Sam's Reviews > Day of the Oprichnik

Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin
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's review
Apr 15, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

This book takes place in a future Russia, and describes a day in the life of an oprichnik (a member of the oprichnina, essentially a future, terrible incarnation of the KGB). The protagonist, Komiaga, awakens to the sound of ringtone of someone being tortured to death. He is tended to by his many servants, breakfasts, says his prayers, and heads of on a typical day of state-sanctioned murder, rapine, corruption, illegal drug use, extortion, censoring the arts, graft, murder, sexual perversion, sodomy, and fealty to "His Majesty" and the great Russian state. (You are hereby warned! The book is not for everyone.) The oprichniks are confident in their zeal, and the rightness of the actions, but the state they are working for, and the oprichniks themselves, are filled with corruptions and perversions.

In effect, a kind of combination of Ivan the Terrible and Stalin is now "His Majesty" and leads Russia in a corrupt reign of terror. The oprichniks are in the forefront of this reign of terror, and are the trusted lieutenants of his Majesty. In spite of the all terrible happenings, the story maintains the upbeat, self-assured attitude of the protagonist secure in the rightness of all his actions.

The story takes place in a high tech world, where the West has declined, China is the undisputed economic and scientific powerhouse of the world, and Russia has sealed itself off from Western influences and is governed by a combination of the Church and terror. In many ways this is intended to be a satire about, and complaint against, the directions of Russian policy, and corruption in present-day Russia. For instance, over and over again, the oprichnik drives past traffic jams in his red Mercedov flaunting his social superiority over everyone else. It is also a kind of satire about the future of high tech mobile phones, designer drugs, and bioengineering. Perhaps it also a warning that high tech and scientific advances can lead to very bad social outcomes.

It is an entertaining book. I learned a fair amount about Russian history following up on many of the references. There is a fair amount of poetry, but it is not rendered very well, perhaps due to the difficulty of translating poetry.

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