He thought of a Nightmarish, Dystopian Russia. Now, he’s afraid of living in one.
It’s good that Vladimir Sorokin is getting attention in the West, but he says that Russian writers need to fight back in a semantic war on truth.
The work of Vladimir Sorokin, who has lived in Russia for more than 40 years, has broken almost every political and social rule there.
Over pornography charges, he was investigated for selling his book “Blue Lard.” In it, there is a sexual scene between Stalin and Khrushchev clones. Some people who were in favor of the Kremlin tried to stop him from writing “Nastya,” which is based on the grisly story of how a young girl is cooked and eaten by her family. Dozens of protesters made a huge toilet sculpture and put his books in it. Sorokin said it reminded him of “one of my own stories,” but it didn’t make sense to people who didn’t like the theater.
With each attack, Sorokin has become more bold and more popular, which makes him even more popular.
You can be afraid or you can write. That’s what he said in an interview last month. I write.
Sorokin is widely thought to be one of Russia’s most creative writers. He is an iconoclast who has written about the country’s slide toward authoritarianism, with subversive fables that satirize bleak parts of Soviet history and futuristic stories that show the creeping repression of today’s Russia. But even though he is known for being both a talented postmodern stylist and an unrepentant troublemaker, he isn’t well-known in the West. Until recently, only a few of his works had been translated into English. This is because his writing can be hard to understand and hard to read. Eight of his books are going to be translated into English for the first time in four decades, and they’re going to be released in English.
In the past few years, he’s been getting a lot of attention for his depictions of Russia as a decaying former empire that is sliding backward under a militaristic, violent, and oppressive regime. During Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, Sorokin sees the conflict not only as a fight between military forces, but also as a battle between words and truth. Writers must fight back against this attack on the truth, which is being waged through propaganda and lies.
It’s going to be different for writers, Sorokin said. A new era of censorship will only make words stronger if it starts.
Conversation with Sorokin, who has wavy silver hair and a placid demeanor that make him look like an old hermit or a wise man. He isn’t the brash, polarizing figure that he’s often played as.
He seemed a little confused, but not surprised, when he learned that he was going to be away for a long time. He and his wife, Irina, lived in Vnukovo, a town outside Moscow, and a bright, art-filled apartment in Berlin. They left Russia just three days before the invasion of Ukraine began. Though the timing of their trip was just a coincidence, it felt like it was meant to happen. Sorokin is afraid to return to Russia as long as Putin is in power. He has spoken out against the invasion and called Vladimir Putin a crazed “monster.” This puts him in a difficult situation after Putin said that Russians who don’t support the war are “scum” and “traitors.”