Vadim Babenko

Bridging true science and literary fiction
  • SEMMANT by Vadim Babenko

    These great paintings helped me to think about my book’s characters, plot, and settings in new and refreshing ways. Along with each picture is a short excerpt from Semmant.


    "The screen was no longer blank; a person was there looking at me with a bright, electric lamp in place of a head. His nervous fingers stiffened impatiently; he needed a confidant and a witness, or else an instructor, a guide.

    Rene Magritte: The Pleasure Principle

    Rene Magritte: The Pleasure Principle

    His pose betrayed a habit of deciding for many, but now he was clearly at a crossroads. He was full of doubts, much as I once was. He almost merged with the background – brown on brown, an imperceptible suit… All the same, the lamp burned so brightly it hurt my eyes. A thousand watts, no less – and this said a lot about him, if not all."

  • Edouard Manet: Horsewoman, Fullface

    Edouard Manet: Horsewoman, Fullface

    "This was not Henrietta at all anymore. It was Little Sonya gazing off, beyond the horizon, and I wasn’t the one she saw there. I remember it was the same way when she was still sleeping with me. It was the same, and it was cruel – no less cruel than now. I thought of our last meeting, in Brighton, right before my departure. It had already been some time since our parting, and we thoroughly evinced mutual indifference. She was mounted on a horse, in almost the same black suit Henrietta wore. I did not know then what the pain was that tortured me, but now I understand: my heart was breaking apart."

  • Rene Magritte: Homesickness

    Rene Magritte: Homesickness

    "On the screen was Magritte’s familiar painting. My friend in black stood, wings unfurled, behind a powerful lion. The embankment was reminiscent of something – for a moment, at half strength, only teasing. The lion had known me once but made no attempt to recall it. The weight of his solitude was immeasurable."

  • Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)

    Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa
    (La Gioconda)

    "Something strange happened: I caught her eye – despite the thick glass and the glare from the camera flashes – and with this gaze she captivated me for nearly half an hour. She would have held me even longer, but the watchmen, who had disliked me from the very beginning, could not take it anymore and ushered me out. Obviously, they detected in me a threat. They felt they were guarding the whole normal world."

  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: La Rousse in a White Blouse

    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec:
    La Rousse in a White Blouse

    "I saw Gela – not with the lewd glint in her eye of which I had written with such abandon. Modesty resided in her, modesty and calm. This was to take revenge on me, the blind man. Yet there was a hint of guilt in her posture. And some wisdom as well – I saw she was truly, undoubtedly wise. I’d love her to come to me like that; but I knew she would never come – neither like that nor any other way. I turned out to be unworthy. Appearances are ruthless indeed to the ones looking."

  • Raphael: Portrait of a Young Man

    Raphael: Portrait of a Young Man

    "An effeminate boy in a portrait by Raphael reminded me of Theophanus – the Greek kid as we called him among ourselves. He was beautiful, like a very young god who had fallen under the immoderate influence of nymphs. His endearing features called to mind Roman baths and orgies, the coarse pleasures of geriatric men, the smell of the harem and fragrant oils. But his peach exterior concealed a ferocious temper. His virility was desperate and unrestrained. All soon understood this and did not allow themselves to mock, but he was still getting into severe fights for the most insignificant of excuses. His rage for vindication gave him no respite, and we saw this was incurable."

  • Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot: Diana Bathing (The Fountain)

    Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot:
    Diana Bathing (The Fountain)

    "Diana bathing at the brook in a painting by Corot was the exact copy of another Diana, a trollop, a nymphomaniac, about whom legends spread throughout Manchester. I did not avoid her bed either. It was amazing, and later I suffered for it a lot.

    Now I saw her again on the canvas: the generosity of her body was greater than the generosity of the brook. Greater than the generosity of the water falling from above, of the thick grass, the mysterious forest. I could say she reminded me of Lydia, but that would be too much. I did not know Lydia then."