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Strugatski, Arkady and Boris

Entry updated 4 March 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1925-1991) and (1933-2012) respectively; Russian authors. Before they began to collaborate in the early 1950s, Arkady studied English and Japanese, and worked as a technical translator and editor, and Boris was a computer mathematician at Pulkovo astronomical observatory. The brothers' first books made up the Noon Universe interplanetary cycle: Strana bagrovykh tuch ["The Country of Crimson Clouds"] (1959); Shest' spichek ["Six Matches"] (coll 1960); Put'na Amal'teiu (coll 1960), the lead novella of which was translated by Leonid Kolesnikov as the title story of Destination: Amaltheia (anth 1962 USSR); Vozvrashchenie (Polden'. 22-i vek) (coll of linked stories 1962; exp to 22 stories vt Polden', XXII vek (Vozvrashchenie) 1967; trans Patrick L McGuire as Noon: 22nd Century 1978 US); and Stazhery (coll of linked stories 1962; trans Antonina W Bouis as Space Apprentice 1982). This optimistic future History, set on or near Earth over a two-century period, espouses the romance of exploration and humanity's Utopian thrust forward against the forces of Nature, and is acted out by believable vernacular heroes.

A second phase soon began, in which utopian hopefulness did not survive unscathed, as demonstrated in the two novels assembled as Dalekaia Raduga. – Trudno byt' bogom (coll 1974). In "Dalekaia Raduga" (trans Alan Myers as Far Rainbow 1967; exp as coll Far Rainbow/The Second Invasion from Mars 1979), history, with its pain, invades human existence through a physical catastrophe (which kills nearly all of the characters remaining alive from the first cycle). In "Trudno byt' bogom" (trans Wendayne Ackerman from the German translation as Hard to be a God 1973) the darkness of history is – more directly – demonstrated on a feudal planet, where an observer from Earth finds it impossible to conclude that utopian intervention on his part will do any more than stun the world into a numbing dictatorship. But the unaltered world is dangerous and iniquitous, with premonitions of fascism and Stalinism clearly hinting to the visitor that, without intervention, huge tragedies will ensue. The successful marriage of vivid historical novel and sf makes this the brothers' paradigmatic early work. The book was filmed as Trudno byt' bogom (1989; Hard to Be a God), with another version appearing in 2013.

Far Rainbow later appeared, along with "Vtoroe nashestvie marsian" (1968) as Far Rainbow/The Second Invasion from Mars (coll trans Antonina W Bouis [Far Rainbow] and Gary Kern [Second Invasion] 1979); the second tale is a Jonathan Swift-like masterpiece, couched as a Sequel by Other Hands, in which an Invasion from Mars – following upon the events recounted in H G Wells's The War of the Worlds (1898) – is seen through the journal of a philistine who blindly registers the Martians' use of consumerism and conformity to transform humans into commodities. In this third phase of their career, the brothers' darkening vision tended to express itself in Voltaire-style Fabulations, where a formal mastery of expressionist plots cunningly exposed the societal bewilderment and growing bureaucratic sclerosis of their native Russia. In Ponedel'nik nachinaetsia v subbotu (1965; trans Leonid Renen as Monday Begins on Saturday 1977), folktale motifs are masterfully updated to embody in a dark picaresque the black and white Magic of modern alienated science and society. The sequel, Skazka o troike (1968 in a Russian magazine; 1972; trans Antonina W Bouis as Tale of the Troika), which appeared with "Piknik na obochine" (1972 Avrora; trans Antonina W Bouis as Roadside Picnic) in Roadside Picnic/Tale of the Troika (coll 1977), even more bleakly exposed the "scientifico-administrative" bureaucracy of the time (see also Zone). Roadside Picnic was first filmed as Návštěva z Vesmíru ["Visit from Space"] (1977), of which no copies survive; it was turned by the brothers into eleven different scenarios for Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979). The two stories, as published together in English, are an ideal introduction to this phase of their career. A final third-phase tale, Ulitka na sklone (part 1 in Ellinskii sekret, anth 1966, as "Kandid"; part 2 1968 Baikal as "Pepper"; trans Alan Myers as The Snail on the Slope fixup 1980; new trans of full text Olena Bormashenko 2018), is constructed as two interlocked stories set in an overpoweringly alien forest swamp; the two protagonists, Kandid (or Candide) and Pepper (or Peretz), respond differently to the world, the first in a "naive" stream of consciousness, the second in the guise of a Kafkaesque bureaucrat (see Franz Kafka). The Kandid sequences are remarkably eloquent. The overall title is an image of the uncertainties of knowing: humanity climbs towards knowledge as a snail climbs Mount Fuji in a haiku by Issa Kobayashi (1763-1828). Other early work includes "Otel' 'U pogibshchego alpinista'" ["Dead Mountaineer's Hotel"] (1970 Iunost'; trans Josh Billings as Dead Mountaineer's Inn: One More Last Rite for the Detective Genre 2015), filmed as "Hukkunud Alpinisti" Hotell ["Dead Mountaineer Hotel"] (1979) directed by Grigori Kromanov.

