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First Touch

Incidences of Intimacy Between Yassen Gregorovich and Alex Rider
H.J. Bender 11/21/2010

An essay analyzing the incidences of physical contact between Alex Rider, the boy-hero of Anthony Horowitz’s best-selling youth fiction spy series, and Yassen Gregorovich, the quintessential Russian villain whose motives are as enigmatic and unpredictable as his allegiances.

Matador. which is unusual. even down to his musical preferences.. He wanted Alex to fight a bull. Yassen has been mentioned more often than Ian Rider.. Now he stood next to Alex. setting off a chain of events the moment he killed Alex’s uncle. As a result. curiously distant. until the fourth book. From Chapter 3. [. This puts the Russian on a level that exceeds all the adult members of the Rider family. That is. Yet his interaction with Alex has remained cautiously. One could even say that he was responsible for Alex becoming a spy in the first place. of Eagle Strike: This was the test of courage that Yassen had somehow arranged. how he spends his free time. . listening to the noise of the crowd inside the arena. and has been described in a level of detail comparable to that of Alex himself. of all the characters in the Alex Rider series. Yassen. As the trusted friend and partner of Alex’s deceased father. given the fact that Yassen Gregorovich is Alex’s arch nemesis. and other idiosyncrasies. when the boundaries of personal space were suddenly shattered by a single touch. and a chief antagonist in the books in which he’s appeared. an act which eventually led to the boy’s discovery of and recruitment into MI6. as well as the purported killer of Alex’s uncle. has directly and single-handedly affected Alex’s life more than any other.Bender 2 Yassen Gregorovich’s connection to Alex Rider runs undeniably deep. Throughout the eight books that currently comprise the Alex Rider series.] “Why are you doing this?” Alex asked. Yassen is more familiar to the readers than Alex’s own parents.

and I will be beside the barrera— that’s right at the side of the ring.] The trumpets sounded again.” “I don’t see it that way. if you try to run.. If you fail to perform.” “Franco wanted to put a knife in you.” He raised his shirt to show Alex the Grach. it would be safe to assume that . Alex and Yassen were completely alone during this exchange. Alex felt a hand press into the small of his back and he walked forward. we will gun you down and disappear into the night. announcing the fight.. and the fact that Yassen was close enough to reveal his [illegal] firearm. “I’m doing you a favor.” [. Judging by the intimacy of their conversation. This way he gets amused and you get a choice. he greatly admires this sport. “Raoul.” “Either way I get killed.” “A choice?” “You might say it is a choice between the bull and the bullet. In the end I offered him a little entertainment.” [Yassen] said. giddy with disbelief. tucked into his waistband. Franco.. It was hard to dissuade him.. (Horowitz 5053) Aside from the two men who opened the gate into the arena.Bender 3 Yassen shrugged. [.] “Remember. As it happens. Alex.

only eleven words. Perhaps it’s just this author’s psychological fascination with the Yassen/Alex dynamic. after all. If Yassen had first touched Alex in the arena before the bullfight. Horowitz negated the mysterious touch from chapter three by writing: Yassen swallowed.g. “Fasten Your Seat Belts”. which leads one to believe that it was Yassen who pushed Alex forward. It was the first physical contact the two had ever had. one sentence. actually. otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered to mention it. intimate perspective (i. after Yassen gets shot aboard Air Force One. especially when writing for a young audience.” “No!” “Why would I lie to you?” Yassen reached out weakly and took hold of Alex’s arm.Bender 4 the two gatekeepers were nowhere near Alex and Yassen while their conversation took place. or the general timeline of the series). in Chapter 17. “They killed your father. (311-12) All readers of the Alex Rider series are aware that Horowitz. But the moment one looks at this from a guarded. as he ..e. and a seemingly trivial detail. This is hardly worth noting—more obvious mistakes have been brought to attention (e. But why? It is.. Alex’s exact birth date. Alex. that one little line from chapter three appears rather inconsequential. What’s so important about a first touch between two people? In a normal context. a rather big one. but it seems that Horowitz was very preoccupied with the importance of the first physical contact between Yassen and Alex. has made a few inconsistencies here and there. being human like the rest of us. the perspective that Horowitz was clearly implying. what difference does it make? Well. However.

