Vladimir Sorokin novel Blue Lard, political and social taboo in Russia

It's like killing your own mother, Sorokin said. He said the war has reminded him of one of his favorite topics: how humans can be violent.

It's like killing your own mother, Sorokin said. He said the war has reminded him of one of his favorite topics: how humans can be violent.

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 Berlin, Vladimir Sorokin has been living since the war in Ukraine began.

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.”

“Killing your own mother” is a common theme in Sorokin’s work, and he was reminded of this when he saw the crushing use of force in Ukraine, which reminded him of this.

The man asked, “Why can’t we all get by without violence?” In my country, violence was the main thing people could smell and breathe. So when people ask me why there is so much violence in my books, I tell them that I was soaked and marinated in it from the time I was little.

“His Books Make You Feel Like You’re in a Crazy Nightmare.”

If you think of a dissident writer, Sorokin doesn’t fit the picture. While he’s been critical of Putin’s regime, he’s hard to pin down in terms of style or ideology. He’s been slammed for breaking Russian Orthodox Christian rules in his stories, but he is a devout Christian who has a lot of faith. He uses beautiful language to describe terrible things. He’s been called a literary heir to greats like Turgenev, Gogol, and Nabokov. At times, he has questioned the value of literature, calling novels “paper with typographic signs.”

He’s a master at mimicry and subverting genre tropes. His work ranges from political satire like “The Queue” to esoteric science fiction like “The Ice Trilogy” to alternate histories and cyberpunk fantasies like “Telluria.”

Author Gary Shteyngart said that his books are like “entering a crazy dream.” “He was able to use the right words to tell the truth.”

In this picture, Sorokin is with Max Lawton, who is translating his work for him. It used to be that only a few of his works had been translated into English because his writing is so hard to read and understand.

This year, translations of Sorokin’s work show how strange and weird his work is. They also show how obsessed he is with Russia’s past and how worried he is about where the country is going. In the first book, “Their Four Hearts,” four Soviet heroes are subjected to grotesque degradations as part of a savage mission that ends with them being compressed into cubes and rolling like dice on a frozen lake made of liquefied bodies. It was written by Sorokin in 1991, when the Soviet Union was coming down. It was so controversial that workers at a printing plant refused to make copies because they were angry.

A dystopian story called “Telluria” is coming out in August from NYRB Classics. It’s set in the near future, when Europe has become a feudal state and people are addicted to a drug called tellurium. He hides his critique of modern Russia by writing about centaurs, robot bandits, talking dogs that eat corpses, and other weird things that aren’t real.

Six more English editions of Sorokin’s works, including “The Norm,” “Blue Lard,” and “Roman,” will be released in the next four years. Another three are being translated, which will bring the bulk of Sorokin’s works into English.

In an interview, Max Lawton, a Sorokin fan who translated all eight of the upcoming books, said that Sorokin has earned his place in the canon. He also translated the interview. There was a time when I thought it was crazy that he hadn’t been fully translated.

The new translations come at a time when Russian writers are afraid of another wave of censorship, which reminds Sorokin of when he was an underground Soviet author. This is a bad coincidence.

As long as it doesn’t say anything bad about Putin or the government, anyone can write what they want in Russia. “But I don’t know how it will turn out.” Now, maybe there will be censorship in the books. Somebody might have seen this before. If that happens, I’ll be able to go back in time to when I was a child.

An expert at making fun of the Regime

Sorokin grew up in a small town outside of Moscow, where his father was a professor of metallurgy and his mother was a teacher. He had a taste of literary fame at a young age. It was when he was young that he found out he could make money by writing erotic stories and selling them to his friends. He went to the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas to study petroleum engineering, but he was more interested in art. He worked as a cartoonist for a Communist youth magazine, then as a children’s book illustrator, and as a graphic designer. In the early 1980s, he became a well-known figure in Moscow’s underground literary world. He wrote his first novel, “The Queue,” which is an absurdist parody of Soviet bureaucracy and oppression that unfolds as snippets of conversation between people who have been waiting in line for hours to buy unknown goods.

It was in the early ’80s that Sorokin became a member of the Moscow’s literary underground. His first novel, “The Queue,” was his first. “I just asked for one thing, which was that the K.G.B. didn’t get hold of my text.”

If the K.G.B. got their hands on my text “Sorokin said.

When “The Queue” came out in France in 1985, it made Sorokin look like a sleazy provocateur. It didn’t come out in Russia until after the Soviet Union broke up.

“He was a master at making fun of the regime,” said Masha Gessen, a Russian American author and writer for The New Yorker who lives in New York. “He thought the Soviet regime was ridiculous, and by extension, the fight against it was ridiculous.”

Over the next 10 years, Sorokin wrote a series of books that looked at how the Soviet government used language and meaning as weapons. During the early 1990s, Sorokin used a crude analogy for state-spun propaganda in his book “The Norm.” Citizens have to eat packages of a smelly brown fecal substance that the government gives out.

As a Harvard professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Nariman Skakov said: “He was saying to the totalitarian state that the domain of meaning is not yours. It doesn’t belong to you. He took it from the state in a very powerful gesture.”

At some point in the early 2000s, Sorokin became worried about how civil liberties were being eroded and how isolated Putin was becoming. He thought this was a return to brutality in medieval Russia.

They made him write his most politically charged book, “Day of the Oprichnik,” which is set in a near-future Russia where the Tsarist regime is still in power.

Sorokin said that he saw signs of change in Russian society that made him think of the Middle Ages. A lot of people thought I must have been very drunk to write this. Then a few years went by, and they stopped laughing and started to smell this medieval smell in their everyday lives, too.

As he works, Sorokin is in his studio His paintings can be as weird and gleefully obscene as his stories. One wall in his living room had a picture of his favorite author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, floating in space and ejaculating.

It’s so hard to predict how the world will change.

In the years since, Sorokin has written more books about his vision of a “new medieval” Russia that has become more authoritarian, militaristic, and backward. These books include “The Sugar Kremlin,” “Telluria,” and “Manaraga.” During the pandemic, he finished the last book in his medieval series, “Doctor Garin,” which is about a doctor.

The book is set in a dystopian future where nuclear war, military dictatorships, and genetically modified super soldiers rule the world. A doctor who works in a sanitarium takes care of a group of “political beings,” which include mini-versions of Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, and Vladimir, who can only say “It isn’t me.” Cyberpunk, fantasy, satire, sci-fi, and Soviet-era dissident literature are all mixed together in this book by Vladimir Sorokin. It’s hard to classify it because it’s a wild mix of these things.

Sorokin says he’s drawn to futuristic and fantastical settings because they seem like the best way to look at the chaos and uncertainty of the world today, so he likes them.

This is how he said it: “The world is changing so quickly that realistic prose can’t keep up.” In this case, “it’s like trying to shoot a bird that’s already flown away.”

“This is why I like complicated optics,” he said. There must be at least two telescopes in order to see what is true.

“One from the past and one from the future.” He said this slowly.

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