Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin

By Vladimir Sorokin

One among The Telegraph’s top Fiction Books 2011

Moscow, 2028. a chilly, snowy morning.

Andrei Danilovich Komiaga is speedy asleep. A scream, a moan, and a loss of life rattle slowly pull him out of his drunken stupor—but wait, that’s simply his ring tone. And so starts one other day within the lifetime of an oprichnik, one of many czar’s so much depended on courtiers—and one of many country’s such a lot feared men.

Welcome to the recent New Russia, the place futuristic expertise and the draconian codes of Ivan the bad are in excellent synergy. Corporal punishment is again, as is a divine monarch, yet nowadays each person will get details from high-tech information bubbles, and the elite get excessive on hallucinogenic, genetically converted fish.

Over the process sooner or later, Andrei Komiaga will undergo witness to—and take part in—brutal executions; extravagant events; conferences with ballerinas, soothsayers, or even the czarina. he'll rape and pillage, and he'll be moved to tears via the sweetly sung songs of his place of origin. he'll eat an arsenal of gear and denounce threats to his nice nation’s morals. And he'll fall in love—perhaps regardless of a couple of his colleagues.

Vladimir Sorokin, the guy defined by way of Keith Gessen (in The long island assessment of Books) as “[the] simply actual prose author, and resident genius” of late-Soviet fiction, has imagined a close to destiny either too aggravating to think about and too reasonable to brush aside. yet like every of his most sensible paintings, Sorokin’s new novel explodes with invention and darkish humor. A startling, relentless portrait of a stricken and troubling empire, Day of the Oprichnik is immediately a richly imagined imaginative and prescient of the longer term and a razor-sharp prognosis of a rustic in situation.

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Extra resources for Day of the Oprichnik

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But what about those situations, now of such frequent occurrence, in which good means have end results which turn out to be bad? For example, we go to a tropical island and with the aid of DDT we stamp out malaria and, in two or three years, save hundreds of thousands of lives. This is obviously good. But the hundreds of thousands of human beings thus saved, and the millions whom they beget and bring to birth, cannot be adequately clothed, housed, educated or even fed out of the island’s available resources.

Recent developments in Russia and recent advances in science and technology have robbed Orwell’s book of some of its gruesome verisimilitude. A nuclear war will, of course, make nonsense of everybody’s predictions. But, assuming for the moment that the Great Powers can somehow refrain from destroying us, we can say that it now looks as though the odds were more in favor of something like Brave New World than of something like 1984. In the light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effective, in the long run, than control through the reinforcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manipulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children.

Brave New World was written before the rise of Hitler to supreme power in Germany and when the Russian tyrant had not yet got into his stride. In 1931 systematic terrorism was not the obsessive contemporary fact which it had become in 1948, and the future dictatorship of my imaginary world was a good deal less brutal than the future dictatorship so brilliantly portrayed by Orwell. In the context of 1948, 1984 seemed dreadfully convincing. But tyrants, after all, are mortal and circumstances change.

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