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The Slynx

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  3,751 ratings  ·  284 reviews
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 least he's not a serf or a half-human four-legged Degenerator harnessed to a tr ...more
Paperback, NYRB Classics, 299 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by NYRB (first published 2000)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  3,751 ratings  ·  284 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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
Glenn Russell
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Tatyana Tolstaya's The Slynx is a jewel among the list of classics published by New York Review Books, a post-apocalyptic satire taking place two hundred years after “the Blast” in what was the city of Moscow. Human society has reverted to a state more primitive than a village in the darkest age of medieval, dark-age Europe. And that’s understatement - mice provide the main diet and are used for barter and trade; fire is a source of magic forcing people to rely on “stokers” to keep their stoves
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Nataliya by: Jeffrey Keeten

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
i have a long and troubled relationship with the russians. for years i didn't want to read them because i felt that i wouldn't 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 i'm ready for some dostoevsky...and then i wondered what i had been so worried about, because ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Matthias by: Jeffrey Keeten
Shelves: my-reviews
No matter which way you look at it, The Slynx is a strange and furtive creature. Concocted by an obscure descendant of one of the Greats, this beast possesses a significance we instinctively fear. We feel it lodged in our bones, we feel it slithering between the tiny hairs on our arms and on the back of our necks, we feel it gnawing at the base of our minds, we feel it cocooning in our hearts. Some brave readers set out on the expedition to find its lair. A few came back, wide-eyed with wonder a ...more
MJ Nicholls
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Spencer Orey
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow i don't think a book has ever made me laugh this hard before.

Endlessly clever writing. Extremely bleak but it's never too much so.

Really stands out in the post-apocalyptic genre.
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 tha
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews

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
Inderjit Sanghera
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A feeling of desolation pervades the atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic world in which 'The Slynx' is set; a world of drudgery and paranoia, of bleakness beneath which lurks a violence and insurrection as what we would loosely describe as the protagonist-Benedikt develops a sense of self-awareness via the books he reads; snatches of Anna Karenina and her realisation of the shallow emptiness of society, of the subtle sadness and dimpled beauty of Chekhov, of the indescribable joy of holding a boo ...more
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would give ten stars to this book, if I could. It is innovative, funny and frightening and I loved it.

The title of the book, Slynx, is an invented word. There are many such words in this book set up in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, two hundred years after civilization ended in an event known as the Blast. People born after the Blast are deprived of any contemporary commodities and live in a wild land, most of them marked by mutations which they call Consequences. They live mostly on mice and use
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
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
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
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jason Pettus
Jun 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
(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
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cajonera
I came into this book completely blind. Other than reading the description from GR and the fact that the author was a descendant from Tolstoy, I knew nothing else. However, this was a gamble I was willing to take since I really liked its post apocalyptic setting.

The gamble paid off. Extraordinarily.

I was expecting some high brow critique at communism and its totalitarian rule. Even if that is present throughout the book, there are many more things tightly packed in such a short novel. There is a
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am a butcher. Only I don’t work with meat, I work with words. Cutting, slicing, trimming. All for Vladimir, the great and powerful, and The Good Russian People. Give me War & Peace and I’ll hand you back a pamphlet. That’s progress, comrades. When they gave me the job they said that I would be serving my country by preventing the spread or dissemination of dangerous materials. Most people don’t realise how dangerous literature is. They focus too much on bombs and guns, and forget all about the ...more
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub, cultural
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
Nate D
Jul 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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.
Jul 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Moscow. Some 200 years after "the Blast", a vague sort of accident that turns life as we know it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Most of the characters don't even seem to know what "the Blast" was, or what life was like before it occurred, or how to return to a civilized life. They are controlled by their government now (oh, how I love you, Russian literature) under the strict ruling of the tyrant, Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe. His decrees are law, and Freethinkers are not allowed - anyone caught ...more
Ian Scuffling
This is a strange one. A post-apocalypse qua allegory of post-Soviet Russia. Tatyana Tolstaya's mostly plotless novel is full of goofy-yet-biting satire and a kind of warning of humanity's crippled consciousness that allows it to so dutifully repeat history despite our lessons learned.

I do wish I knew more about the political shifting in Soviet government and how it was reshaped by corruption in the vaccuum of Soviet collapse, which would probably inform a better reading of this novel. For what
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Here be no zombies. A smidgen off perfect, probably one of the best post-apocalyptic books I've read to this day. Intensely amusing at times, and beautifully written overall. Each chapter is introduced by a letter of the Russian alphabet, while the edition also features a small glossary of Russian words, and an index of all the poems quoted within. A gem.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I find this almost impossible to review. Terrifying and humorous at the same time. A post apocalyptic Tsarist-Soviet fantasy. Pieces of Borges, Burgess, Gaiman, Hoban, and Walter Williams come to mind. I laughed my ass off at times.
Dec 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"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
Ksenia Chernyshova
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A bizarre, absurd, fascinating post-apocalyptic novel, with a pinch of dystopia, all of it covered with a thick layer of humour. A kind of novel where you laugh, then stop and think, 'wait, that's actually kind of depressing'. The plot here was INSANE, with Important Messages and allusions and satire hidden between the lines. #typicallyrussian
Definitely recommend if you're into post-apocalyptic or dystopian or any kind of Russian lit.

(I updated my rating from 4 to 5 because the more time passes,
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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World Literature ...: The Slynx bookclub discussion 2 40 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

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