A fourth and even more sombre phase begins with the Noon Universe: Maxim Kamerrer sequence – Obitaemyi ostrov (1969-1971; trans Helen Saltz Jacobson as Prisoners of Power 1978), "Zhuk v muraveinike" (1979-1980 Znanie-sila; trans Antonina W Bouis as Beetle in the Anthill 1980) and "Volney gasiat veter" (1985-1986 Znanie-sila; trans Antonina W Bouis as The Time Wanderers 1987) – in which the sometimes consoling glow of fable is stripped from abrupt and violent stories as the (at times) incongruously juvenile heroes confront scenes of increasing alienation and desperation. In Gadkie lebedi (1966-1967 in a Russian magazine; 1972 Germany [edition disavowed]; trans A E and A Nakhimovsky as The Ugly Swans 1979 US [also disavowed]; trans as Children of Rain c1987 USSR), the metaphysical swamp of The Snail on the Slope is transfigured into a mysterious fog which envelops Moscow, and which seems to engender all manner of intrusions. The fog is a signal of the death of the old world, and a highly dubious harbinger of a new: the children of the tale, justifying its title (a play on that of the famous fable by Hans Christian Andersen), seem to be entering into metamorphosis and a future which may (possibly) be bright. "Za milliard let do kontsa sveta" (1976-1977 Znanie-sila; trans Antonina W Bouis as Definitely Maybe: A Manuscript Discovered under Unusual Circumstances 1978; trans rev 2013) again combines fable and a bleak depiction of the social world as Scientists attempt (in a manner evocative of the work of Stanisław Lem) to parse an implacably unknowable "force" which seems to be paralysing human progress.

Their last works, published only in the glasnost period, were: Khromaia sud'ba ["Lame Destiny"] (fixup 1989), which intertwines The Ugly Swans with other material from 1986, the books being eventually published together in English as Lame Fate / Ugly Swans (omni 2020; new trans by Maya Vinokour); Grad obrechennyi ["The Doomed City"] (written 1970-1987; 1989), perhaps their weightiest work to date; and Otiagoshchennye zlom, ili sorok let spustia ["Burdened by Evil, or 40 Years After"] (1989), which was evocative of the work of Mikhail Bulgakov. Arkady Strugatski published a very few items as by S Yaroslavtsev, the only book-length work under this pseudonym being Ekspeditsiya v preispodnyuyu ["Expedition to Hell"] (parts 1 and 2, 1974 Mir priklyuchenij 1974; part 3, June-July 1984 Ural'skij sledopyt; 1988), a juvenile Space Opera based on the brothers' joint screenplay for an animated film that was never produced.

Over their career, the brothers moved from a comparatively sunny vision in which utopia could be aimed at in the Near Future to a sense that the tensions between utopian ethics and the inscrutable overwhelmingness of stasis were in fact irresolvable. They became the best Soviet sf writers, legitimate continuers of a Russian tradition extending from Nikolai Gogol (see Russia) and Shchedrin (Mikhail E Saltykov [1826-1889]) to Vladimir Mayakovsky and Yuri Olesha (1889-1960); they tied for Russia's first Aelita Award in 1981; and half a dozen of their novels, in their recognition that a people without cognitive ethics devolves into a predatory bestiary, approach major literature. After the death of Arkady in 1991, Boris became relatively inactive, though he published two novels, neither translated: Search for Designation; or, Twenty-Seventh Theory of Ethics (1994) and The Powerless Ones of this World (2003), both as by S Vititsky. Their partnership had clearly been deeply creative. [DS/JC/A]

see also: Discovery; Gods and Demons; Jupiter; Physics; Politics; Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl; Superman; Otherside Picnic.

Arkady Natanovich Strugatski

born Batumi, Georgia, USSR: 28 August 1925

died Moscow: 12 October 1991

Boris Natanovich Strugatski

born Leningrad, USSR: 15 April 1933

died Saint Petersburg, Russia: 19 November 2012


All works listed below are by both brothers unless otherwise specified.


Noon Universe

Novels and collections are listed together.

