The Slynx
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The Slynx

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,251 ratings  ·  110 reviews
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“A postmodern literary masterpiece.” –The Times Literary Supplement

Two hundred years after civilization ended in an event known as the Blast, Benedikt isn’t one to complain. He’s got a job—transcribing old books and presenting them as the words of the great new leader, Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe—and though he doesn’t enjoy the privileged status of a Murza, at...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by NYRB Classics (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten

Tatyana Tolstaya was born into the Russian aristocratic family of Tolstoy. You might be thinking, as was I, would that happen to be the Leo Tolstoy family? Why in fact it is! I wasn't able to trace down exactly how she is related to Leo, but in several articles it mentions her relationship to the Russian literary giant. Her grandfather, Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoi, was also a well respected writer who wrote the book "Peter l". Tolstaya has a literary blue-blood heritage that gives her a leg up...more

Few books terrify me to the depths of my soul as much as this postapocalytic tale full of bleakly-black humor and dark satire, set amongst the radioactive desolation of Moscow Fyodor-Kuzmichsk - which is sunk low in degradation and regression, with economy dependent on mice-hunting, with a lone half-finished statue of Pushkin pushkin stuck in between vegetable plots, with ignorance and superstition ruling it all. Welcome to the world of The Slynx!

What makes this book so terrifying to me is how a...more
i have a long and troubled relationship with the russians. for years i didnt want to read them, because i felt that i wouldnt understand them with their troubled political history, their interchangeable names, their fucking ability to endure that is so intimidating and making-me-small-feeling. and then i read bulgakov. and i felt a little more confident.... then i got a little older and i thought... maybe im ready for some dostoevsky... and then i wondered what i had been so worried about, becau...more
Let him stand there strong and safe, his legs in chains, head in the clouds, his face to the south, to the endless steppe, to the far-off dark blue seas.
I am absolutely convinced that everyone must read this book. Unfortunately, unlike that other book I said the same of, Les Misérables, I have no great moral undertakings or social justice to spur readers forward with. No musical either. Not even a movie. Instead, I have an old review, a few big name references, and ah yes. Logos. Lots of that,...more
MJ Nicholls
This exceptional little pearl should go straight atop your reading list, knocking off that willowy story collection, those fat-arsed historical doorstoppers, and that free verse thing carved into tree bark. Get rid of them all. Put them in a glorious bonfire and read this instead.

The granddaughter of Leo T has all the talent of her antecedent, cribbing also the mordant wit of Bulgakov, the lyrical euphony of Nabokov, the despairing glamour of Zamyatin. The Slynx is a first-rate novel on all fron...more

The Pace of Modern Life [xkcd] -- In 1871, someone expressed concern about how the art of letter-writing was fast dying out. In 1895, someone was worried about how the hurry and excitement of modern life was causing mental and nervous degeneration. In 1907, there was concern about every individual's head being buried in a magazine while they sat together as a family. Now a days, of course, we hear about the curse of the smartphones, 140 character limit on communication and dwindling inter-person...more
Besides the meaning of the word "horripilating" ("the erection of hairs on the skin due to cold, fear or excitement"), found on the chocolate-and-lime backmatter of this book's NYRB edition, reading Tolstoya's vision of civilization's hilarious, underwhelming ashes gave me a feeling of gratitude, and also anger that the ostensible genre of this book will allow people to compare it to mechanic nightmares like 1984 and Animal Farm, or even the killer, terrorizing Road. But Russians don't do genre...more
February 2009

You expect post-apocalyptic fiction to be depressing. You expect dystopias to be bleak. The words "wickedly funny" do not usually come to mind. But in The Slynx, a story of Moscow set two hundred years after The Blast destroyed civilization, life is not quite what it seems to be. The people don't really deserve to be enlightened, and the thought police are almost justified; at least, books aren't the thing to worry about. Just thank Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe, that you have fire. Oh, a...more
2.5 stars which officially and technically shall translate to "I liked it...a little bit". You know those old fashioned wooden roller coasters at small county fairs - that is what reading this book was for me. It took a while to get started and once it got going there were small thrills but mainly bumpy ups and downs with jolting turns, and at the end of the ride I was a bit disenchanted and bored. It never bodes well when you get excited that you only have X% or pages remaining.

