Day of the Oprichnik

Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell
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Day of the Oprichnik
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Tony Wood writes:

In much of Sorokin’s work since 2000, as in most science fiction, the strange features of the world envisaged – Sinified language, bio-modification – hold a mirror to the deformities and anxieties of the present. In Day of the Oprichnik, he combines futurological invention with political archaism to vicious satirical effect. The book is set in 2028, by which time Russia has advanced technologically but in socio-political terms has regressed to the era of Ivan the Terrible. The story is told from the point of view of Andrei Komiaga, a member of the current tsar’s elite security force (which has the same name as that of Ivan IV), as he goes about his daily routine of terrorising the population. His work is sanctified by religious belief: stretches of internal monologue and entire chapters are rounded off with the ritual words: ‘And thank God.’ The methods of the oprichniki are medieval – burning noblemen’s houses down, raping their wives, flogging intellectuals – but they drive around Moscow’s ten-lane expressways in red ‘Mercedovs’ and take calls on their ‘mobilovs’ (Komiaga’s ringtone consists of whip-cracks accompanied by screams and moans). In this New Russia, imported gadgetry coexists with icons and incense, oil pipelines with feudalism. It’s as if hi-tech limbs had been grafted onto the torso of early modern statecraft: Wolf Hall meets William Gibson.

(LRB 30 June 2011)

Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc
18 March 2011
Hardback
ISBN: 9780374134754

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