  • Strana bagrovykh tuch ["The Country of Crimson Clouds"] (Moscow: Detgiz, 1959) [Noon Universe: binding unknown/]
  • Shest' spichek ["Six Matches"] (Moscow: Detgiz, 1960) [coll: Noon Universe: hb/B Alimov]
    • translated by R Prokofieva as "Six Matches" in The Heart of the Serpent (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960) [anth: pb/N Grishin]
  • Put' na Amal' teiu (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1960) [Noon Universe: binding unknown/]
    • translated by Leonid Kolesnikov as "Destination: Amaltheia" in Destination: Amaltheia (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962) [anth: pb/N Grishin]
  • Vozvrashchenie (Polden'. 22 vek) (Moscow: Detgiz, 1962) [coll: Noon Universe: hb/G Makarov]
  • Stazhery ["The Apprentices"] (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1962) [coll: Noon Universe: binding unknown/]
    • Space Apprentice (New York: Macmillan, 1981) [trans by Antonina W Bouis of the above: Noon Universe: hb/Richard Powers]
  • Dalekaia Raduga. – Trudno byt' bogom (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1964) [coll: Noon Universe: binding unknown/]
    • Far Rainbow (Moscow: MIR Publishers, 1967) [comprising "Dalekaia Raduga" from the above coll: trans by Alan Myers: Noon Universe: pb/V Alexeyev]
    • Hard to Be a God (New York: Seabury, 1973) [comprising "Trudno byt' bogom" from the above coll: trans by Wendayne Ackerman from the German translation: hb/Alan Peckolick]
    • Hard to Be a God (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2014) [new trans by Olena Bormashenko of "Trudno byt' bogom": in the publisher's Rediscovered Classics series: pb/]

Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer

Novels and collections are listed together.

  • Obitaemyi ostrov (Moscow: Detgiz, 1971) [Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: hb/Yuri Makarov]
    • Prisoners of Power (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1977) [trans by Helen Saltz Jacobson of the above: Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: hb/Richard Powers]
  • Zhuk v muraveinike (no place given, Fidzhi: Izd-vo Nostal'giia, 1979) [Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: binding unknown/]
    • Beetle in the Anthill (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1980) [trans by Antonina W Bouis of the above: Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: hb/Richard Powers]
    • The Beetle in the Anthill (Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, 2023) [new trans by Olena Bormashenko of the above: Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: pb/Jonathan Hahn]
  • Volny gasiat veter (Haifa, Israel: Keshet Book Shop, 1986) [Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: binding unknown/]
    • The Time Wanderers (New York: Richardson and Steirman, 1986) [trans by Antonina W Bouis of the above: Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: hb/uncredited]
    • The Waves Extinguish the Wind (Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, 2023) [new trans by Daniels Umanovskis of the above: Noon Universe: Maxim Kammerer: pb/Danny Iacob]

individual titles (selected)

Novels and collections are listed together.

tentative further listing pending confirmation

works as translators

For translations, Arkady Strugatski used the pseudonym S Berezhkov; Boris Strugatski used the pseudonyms S Pobedin and S Vitin.

  • Kobo Abe Kōbō. Chetvertyy lendnikovyy period (Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1965) [trans by Arkady Strugatski as S Berezhkov of Dai-Yon Kampyuoki ["Inter Ice Age 4"] (1959) first published 1964 in Smena magazine: hb/]
  • John Wyndham. Biblioteka sovremennoj fantastiki. Tom 8. John Wyndham (Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1966) [coll with 2 stories added: trans by Arkady Strugatski as S Berezhkov of The Day of the Triffids (1951): in the publisher's Biblioteka sovremennoj fantastiki series: hb/]
  • Kobo Abe Kōbō. Sovsem kak chelovek in Prodaetsya Japoniya (Moscow: Mir, 1969) [anth/omni: trans by Arkady Strugatski as S Berezhkov of Ningen Sokkuri (1967), which has no English translation: pb/]
  • Andre Norton. Sargassy v kosmose (Moscow: Mir, 1969) [trans by Arkady Strugatski as S Berezhkov and Boris Strugatski as S Vitin of Sargasso of Space (1955): pb/]
  • Hal Clement. Ognennyj tsikl (Moscow: Mir, 1970) [trans by Arkady Strugatski as S Berezhkov and Boris Strugatski as S Pobedin of Cycle of Fire (1957): binding unknown/]
  • Hal Clement. (Moscow: Mir, 1972) [omni: trans by Arkady Strugatski as S Berezhkov of Mission of Gravity (1954) and Close to Critical (1964): pb/]

works as editors

  • The Molecular Cafe (Moscow: MIR Publishers, 1968) [anth: intro by both identifies them as joint editors: Cafe is unaccented as given: pb/uncredited]

about the authors


previous versions of this entry

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