must be if they are any good. Yet he is also a deeply decent person, who never forgets that he is dealing with human beings ... His irony veils a human empathy of which he cannot quite rid himself, even when circumstances are inauspicious ... Pomerantsev’s tone is light throughout, deceptively so, for between the lines he is deadly serious. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is arguably the most philosophically perceptive attempt to illuminate Putin’s Russia that we have
He is at his best and most convincing describing the political manipulation and compromises that controlled the reality shows he worked for and censored the profiles he put together. Many of the scandalous stories he tells are 'director’s cut' versions; whenever he highlighted the corruption in the social system, his bosses insisted on edits that made the stories more 'positive' ... While he retells those stories with clarity and speed, he disdains any documentation and won’t cite research ... His gossipy, nonchalant manner of proceeding contrasts with the sharp-tongued seriousness of print-journalists Masha Gessen and Oliver Bullough, who have written recent marvelous books about Russia’s cold and violent suppression of civil rights protesters ... Pomerantsev, on the other hand, won’t even mention Gessen by name, though he cattily refers to her ... Unself-conscious about his chatty writing, Pomerantsev occasionally seems as if he is holding a microphone and looking at us through a screen ... Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is valuable for its peeks inside the machine that distracts much of the Russian populace.
...an electrifying portrait of modern Russia ... Pomerantsev’s Moscow is a place of endless simulation and boundless cynicism; one where buildings in the 'protected' historic centre can be bulldozed and replaced with imitations because that’s the best way to launder money. Still wondering how an opposition leader could be killed so close to the Kremlin, as Boris Nemtsov was in February? Read Pomerantsev, and you’ll wonder no more.
By the time you reach Page 131 of Peter Pomerantsev’s brilliant collection of sketches from the life in 21st century Russia you may find yourself echoing the lament of one of its more sympathetic characters ('Grigory,' an unusually bright, relatively cultivated member of the new class of Russian entrepreneur-tycoons): 'There must be some way of working out how to make Russia work. Must be!' ... Mr. Pomerantsev, with Russian emigre roots and a professional background in television production, is uniquely qualified to describe the results ... Many of Mr. Pomerantsev’s most powerful, moving — and sometimes hilarious — pages are devoted to stories and characters that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Everything you know about Russia is wrong, according to this eye-opening, mind-bending memoir of a TV producer caught between two cultures ... Instead of a cohesive overview or chronological progression, the author records his impressions more like a kaleidoscopic series of anecdotes and vignettes, absurd and tragic, with characters that might be tough to believe if they were presented as fiction ... Not always cohesive, but the stylish rendering of the Russian culture, which both attracts and appalls the author, will keep the reader captivated.
The book is divided into distinct parts—'Reality Show Russia,' 'Cracks in the Kremlin Matrix,' and 'Forms of Delirium'— suggesting the three-act structure taught in modern screenwriting manuals and emphasizing the feel of 'performance' in the new Russia ... Sometimes horrifying but always compelling, this book exposes the bizarre reality hiding beneath the facade of a 'youthful, bouncy, glossy country.'