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Day of the Oprichnik [Paperback]

Vladimir Sorokin
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 April 2012
It's Moscow, 2028. A scream, a moan, and a death rattle slowly pull Andrei Danilovich Komiaga out of his drunken stupor. But wait - that's just his ringtone. 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. In this new New Russia, where futuristic technology and the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible are in perfect synergy, Komiaga will attend extravagant parties, partake in brutal executions, and consume an arsenal of drugs. Vladimir Sorokin 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 humour. 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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Reprint edition (4 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374533105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374533106
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Vladimir Sorokin was born in 1955. He is the author of many novels, plays, short stories, and screenplays, and of a libretto. Sorokin has won the Andrei Bely Prize and the Maxim Gorky Prize, and was nominated for the Booker-Open Russia Literary Prize. He lives in Moscow.
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.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup And looking up, I noticed I was late." I then proceeded to put a severed dog's head on my red, government-issued, Chinese-manufactured Mercedov car and spent the rest of the day killing enemies of the state, assaulting their wives, sending their children to orphanages, ingesting a hallucinogenic fish, before retiring to a plush bath-house for an orgy that gives new meaning to the term `organs of the state'.

And that, in essence, is the day in the life of Andrei Danilovich Komiaga set out in Vladimir Sorokin's profane, vulgar, funny, weird, chrome-wheeled fuel injected stepping out over the line "Day of the Oprichnik".

Set in Russia in 2028 this story has a decidedly dystopian bent in a fashion similar to Moscow 2042. But Sorokin's near-futuristic society represents a sort of mutant amalgamation of 500 years of the worst aspects of Russian and Soviet life. No longer ruled by the Soviets (the "Red Period") or the cowboy capitalist oligarchs (the "White Period") of the immediate post-Soviet era, Russia is once again ruled by an all-powerful Tsar. Russian political life is dominated by the Tsar and its soul is governed by a newly ascendant Orthodox Church. Andrei is an Oprichnik, which represents the re-creation of Russia's first "KGB", an organization created by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th-centyury. The Oprichniki of Ivan's time tortured and killed the Tsar's enemies, real and imagined, dressed in black robes and wandered around carrying the severed head's of dogs in order to sniff out treason. In Sorokin's 2028 version the Oprichniki still dress in black but they mount their dogs' heads on their government issued cars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A day in the life of an oprichnik. 13 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback
This is a stark depiction of a future Russia that is built around the worst of the practices of their past leaders. The hypocrisy is exceeded only by the brutality. This is also a disturbing book that would be funny in reading if it wasn't so serious in effect.

With books that have been translated into English, I never know if I am actually reading the "style" of the author or the translator. And, not knowing Russian, I have to assume the translator did a great job. Given the acclaim the book received in Russia and how well this read, I think Gambrell did a fine job.

While the events portrayed are, from a practical standpoint, highly unlikely; they are, from a philosophical standpoint, certainly plausible. Given the history of Russia in the 20th Century, the reader will not be very surprised at Sorokin's "world".
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The satire on Putin's Russia is clear, and in its way effective, but as a literary work Day of the Oprichnik soon palls. The excess of this dystopian vision rapidly becomes repetitive - by the final chapters what are supposed to be further revelations of Oprichnik decadence become vague irritants. Speculative fictions that are unmoored from any real internal reality (no matter how fantastic) lose the reader's interest rapidly.
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Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Woke up, got out of bed, Dragged a comb across my head 17 Mar 2011
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup. And looking up, I noticed I was late." . . . I then proceeded to put a severed dog's head on my red, government-issued, Chinese-manufactured Mercedov car and spent the rest of the day killing enemies of the state, assaulting their wives, sending their children to orphanages, ingesting a hallucinogenic fish, before retiring to a plush bath-house for an orgy that gives new meaning to the term `organs of the state'.

And that, in essence, is the day in the life of Andrei Danilovich Komiaga set out in Vladimir Sorokin's profane, vulgar, funny, weird, chrome-wheeled fuel injected stepping out over the line "Day of the Oprichnik".

Set in Russia in 2028 this story has a decidedly dystopian bent in a fashion similar to Moscow - 2042. But Sorokin's near-futuristic society represents a sort of mutant amalgamation of 500 years of the worst aspects of Russian and Soviet life. No longer ruled by the Soviets (the "Red Period") or the cowboy capitalist oligarchs (the "White Period") of the immediate post-Soviet era, Russia is once again ruled by an all-powerful Tsar. Russia is one of the two great powers, China being the other. Russian political life is dominated by the Tsar and its soul is governed by a newly ascendant Orthodox Church. Andrei is an Oprichnik, which represents the re-creation of Russia's first "KGB", an organization created by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th-century. The Oprichniki of Ivan's time tortured and killed the Tsar's enemies, real and imagined, dressed in black robes and wandered around carrying the severed head's of dogs in order to sniff out treason. In Sorokin's 2028 version the Oprichniki still dress in black but they mount their dogs' heads on their government issued cars.

