Start your review of Day of the Oprichnik Write a review Sep 22, Brian rated it really liked it Very good disturbing book depicting a dystopian Russian society in the not too distant future. Characters are rich, the settings are well described and the writing is crisp and poignant. Oct 12, Michael rated it really liked it Recommended to Michael by: Violet Shelves: science-fiction , dystopia , satire , eastern-european-literature , post-modernism , translated-fiction , s , books-to-aquire Welcome to new Russia, where the Russian Empire has been restored back to the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible. Corporal punishment is back and the monarchy is divided once again, but this is the future, the not so distant future for the Russian empire, or is it? Day of the Oprichnik follows a government henchman, an Oprichnik, through a day of grotesque event.
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Nothing confirms its greatness more thoroughly than a capacity for pain, with the renowned ability to drink serving as a sort of corollary to this spiritual resilience. To suffocate for decades under the Marxist-Leninist aegis, to grow potatoes in empty urban lots during the disastrous democratization of the Yeltsin years, to watch Putin reclaim the power and the wealth of a czar—these are tragedies, for sure, but they are also nails on a cross to which Holy Russia all too willingly affixes itself.
Gogol, Bulgakov, Akhmatova, Pasternak, and just about the entire sanguinary twentieth century: literature has functioned in Russian society as a clarion call to wean the people off their collective crucifixion, to remind them that they needlessly resign themselves to leaders who murder and pillage for the higher good of all, that to be Russian and miserable need not be synonymous.
It is for this reason that the Russian tyrant has never craved anything so much as to retaliate for spent ink with spilled blood. Squarely in this tradition of the writer-prophet is Vladimir Sorokin, who, though little known in the United States, is one of the most highly regarded post-communist Russian writers in his homeland—and also one of the most reviled. He belongs to a brash, punkish, and now middle-aged group Tatyana Tolstaya, Viktor Pelevin that paints dystopian, futuristic portraits of a Russian society that now craves iPhones and True Religion jeans far more than the freedoms their predecessors agitated and died for.
For this, Sorokin has earned the predictable ire of the Kremlin, which has retained its old humorlessness under the narrow-eyed Vladimir Putin and his acolyte Dmitri Medvedev, whose sole redeeming quality may well be a love of the band Deep Purple. Better publicity, or proof positive of his pessimistic vision, could not have been asked for. There is, I should say, an extended and rather well-done scene of vigorous ass-fucking in Day of the Oprichnik, as well.
A busy few hours, in all. Of course, it is always a matter of perspective. At a restaurant, he exhibits the refined taste of the archetypical Soviet bureaucrat. Much has been revealed in the course of this Moscow day, but little has been learned.
One gets the feeling that when Andrey Danilovich rises tomorrow, he will get into his Mercedov and do it all over again. Sorokin has not had much of an American audience, but Day of the Oprichnik, along with the publication of his Ice trilogy by the fine NYRB Classics imprint, should attract the readership he deserves. Ice is a sprawling beast of a book about a meteorite crash in Siberia that engenders a search for some twenty thousand superior beings called Brothers and Sisters of the Light.
The meteor explosion is based on fact the Tunguska event , but everything else is a phantasmagoria on the order of William Vollman or the aforementioned Pynchon. And while Sorokin is not the most artful craftsman or the most profound, he has a fearless imagination willing to be put to most grotesque and energetic use. His work betrays no impulse to hector the Russian people out of their complacency with sobering chronicles of governmental misdeeds, like so many car wreck photographs shown in driving school; instead it shocks them out of it with the scenes of their Boschian existence.
He is at work on his first novel. Read More.
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Dennoch ist dies ein wichtiges Buch. Es erschreckt uns. T he in-jokes are a substantial part of what Day of the Oprichniks has to offer. There is not much of a plot; and Sorokin deliberately avoids giving his characters any human depth. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole.
A Dystopian Tale of Russia’s Future
We later learn the year is And thanks be to God! Flogging is back, and the Kremlin has been repainted its original white. The Red Troubles are long past.