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The Slynx (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – April 17, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1590171967 ISBN-10: 1590171969

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171969
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171967
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though some may already consider contemporary Russia a kind of dystopia, things could yet be worse, as posited in Tolstaya's intelligent debut novel (after two acclaimed story collections, Sleepwalker in a Fog and On the Golden Porch). Some kind of nuclear accident has turned all of Russia into a postapocalyptic wasteland, where snow falls constantly and mice are the staple of people's diets. Moscow has been ruled by a series of petty despots, each of whom renames the great city after himself. The latest ruler is Fyodor Kuzmich, who employs vast numbers of scribes to copy his writings (actually plagiarized versions of great literary works). One of these scribes is Benedikt, a simple man who has never actually read a book. But Oldeners-people who survived the blast-keep secret libraries, and when one of them introduces Benedikt to his collection, it begins a cycle of learning that gives Benedikt serious political ambitions, enough to start yet another Russian revolution. It takes some time for a plot to develop, but Tolstaya sketches a vivid picture of life in this permanent winter ("Give black rabbit meat a good soaking, bring it to boil seven times, set it in the sun for a week or two, then steam it in the oven-and it won't kill you"). If the author's name looks familiar, it's because it is: Tolstaya is Leo Tolstoy's great-grandniece, so writing about Russian tyranny is something of a family tradition. In this extended fable, she captures the Russian yearning for culture, even in desperate circumstances. Gambrell ably translates the mix of neologisms and plain speech with which Tolstaya describes this devastated world.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

An acclaimed journalist and short story writer, the great-grandniece of Leo Tolstoy sets her first novel in a futuristic Moscow ruled by a tyrant who bans books.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Having thoroughly enjoyed much of this novel, I wish I could give it a higher rating. It's the ending that deflates what could've ended with a bang: not literally but dramatically. Tolstaya loves her creation, and the grim blend of satire and realism in the post-apocalyptic shadows she presents often proves moving in its narrator's attempts to make linguistic and philosophical sense out of the beauties and the harshness he (at first uncomprehendingly) witnesses.
Parts of this book, especially in its first half, offer scenes of memorable poverty and ingenious social commentary. Maybe for Western readers the poetic remnants from past Russian voices resonate less, and there's details (as in the layout of the hamlet) that those of us unfamiliar with Moscow don't really "matter" the way they might to a Russian reader. Still, the fall and rise of the narrator keeps you page-turning. Especially relevant are passages keyed towards booklovers and the pages we hoard and guard against the unlettered mobs: these musings are among the best in the novel and well worth attention.
Though I doubt any of us could match the appetite of the narrator's bookishness THAT much; but, read it for yourself.
The novel's pace in its latter third (cf. Riddley Walker's plot) seems too predictable given the variety Tolstaya's invented so far. I cannot figure out why she could not sustain a more satisfying climax and denouement. Again, distance from the original text and context may be partly to blame; I may not recognize all the symbolic figures or allegorical allusions that a native reader might find more illuminating.
Granting this discrepancy, I emphasize that the build-up doesn't lead to an equally inventive conclusion. So much wit and poignancy and insight pours into this novel, but it overflows into a storyline that spills out and diffuses its gathered potency into dribbles and splats.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar on April 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
"The Slynx", the debut novel by Tatyana Tolstaya, the granddaughter of the Russian writer Alexey Tolstoy, is worth reading. There are many reasons to recommend this book. The first and perhaps most important one is the language - funny, full of neologisms and contrasts, bursting with life; the novel is an excellent satire on the contemporary changes in the language, its simplifications and slang. The second is the atmosphere, as if taken from a painting of a primitivist. The third are its deep roots in Russia, its history and nature, the Russian soul and destiny.

Although obviously possible to classify as a dystopia, "The Slynx" cannot really be compared to any other dystopian novels (I cannot see any resemblance to Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale, except that it is also a dystopia, which is not too much of a similarity), except the other contemporary Russian ones (it seems like the Russian writers have only futuristic visions nowadays) - and from those I have read, I enjoyed "The Slynx" the most. The other association I had was with "The Clockwork Orange", mainly because of the linguistic stylization.

The action takes place in some settlement consisting of bigger and smaller wooden huts (later we learn that it is placed on where Moscow used to be), sometime in the future, after the undefined explosion. The inhabitants are superstitious (their beliefs are wonderfully re-told old Russian folk tales; the novel is full of literary references, to the tales as well as to poetry and prose, which are delightful for the reader), they make all tools of wood, they eat mice and are scared of the slynx, an unseen, mythical creature from the forest, and of the Chechens from the South. They suffer from various mutations, or so-called "Effects" of the explosion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Jones VINE VOICE on February 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
Published a mere 6 years ago, Tatyana Tolstaya's The Slynx has already been dubbed a 'classic' by the New York Review of Books; perhaps with good reason since the book, a dystopian Russian fable depicting peasant life post nuclear blast, seems timeless in its political and social themes. Tolstaya, great grandniece of Leo Tolstoy and a frequent contributor to the NYRB, sets a darkly comic tone in this her first novel.

As the author paints vividly on a bleak canvas, what appears is a horrifying, reconstituted world. The main character, comrade (Golubchik) Benedikt works for Fyodor Kuzmich Glorybe, the head feudal lord ("The Greatest Murza"), as a scribe copying out classic literature and poetry, which Kuzmich claims as his own. On his free time, he catches mice for dinner and tries to meet women, preferably ones with few consequences (as a result of the great "Blast" most citizens live with "consequences" like Varvara "with one eye, not a hair on her head and coxcombs growing all over it").

The Golubchiks live in huts called "izbas" and dine on "worrums" as well as the ubiquitous mice, which also serve as tender. There are the Degenerators, half-human half-canine, who are enslaved and used to transport Golubchiks via troika. The Saniturions are a sort of KGB, sniffing out and obliterating any hint of "freethinking". Then there are the "Oldeners": humans who have survived the great blast and are somehow now immune to natural death. Most Oldeners have been around for 200 years or more and feel great disdain for the feudal Murzas.

The fearsome Slynx of the title lies outside the boundaries of Fyodor-Kuzmichsk (formerly Moscow).
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