At the same time, various aspects of life in 2028 call to mind the era of Stalin and the worst excesses of the Soviet state. Puritanical social structures and the zealous oversight of the arts and literature call to mind the obsessive policing of the arts and literature during the Soviet regime. The movies referenced in the book had all the hallmarks of the worst and most boring sorts of socialist realism, a clerk of some sort fighting a brave battle against enemies of the state for example. Additionally, the perquisites of being active supporters of the regime, the bribes, random sexual encounters, servants and beautiful living quarters all have the hallmarks of the Soviet era. In a puritanical age the Oprichniki enjoy the debauchery they routinely crush during their daily routine. Two scenes, one involving hallucinogenic fish (which I know sounds absurd but works in context) and the other involving a very strange orgy in a bath house takes this debauchery to an extreme.

As noted earlier, Sorokin's language is earthy and the situations he sets out are graphic to say the least. This book is not suitable for people who are easily offended. But I think what Sorokin was doing, and it is something he does in many of his books, is to push a story line to extremes so far that the reader shakes his head and says this is simply unbelievable. It is too much. But that is when the reader (this reader at least) takes the individual parts and notes that this may sound unbelievable taken as a whole but each part represents some aspect of life that actually took place in the past. The real Oprichniki really were tasked with instilling fear in the population. They really did wander the streets of Moscow with dog's heads. The Soviet Writers Guild really did take every step to ensure that Soviet art and literature conformed to acceptable norms. People did disappear, were tortured, killed and sexually abused. People like Beria really did cruise the streets of Moscow in search of young girls so he could abduct them, drug them and abuse them.

Day of the Oprichnik assaults you as you read it. In this case, it was worth being assaulted.

L. Fleisig
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A day in the life of an oprichnik. 24 April 2011
By Dick Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a stark depiction of a future Russia that is built around the worst of the practices of their past leaders. The hypocrisy is exceeded only by the brutality. This is also a disturbing book that would be funny in reading if it wasn't so serious in effect.

With books that have been translated into English, I never know if I am actually reading the "style" of the author or the translator. And, not knowing Russian, I have to assume the translator did a great job. Given the acclaim the book received in Russia and how well this read, I think Gambrell did a fine job.

While the events portrayed are, from a practical standpoint, highly unlikely; they are, from a philosophical standpoint, certainly plausible. Given the history of Russia in the 20th Century, the reader will not be very surprised at Sorokin's "world".

Based on this book, I have bought Sorokin's books "Queue" and "Ice Trilogy".

The Queue (New York Review Books Classics)
Ice Trilogy (New York Review Books Classics)
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark humor and parody 29 May 2011
By Michael Sandman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is an exercise in dark humor. It's set in the future, when the Czarist monarchy has been restored in Russia and the country is as much of a autocratic, paranoid kleptocracy as is was under the real czars - and their successors. It's a parody with humor that non-Russian readers may miss unless they've read a few Russian novels and have some familiarity with Russian history. Even then I'm sure I missed at least half the snide references to present day Russia. It opens and closes with an hilarious parody of the closing lines of Gogol's novel Tarus Bulba. The author lets his imagine run pretty wild and mostly it's fun to read, although it does seem very foreign indeed.
4.0 out of 5 stars A rather curious book 12 Jun 2014
By M. Hyman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a rather curious book that reads very similar, in many respects. to A Clockwork Orange, but where the state apparatus is playing the part of the merry droogs, raping and pillaging the citizens. I'm told the original Russian is very flowery, which doesn't quite come across in the translation. It tells the tale of a security officer in a futuristic post-Putin Russia, where the state is a mix of Tsarist and Stalinist Russia, a blend of totalitarianism and religion, and where the government exerts its violent forces as it sees fit. It is part 1984, part dystopian Sci Fi, and part just crazy. A bit tough at times, surrealistic throughout, but sadly predictive of many things that are going on in Russia today.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Future that is almost here 16 April 2014
By Alberto M. Barral - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is fascinating because it's fictional, but so grounded out of recent events in Russian history that it seems closer to a documentary. The technological and social developments are perfectly integrated into the story, so we don't think that this is science fiction, just a glimpse into a future that is very familiar and that we can relate to from what we know of the present.
The narrative is very entertaining and the characters are engaging. The monarchy has been restored in this future time, but was it ever any other form of government in Russia regardless of the labels that modern times invented? There is a sincerity in addressing that culture that comes through very strongly and which is strikingly refreshing. I was shocked the book was not censored in some racy sections in our puritan-revival period that we are presently still undergoing at all levels of cultural life in America, these are precious morsels of the story and which make perfect sense within the context, aside from making the reading very exciting. The book is delightfully full of irony and humor about the Russian condition which has not strayed far from its roots at the time of Ivan the Terrible, a reference that is as constant in the story, as I suspect in real life there.
Strongly recommended.
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