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Day of the Oprichnik: A Novel Hardcover – March 15, 2011
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Andrei Danilovich Komiaga is a powerful man in a dystopian Russia in the year 2028. As a high-ranking Oprichnik, he is an elite thug in the service of the czar, responsible for crushing dissent and eliminating, through violence and intimidation, the political enemies of His Majesty. Like all Oprichniki, he wears the finest clothes and an expensive wristwatch, drives his red government-issue Mercedes in the official-business-only express lane, and tops off a successful day of raping and killing with a long night of drug use and debauchery. But government work has its challenges, especially when his nation�s moral fiber is at stake. Playfully reimagining Ivan the Terrible�s feared Oprichnik operatives in a future Russia that has turned inward (save for its dealings with China, the world�s major power) and lapsed into authoritarianism, Sorokin�s novel packs a hefty satirical punch that will show American audiences why the author has been so controversial in Russia; other recent works have even provoked pornography charges. This selection is also great fun, with a wickedly absurdist humor that occasionally reminds one of William S.Burroughs. --Brendan Driscoll
Praise for Day of the Oprichnik and Vladimir Sorokin
“Vladimir Sorokin is one of Russia’s greatest writers, and this novel is one of his best. Day of the Oprichnik is a haunting and terrifying vision of modern Russia projected two decades into the future—or maybe not the future at all. A joy to read—more entertaining, dynamic, engaging, and deeply hilarious than a dystopian novel has any right to be.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story
“Anyone who wants to learn more about Russia and what could be the outcome of [Vladimir] Putin’s rule should read the book. It’s dark and dystopian, but it’s a part of our life.” —Garry Kasparov, Time
“Might this be something of a Sorokin moment in the Anglophone world? Is the pope German?” —Stephen Kotkin, The New York Times Book Review
“[A] take-no-prisoners satire from one of Russia’s literary stars . . . Vladimir Sorokin’s lurid, wildly inventive Day of the Oprichnik is a rowdy critique of Russia’s drift toward authoritarianism.” —Taylor Antrim, Newsweek
“Sorokin’s book is a sleek and darting fish . . . Day of the Oprichnik . . . should attract the readership [Sorokin] deserves . . . He has a fearless imagination willing to be put to most grotesque and energetic use.” —Alexander Nazaryan, The New Republic
“Compelling . . . Devastating . . . Powerful . . . In Day of the Oprichnik, [Sorokin] combines futurological invention with political archaism to vicious satirical effect . . . It’s as if hi-tech limbs had been grafted onto the torso of early modern statecraft: Wolf Hall meets William Gibson.” —Tony Wood, London Review of Books
“Day of the Oprichnik is Vladimir Sorokin’s funniest and most accessible book since The Queue. The KGB orgy scene at the end is worthy of the great shit-eating scenes of his earlier work.” —Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men
“Sorokin’s novel packs a hefty satirical punch that will show American audiences why the author has been so controversial in Russia . . . Great fun, with a wickedly absurdist humor that occasionally reminds one of William S. Burroughs.” —Booklist
“Perhaps no other postmodern writer demonstrates the angst around the reemergence of Russia’s slide back toward authoritarianism than the celebrated (and often reviled) satirist Sorokin. His latest assault, not only on Putin’s government but literary senses, is a caustic, slash-and-burn portrait of a man joyfully engaged in the business of state-initiated terrorism . . . It’s disturbing stuff, but as Sorokin’s razor-sharp caricature unfolds . . . the novelist’s keen argument becomes hard to ignore . . . [An] acidly funny send-up of Russia’s current state of affairs.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Sorokin’s creations are at once fantastically strange and all too familiar. His pen drips with imaginative fury . . . [Day of the Oprichnik] holds its own with dystopian classics like Fahrenheit 451 and honors the traditions of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and other great Russian writers even as its characters burn their books.” —Library Journal
“If queues were arranged in order of merit, it would only be fair to put . . . Vladimir Sorokin at the head.” —Lucy Ellman, The Guardian
“Sorokin [is] one of Russia’s funniest, smartest and most confounding living writers.” —Elaine Blair, The Nation
“Controversy chases the Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin the way a dog chases a stick.” —Ken Kalfus, The New York Times Book Review
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Give me the short version: Ritual, torture, lust. Politics of deadly bent. Starting hungover, alternate future oprichnik Danilovich jams more into his day than most could take in a week.
There’s a lot going on in this novel, for its relatively modest length. Lovers of history, sociology and politics will all find fascinations to plunge into, but don’t baulk if none of that fires your blood. I just picked it up ‘cause I like Russia.
Day of the Oprichnik is wide open and enjoyable to anyone curious, from any background … although possibly not for faint hearts, unbending sensibilities or queasy stomachs. More suited to adventurous minds, keen to wander off the beaten track and question everything they know, let alone read. If you like doubling-up it’d make a great companion piece to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.
Invariably this is a world you’re left wanting to know more about, but Day of the Oprichnik is a perfectly balanced piece and really didn’t need to be a sentence longer. If like me you cracked the pages unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Russian history, do take the time to read up on the brutal real-life historical oprichnina
My favourite bit: His Majesty’s father, the late Nikolai Platonovich, had a good idea: liquidate all the foreign supermarkets and replace them with Russian kiosks. And put two types of each thing in every kiosk, so the people have a choice. A wise decision, profound. Because our God-bearing people should choose from two things, not from three or thirty-nine. Choosing one of two creates spiritual calm, people are imbued with certainty in the future, superfluous fuss and bother is avoided, and consequently – everyone is satisfied.
With books that have been translated into English, I never know if I am actually reading the "style" of the author or the translator. And, not knowing Russian, I have to assume the translator did a great job. Given the acclaim the book received in Russia and how well this read, I think Gambrell did a fine job.
While the events portrayed are, from a practical standpoint, highly unlikely; they are, from a philosophical standpoint, certainly plausible. Given the history of Russia in the 20th Century, the reader will not be very surprised at Sorokin's "world".
Based on this book, I have bought Sorokin's books "Queue" and "Ice Trilogy".
The Queue (New York Review Books Classics)
Ice Trilogy (New York Review Books Classics)
The narrative is very entertaining and the characters are engaging. The monarchy has been restored in this future time, but was it ever any other form of government in Russia regardless of the labels that modern times invented? There is a sincerity in addressing that culture that comes through very strongly and which is strikingly refreshing. I was shocked the book was not censored in some racy sections in our puritan-revival period that we are presently still undergoing at all levels of cultural life in America, these are precious morsels of the story and which make perfect sense within the context, aside from making the reading very exciting. The book is delightfully full of irony and humor about the Russian condition which has not strayed far from its roots at the time of Ivan the Terrible, a reference that is as constant in the story, as I suspect in real life there.