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Sorokin, Vladimir

Entry updated 20 November 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1955-    ) Russian artist, playwright and author, active since about 1972, though his first work to appear in English was Ochered' (1983; trans Sally Laird as The Queue 1988), a deadpan Satire on Soviet Russia; the text of this story, which is set in a gigantic unending queue, consists of nothing but lines of dialogue exchanged amongst dozens, maybe hundreds, of unidentified speakers, and so is even more stripped down than (though possibly influenced by) JR (1975) by William Gaddis (1922-1998). Of more direct sf interest is Goluboe Salo ["Blue Lard"] (1999; trans Max Lawton as Blue Lard 2024), an Alternate History in which the USSR and Germany, fighting together, have dropped an atomic bomb on London, ending World War Two in triumph (see Hitler Wins); the contorted world that succeeds this victory may evoke Mikhail Bulgakov, but is far more explicitly savage (see Postmodernism and SF). The Ice Trilogy sequence – comprising Lyod (2002; trans Jamey Gambrell as Ice 2007), Put' Bro ["Bro"] (2004) and 23000 (2005), all assembled with "Bro" preceding Ice as The Ice Trilogy (omni trans Jamey Gambrell 2011) – proposes an Alternate History of the past hundred years, focused on the USSR and Russia, where it has been discovered that ice from the Tunguska meteorite, which shook Siberia in 1908, can be forged into hammers that – when struck against a candidate's chest, over his heart, which sings out in response – can be used to "awaken" the 23,000 fragments of Primordial Light embedded in the 23,000 members of a mystic Brotherhood who are still unaware of their high Gnostic purpose, or that en masse they are the Secret Masters of the world (see Paranoia), which they are destined to destroy (see End of the World). En route to this climax, members of the Brotherhood infiltrate the governance of Nazi Germany, which they shape to their purpose.

Den' oprichnika (2005; trans Jamey Gambrell as Day of the Oprichnik 2011) depicts the Near Future Russia of 2028 as an insane arena cut off from the world by a Great Western Wall and dominated by the eponymous oprichniki, state-sanctioned torturers – based on Ivan the Terrible's mid-sixteenth-century state torturers – whose addiction to bling is married to a primitivist concept of Holy Russia, a nostalgic vision they ruthlessly and grotesquely besmirch. Metel (2010; trans Jamey Gambrell as The Blizzard 2015) depicts a seemingly Near Future Russia surreally transfigured by biotechnology (see Genetic Engineering). The balkanized distant Near Future world depicted in Telluria (2013; trans Max Lawton 2022) comprises a smörgåsbord of tiny squabbling states that extends from western Europe to China, conveying a sense that what survives in times to come will be a kind of walpurgisnacht irradiated by the eponymous Drug.

What might be seen, in the context of anglophone sf, as a series of exercises in gonzo farce (but see Equipoise) does seem, in Sorokin's hands, within the Russian tradition and contemporary context, as literal a description of the world as anything found in Nikolai Gogol (1809-1952) or Franz Kafka or the Strugatski Brothers; and his use of skaz, rhetorically heightened dialect and slang, is both highly effective and as hauntedly estranging as its use in the work of Yevgeny Zamiatin. [JC]

Vladimir Georgiyevich Sorokin

born Bykovo, Moscow Oblast, USSR [now Russia]: 7 August 1955

works (selected)


Ice Trilogy

  • Lyod (Moscow: Ad Marghinem, 2002) [Ice Trilogy: hb/]
    • Ice (New York: New York Review Books, 2007) [trans by Jamey Gambrell of the above: Ice Trilogy: hb/Gerhard Richter]
  • Put' Bro ["Bro"] (Moscow: Zakharov Books, 2004) [Ice Trilogy: hb/Grigoriy Zlatogorov]
  • 23000 (Moscow: Zakharov Books, 2005) [Ice Trilogy: hb/Grigoriy Zlatogorov]
    • Trilogiya (Moscow: Zakharov Books, 2005) [omni of the above three: Ice Trilogy: hb/Grigoriy Zlatogorov]
      • Ice Trilogy (New York: New York Review Books, 2011) [omni: trans by Jamey Gambrell of the above: Ice Trilogy: pb/Chris Bucklow]

individual titles

  • Norma ["The Norm"] (Moscow: Obscuri Viri/Tri Kita, 1994) [written 1979-1983: binding unknown/]
  • Ochered' (Paris: Syntaxis, 1983) [binding unknown/]
    • The Queue (London: Readers International, 1988) [trans by Sally Laird of the above: hb/Jan Brychta]
  • Goluboe Salo ["Blue Lard"] (Moscow: Ad Marginem, 1999) [binding unknown/]
    • Blue Lard (New York: NYRB Classics, 2024) [trans by Max Lawton of the above: pb/]
  • Den' oprichnika (Moscow: Zakharov Books, 2006) [hb/Grigoriy Zlatogorov]
    • Day of the Oprichnik (New York: Farrar, Straus, 2011) [trans by Jamey Gambrell of the above: hb/Marina Drukman]
  • Metel ["Snowstorm"] (Moscow: AST, 2010) [hb/]
    • The Blizzard (New York: Farrar, Straus, 2015) [trans by Jamey Gambrell of the above: hb/Devin Washburn]
  • Telluria (Moscow: AST, 2013) [hb/]
    • Telluria (New York: New York Review Books, 2022) [trans by Max Lawton of the above: pb/]

collections and stories


previous versions of this entry

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