I cannot even b...more
Jason Pettus
(Full review can be found at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

Ah, those Russian writers -- those crazy, drunken, angst-filled, delightful Russian writers! Mention the phrase "Russian literature" to most Americans, and you're likely to see the same mental images appear again and again; the dense books, the heavy symbolism, the perverse dark humor, and of course the national introspection, always the national introspection, as inherent a part of Russian culture...more
Nate D
Sep 04, 2012 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: golubchiks and murzas alike
Recommended to Nate D by: the whispering of black rabbits
Even with society collapsed into muddy, decaying near barbarism, philosophy (whatever that is), and freethinking (not allowed), creep in thoughts won't stop, people are joined to0 their forebears (us) by universal thought patterns. For a while, as we follow the yearnings of our protagonist towards better things (dreams, books) amid strange danger and squalor, avoiding the despair-call of the Slynx that strips one of the will to go on, this is really quite wonderful. Then, by (again somewhat univ...more
Like Dostoevsky staring into the face of a post-apocalyptic future, The Slynx is a bawdy romp into the interior landscapes of a Russian post-nuclear future.

Part folk tale, part sci-fi yarn (not unlike Tarkovsky's Stalker, but cranked up on crystal meth) Tolstaya's language is as giddy as Gogol in Dead Souls and her universal themes are familiar to anyone that has rampaged Russian literature. The unique gift of this novel is really Tolstaya's sense of humor and her urgent prose.
It took me 100 pages to fall in love with this book. At first I was confused by the second-person narrative butting in all the time, and who was telling this story anyway, Benedikt or a brother or who? And the language was so basic and primitive and there was too much text about catching mice and cooking mice and eating mice and trading mice. And what had happened to Tolstoya's dazzling lyrical style of writing?

And then around page 100, Benedikt escapes poverty, his basic hut, his mice for dinne...more
I have little experience with Russian literature but what I have so far read, I have enjoyed immensely. I hope people with similar tastes as me do not read this book as their first foray into Russian literature. They might never return.

Before mentioning my complaints, I will say that I respect Tolstaya's creativity. The world she created was at times interesting.

The issues I have with this book are numerous and more than I am willing to cover here so I am providing a short list...that was not sa...more
Here is a paragraph from this book:

After the entrance there were more corridors and the sweet smell grew nearer. Glancing upward, Benedikt clasped his hands: books! The shelves were packed with books! Lord Almighty! Saints alive! his knees gave way, he trembled and whined softly: you couldn't read them all in a whole lifetime! A forest of pages, an endless, indiscriminate blizzard, uncounted! Ah...! Ah!!! Aaaaa! Maybe... just maybe... somewhere here... maybe the secret book is here somewhere! Th...more
"Give black rabbit meat a good soaking, bring it to a boil seven times, set it in the sun for a week or two, then steam it in the oven — and it won't kill you.

"That is, if you catch a female. Because the male, boiled or not, it doesn't matter. People didn't used to know this, they were hungry and they ate the males too. But now they know: if you eat the males you'll be stuck with a wheezing and a gurgling in your chest the rest of your life. Your legs will wither. Thick black hairs will grow lik...more
A hallucination of a book, best explained as a cocktail.

Its recipe runs as follows:

1 part Allegory of the Cave
2 parts Russian folktale
2 parts whatever Bosch painted

Build over a pile of dystopia.

Stir and consume, preferably in one sitting.
This was a very Russian dystopia novel, and a fun one at that. Nuclear war, myths, mutations, hallucinations, philosophy, and lots of good reading.

The Slynx is very funny at first reading, but there are some sad and rather worrying truths behind it.
Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't make it beyond 20 pages. Something lost in translation, or it isn't very good?
This is a hilarious book; a dystopia beautifully written and filled with endless imagination. I don't even know what to say about it... I'm still digesting it. The writing is as fantastic, inventive and clever as the world that Tatyana Tolstaya contructs.

This dystopia happens after The Blast, which brought about a new Dark Age, filled with extreme ignorance, radiation poisoning that has mutated everything (poisonous black rabbits fly from tree to tree, kittens have trunks and fingers, and every...more
I liked this book but I can't say I really liked it. I think I just don't enjoy dystopians as much as I thought. It's well written and the story is recounted with much creativity. This is Russia in the future after a blast which has left the population vulnerable. Some are physically named from it and others born there after are lucky. I'm not sure I understood all of what Tolstaya was trying to say since I'm missing some knowledge on Russia's historical background which I feel is extremely impo...more
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This is such a strange and beautiful little book. I am a total sucker for distopian, postapocalyptic lit in general, but this is one of the most creative, funny, uniquely-voiced renderings of the frightning, dismal future I have ever come across.
Set in Russia after "The Blast" has destroyed human existance as we know it, "The Slynx" takes place in a world that is at once outrageously bizarre and primitave, and eerily recognizable. Citizens, or "golubchiks," live in a semi-feudal society where th...more
Aidan Watson-Morris
overrated, or rather i've failed as a reader to find whatever brilliance that has so captivated other reviewers, but there is certainly a unique inertia here that prevents you from putting this down, both in the narrative's general craziness & the brilliant lyricism, not an affected style but of someone genuinely having fun w/language.
Brittany Picardi Ruiz
By far the most difficult read this year but it was certainly a treat and everything about it intrigued me. So much so, that I consumed it in one night.

