Day of the Oprichnik
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One of The Telegraph’s Best Fiction Books 2011
Moscow, 2028. A cold, snowy morning.
Andrei Danilovich Komiaga is fast asleep. A scream, a moan, and a death rattle slowly pull him out of his drunken stupor—but wait, that’s just his ring tone. And so begins another day in the life of an oprichnik, one of the czar’s most trusted courtiers—and one of the country’s most feared men.
Welcome to the new New Russia, where futuristic technology and the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible are in perfect synergy. Corporal punishment is back, as is a divine monarch, but these days everyone gets information from high-tech news bubbles, and the elite get high on hallucinogenic, genetically modified fish.
Over the course of one day, Andrei Komiaga will bear witness to—and participate in—brutal executions; extravagant parties; meetings with ballerinas, soothsayers, and even the czarina. He will rape and pillage, and he will be moved to tears by the sweetly sung songs of his homeland. He will consume an arsenal of drugs and denounce threats to his great nation’s morals. And he will fall in love—perhaps even with a number of his colleagues.
Vladimir Sorokin, the man described by Keith Gessen (in The New York Review of Books) as “[the] only real prose writer, and resident genius” of late-Soviet fiction, has imagined a near future both too disturbing to contemplate and too realistic to dismiss. But like all of his best work, Sorokin’s new novel explodes with invention and dark humor. A startling, relentless portrait of a troubled and troubling empire, Day of the Oprichnik is at once a richly imagined vision of the future and a razor-sharp diagnosis of a country in crisis.
Praise For Day of the Oprichnik…
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
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374134754, 208pp.
Publication Date: March 15, 2011
About the Author
Jamey Gambrell is a writer on Russian art and culture, and the translator of Vladimir Sorokin's "The Ice Trilogy," among many other works of Russian-language fiction and nonfiction.