to touch another person without permission is. and doctors touch their patients. The power of touch is binding” (134). (It might also be worth mentioning that in most fiction and popular culture. is an erogenous zone—instead of his shoulder. or his upper back? Could this have been Yassen’s method of expressing care.Bender 5 later expressed in chapter seventeen). that Yassen did in fact touch Alex at the bullfight. or at least slapped away). initiated by Yassen in both cases. lovers touch their partners. A touch can be either reassuring or invasive. What could it have meant? Why did Yassen place his hand on the small of Alex’s back—a place that. in most cultures. grounds for charges of battery and/or assault. for many people. for the duration of this essay and the sake of repetition. In fact.) The Science of Body Language Let’s assume. concern. it immediately becomes something much more profound. it has meaning and is intended to stir the reader’s emotions. reassurance? Could it even have had a sexual connotation? These questions are open to . But these touches. where Yassen was almost literally dying in Alex’s arms. to the final shot of any film where the stricken man holds the body of his beloved in his arms and howls out a heart-wrenching “Nooooo!” to the heavens. true love has died [and continues to die] in each other’s arms. were neither harmful nor threatening. In both instances they seemed to convey a sense of care—even affection— especially in the latter example. from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to Cameron’s Titanic. Parents touch their children. and were received without objection (versus being fought back against. But stir them in what way? According to Body Language for Dummies by Elizabeth Kuhnke: “Consciously make physical contact with someone and you immediately establish a connection between the two of you.

lectures. essentially. Interpersonal space refers to the psychological “bubble” that we can imagine exists when someone is standing too close to us.  The second zone is called personal distance and begins about an arm’s length away. We use personal distance in conversations with friends.2 m .  The third zone of interpersonal space is called social distance and is the area that ranges from four to eight feet (1. children. starting around eighteen inches (46 cm) from our person and ending about four feet (122 cm) away.2. This zone is used for speeches. newly formed groups. Research has revealed that there are four different zones of interpersonal space. public distance is that range reserved for larger audiences.  The fourth identified zone of space is public distance and includes anything more than eight feet (2. Social distance is reserved for strangers. and in group discussions.4 m) away from you. and theater.4 m) away from you. to chat with associates. (Engleberg 140-41) . Intimate distance is the space around us that we reserve for lovers.Bender 6 interpretation. It could be that Horowitz was merely illustrating the strengthening degree of Alex and Yassen’s relationship by the use of interpersonal space. as well as close family members and friends. and new acquaintances. From Wikipedia’s article on “body language”.  The first zone is called intimate distance and ranges from touching to about eighteen inches (46 cm) apart.

for. “The longer the touch. he loved. He could easily have been “grasping for forgiveness”. the study of body language has revealed a few common conclusions as to the interpretation of certain touches. the more intense the message” (135). but the case of each touch evokes a different meaning. as Kuhnke wrote. and clearly delivers a bold “hands off” to any other interested males.” After all. and live to fight another day. While not an exact science. . the assassin is telling Alex how much he loved John Rider. But Alex. reaching out for Alex might have expressed supplication—a metaphorical “reaching out”—or a pressing need for physical contact with the boy whom. and how this love extends to include Alex as well. or a nonverbal way of saying “Survive this. This could be similarly accomplished by a touch to the arm. and the fact that Horowitz never mentioned Yassen releasing Alex’s arm further exemplifies the deepening of their relationship. therefore it’s difficult to apply the same rules to his situation with Yassen.Bender 7 So Yassen broke through to Alex’s “intimate distance” by touching him. a man touching the small of a woman’s back signifies both a desire to guide and a desire to “stake his claim”. such as how Yassen was situated on the airplane. or rather “took hold” of it. From a reclining or semi-recumbent position. dominance. when Yassen touched Alex’s arm. Yassen had already protected Alex from death at the hands of Franco. by the time he’s bleeding to death on Air Force One. the message he was sending (whether intentional or not) was quite different. attractive as he is. as Yassen himself said. putting both partners in closer proximity to one another. It’s more likely that the Russian’s touch indicated a sense of urgency. In this latter occurrence. is not a female. but the back is far more intimate. According to many dating websites.

thanks largely to Yassen’s tragic. two enemies who have found love in each other.Bender 8 An intimate touch. unforeseen demise. rumor has it that Horowitz may be resurrecting the Russian in time for the final Alex Rider book. A confession of love from the lips of a dying man. a guilty killer and an innocent youth. due out in spring 2011. perhaps even Yassen fulfilling some sort of “father figure” role that has been absent in Alex’s life for so long. . even despite the estimated 20-year age difference and the disquieting fact that Alex is still a minor as of the eighth book. not all of them. While the true nature of Alex and Yassen’s relationship remains an unsolved mystery. Perhaps some of these questions of intimacy will be answered—but hopefully. Scorpia Rising. Crocodile Tears. It isn’t too difficult to see why so many fans of the series enjoy fantasizing about a sexual relationship between Yassen Gregorovich and Alex Rider. for the sake of perpetuating the mystery. an older man guiding a younger boy into adulthood. Some of these fans claim that this is what makes the relationship so appealing.

Ltd. Body Language for Dummies. England: John Wiley & Sons. 2005. Elizabeth. Eagle Strike. . 21 Nov. My Communication Kit Series (2006): 140-41.” Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. Web. 2010. Kuhnke. Chichester.Bender 9 Works Cited Horowitz. Web. 2010. New York: Penguin. 21 Nov. Anthony. (2007): 134-35. West Sussex. Print. Wikipedia. Engleberg. “Body Language. Isa N.