The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya is a Russian dystopian novel. Set two hundred years after some kind of nuclear accident or blast, a government
scribe named Benedikt, our narrator, lives in what was Moscow. Moscow is now called Fyodor-Kuzmichsk, after its dictator Fyodor. Kuzmich uses scribes to copy "his" writing, which is actually that of past lit...more
"Why is it that everything keeps mutating, everything .... Everything gets twisted up in knots."

the Slynx is a post-apocalptic, consequence-ridden horrific dystopian story ... Russian style. and means that yes, things do get twisted up in knots .... and yes things do keep mutating so that you can never be sure that what held true yesterday is still true today. and yes there are consequences and the people will be the ones to bear them. always, the people will bear the consequences of actions the...more
This book is funny as hell. And scary as hell. Should the world as we know it go away, what do we leave the people in the future, with our artifacts of pride and hubris? What will they make of it? What comical and lamentable distortions shall arise?

The characters of this Russia are filled with a deep-seated cynicism and distrust which is almost indistinguishable from a delirious sense of naivete and fealty—a fiercely schizophrenic state that is an oxymoron of Russian existence. Tatyana Tolstaya...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya is a Russian dystopian novel. Set two hundred years after some kind of nuclear accident or blast, a government scribe named Benedikt lives in what was Moscow. Moscow is now called Fyodor-Kuzmichsk, after its dictator Fyodor. Kuzmich uses scribes to copy "his" writing, which is actually that of past literary works.

In this society, mice are dietary staples and a source of trading currency. Citizens born after the Blast often have mutations, that are called "consequenc...more
Rain Misoa
Nov 20, 2013 Rain Misoa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: People interested in Russian satire and who don't mind slower paced books.
Recommended to Rain by: International Reads Book Club
I joined a book club! I've never been a part of one before so I thought that it would be a fun experience. The book club is called International Reads here on GoodReads and its purpose is for its members to read as diversely as possible. We want to read as many books from foreign countries because foreign novels are rarely ever highlighted. We read a different book each month then have a discussion on said book at the end of each month. This month's book is The Slynx. I ordered my copy from the...more
Nov 07, 2012 Ema rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Readers in search of literary gems
Recommended to Ema by: Anca
This is a truly wonderful book, I fell in love with the story! I haven't read many dystopian novels, but I'm sure that, in a couple of years, The Slynx will be considered one of the best from this genre. So you should read it before it becomes a "classic". :)
It's the only novel of Tatyana Tolstaya, a Russian writer who is remotely related to Leo Tolstoy. Not his great-grandniece, but still. Her paternal grandfather was Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoi, also an important writer.

There are many invented...more
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NYRB Classics: The Slynx, by Tatyana Tolstaya 1 6 Oct 30, 2013 06:29PM  
World Literature ...: The Slynx bookclub discussion 2 24 Jan 07, 2012 06:46PM  
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Tatyana Tolstaya (Татьяна Толстая) was born in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. As the great-grandniece of the Russian author Leo Tolstoy and the granddaughter of Alexei Tolstoy, Tolstaya comes from a distinguished literary family; but, according to Marta Mestrovic's interview in Publishers Weekly with the author, she hates ‘‘being discussed as a relative of someone.’’

Still, Tolstaya's background is undeniably...more
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“...a book is a delicate friend, a white bird, an exquisite being, afraid of water.

Darling things! Afraid of water, of fire, They shiver in the wind. Clumsy, crude human fingers leave bruises on them that'll never fade! Never!

Some people touch books without washing their hands!

Some underline things in ink!

Some even tear pages out! ”
“You, Book! You are the only one who won't deceive, won't attack, won't insult, won't abandon! You're quiet - but you laugh, shout, and sing: you're obedient - but you amaze, tease, and entice; you're small, but you contain countless peoples. Nothing but a handful of letters, that's all, but if you feel like it, you can turn heads, confuse, spin, cloud, make tears spring to the eyes, take away the breath, the entire soul will stir in the wind like a canvas, will rise in waves and flap its wings!” 3 likes
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