Surkov is shadowy and secretive, but he has given a very unusual window into his life and ideas. In 2009 Surkov allegedly published what seems to be an autobiographical novel under an assumed name. It is a cynical satire called Almost Zero and it tells the story of Egor, a disillusioned youth who comes to Moscow in the 1980s.
Egor can see through the fake ideology of the Soviet Union and he becomes a hanger-on of the Moscow underground movement — dabbling in avant-garde theatre. In the post-communist 1990s he then becomes a cynical PR man who will promote anything for anyone.
Egor is compared in the novel to Hamlet — someone who can see through the superficiality of the present age, but is unable to have any beliefs or even feelings about anything. In real life Surkov worked in the late 1990s doing PR for the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but then, in 1999 he switched and started working for Putin — and became a ruthless manipulator of modern politics.