Title: Day of the Oprichnik (Goodreads)
Author: Vladimir Sorokin
Translator: Jamey Gambrell
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006
My Copy: Library Book
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
Welcome to new Russia, where the Russian Empire has been restored back to the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible. Corporal punishment is back and the monarchy is divided once again, but this is the future, the not so distant future for the Russian empire, or is it? Day of the Oprichnik follows a government henchman, an Oprichnik, through a day of grotesque event.
Day of the Oprichnik is a thought provoking Science Fiction novel of the worst possible Russia imagined. But while the book is dark, it also is hilarious and then it has this wonderfully satirical nature about it. Komiaga is the narrator of this gem, an anti-hero and one of the Tsar’s most devoted henchmen. While the humour and satire throughout this book is grotesque, this book is a perfect example of great contemporary Russian literature as well as a political critique.
I will admit I like these types of modern Russian Science Fiction novels, like Super Sad True Love Story, you have this wonderful dystopian backdrop as well as the high tech gadgets like the “mobilov” and then you use this to create delightfully thought provoking plot riddled with satirical elements. These witty and intelligently written books are what I live for.
Komiaga is one of the elites, enforcing the laws of the land, helping the Czar’s to rule with an iron fist for the sake of the motherland and the Russian Orthodox Church. This is my first Vladimir Sorokin novel and I would like to compare this novel to one of Philip K. Dick’s (The Man in the High Castle to be exact); there is this wonderfully crafted story and you have these philosophical and political ideas that stick with you well after you have finished the book.
The Telegraph named this book one of the best for 2011 and the New York Review called Sorokin “[the] only real prose writer, and resident genius” of late-Soviet fiction”, just to give you an idea of what to expect. Day of the Oprichnik is deliciously complex, full of garish science fiction and hallucinogenic fish. Komiaga’s day might not be a typical one but it’s full of executions, parties, meetings, oracles, and even the Czarina.
I loved every moment of Day of the Oprichnik, even the moments that made me think “WTF” and for all of the people that have read this book, I want to say one word that will mean something to you but not the others, the word that the person who recommended this book to me said when I finished. That word is “caterpillar”. For everyone else; read the book, enjoy the satire, black humour and Science Fiction elements of this book and also find out what I mean.