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The Noon Universe #4

Hard to Be a God

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The novel follows Anton, an undercover operative from the future planet Earth, in his mission on an alien planet, that is populated by human beings, whose society has not advanced beyond the Middle Ages. The novel's core idea is that human progress throughout the centuries is often cruel and bloody, and that religion and blind faith can be an effective tool of oppression, working to destroy the emerging scientific disciplines and enlightenment.
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Don Rumata has been sent from Earth to the medieval kingdom of Arkanar with instructions to observe and to save what he can. Masquerading as an arrogant nobleman, a dueler, and a brawler, he is never defeated, but yet he can never kill. With his doubt and compassion, and his deep love for a local girl named Kira, Rumata wants to save the kingdom from the machinations of Don Reba, the first minister to the king. But given his orders, what role can he play? This long overdue translation will reintroduce one of the most profound Soviet-era novels to an eager audience.

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are widely known as the greatest Russian writers of science fiction, and their 1964 novel Hard to Be a God is considered one of the greatest of their works. Yet until now the only English version (unavailable for over thirty years) was based on a German translation, and was full of errors, infelicities, and misunderstandings. Now, in a new translation by Olena Bormashenko, whose translation of the authors’ Roadside Picnic has received widespread acclaim, here is the definitive edition of this brilliant work.

219 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1964

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About the author

Arkady Strugatsky

401 books1,514 followers
The brothers Arkady Strugatsky [Russian: Аркадий Стругацкий] and Boris Strugatsky [Russian: Борис Стругацкий] were Soviet-Russian science fiction authors who collaborated through most of their careers.

Arkady Strugatsky was born 25 August 1925 in Batumi; the family later moved to Leningrad. In January 1942, Arkady and his father were evacuated from the Siege of Leningrad, but Arkady was the only survivor in his train car; his father died upon reaching Vologda. Arkady was drafted into the Soviet army in 1943. He trained first at the artillery school in Aktyubinsk and later at the Military Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow, from which he graduated in 1949 as an interpreter of English and Japanese. He worked as a teacher and interpreter for the military until 1955. In 1955, he began working as an editor and writer.

In 1958, he began collaborating with his brother Boris, a collaboration that lasted until Arkady's death on 12 October 1991. Arkady Strugatsky became a member of the Union of Soviet Writers in 1964. In addition to his own writing, he translated Japanese language short stories and novels, as well as some English works with his brother.

Source: Wikipedia

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 823 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
726 reviews11.5k followers
July 4, 2022
“Can you read? Off to the gallows! Write verses? Off to the gallows! Know your multiplication tables? Off to the gallows, you know too much!”
Obviously, the question is twofold here. First, how long can you stand to be an impartial observer in the face of atrocities? Second, how long before the mask you wear becomes your real face? And I suppose a logical third: what use is being a “god” when your powers cannot be used?
“The worst thing is to lose your humanity, Anton. To sully your soul, to become hardened. We’re gods here, Anton, and we need to be wiser than the gods from the legends the locals have created in their image and likeness as best they could. And yet we walk along the edge of a swamp. One wrong step—and down you go in the dirt, and you won’t be able to wash it off your whole life.”

In our utopian Earth future, observers are sent to an alien human feudal culture to observe and record history with the strict mandate of compulsory noninterference. They are sure they got this figured out — they know the stages the culture should go on its way to utopia, and prior interference attempts have been pointless. But Anton - Don Rumata in his alien disguise — can only helplessly watch feudalism sliding into fascism (and a touch Stalin/Beria feel — according to Boris Strugatsky, the antagonist Don Reba used to be Don Rebia - not so subtle anagram of Beria) for so long, seeing the theory for how things should develop not quite hold up while people are dying and are tortured and everything sliding into militant ignorance and oppression. Is impartiality in this case nothing but a callous indifference borne out of privilege?
“How I’d like to let out some of the hatred that’s accumulated over the past twenty-four hours, but it looks like I’ll have no luck. Let us remain humane, forgive everyone, and be calm like the gods. Let them slaughter and desecrate, we’ll be calm like the gods. The gods need not hurry, they have eternity ahead.”


Anton/Rumata sees this place for the backwards ignorant dirty place that it is, but also can’t help but notice its slide into a place that not only embraces base uneducated vulgar and superstitious mediocrity but also is actively targeting and stomping out any tiny sparks of progress and enlightenment, embracing first the rule of the lowest common denominator and eventually blind and intolerant theocracy. His friends are being tortured and disappeared, and he finds it harder and harder to hold on to his imperial observer mantle. And at the same time he’s recognizing with sheer horror how much easier it becomes for him to act like what’s expected of an aristocrat in Arkanar - cruel, brash, entitled, thoughtless and utterly debauched. The mask is becoming a face, and it’s terrifying and yet tempting.

And wouldn’t the *most human* reaction in this nightmare be to abandon the pretense of objectivity, to snap, to rampage, to feel helpless anger not just at those who commit the atrocities but also at those who blindly take it, who keep their heads down, find ways to eek out the meager existence and refuse to see that things can change?
“The cold-blooded brutality of those who slaughter, and the cold-blooded meekness of those who are slaughtered. The cold-bloodedness, that’s the worst thing. Ten people stand around, transfixed with horror, and meekly wait, while another one comes by, picks his victim, and cold-bloodedly slaughters him. These people’s souls are full of rot, and each hour of meek waiting contaminates them even more.”

“On the other hand, the habit of enduring and adapting turns people into dumb beasts, who differ from the animals in nothing except anatomy, and who only exceed them in helplessness. And each new day gives rise to a new horror of evil and violence.”

It’s a tough book, full of things that are unpleasant, disquieting and very uncomfortable. The observations Anton/Rumata makes are harsh and yet very true. You can’t help but feel frustration and helpless anger seeing people in the state of sheeplike submission, not only ignorant but wholeheartedly embracing that ignorance and complacency. You can’t help but feel at least some disappointment in humanity, and question seeing people as “people”, “the masses”, rather than individuals.
“He heard the storm trooper stomping indecisively behind him and suddenly caught himself thinking that insulting words and careless gestures now came naturally to him, that he was no longer playing the role of a highborn boor but had largely become one. He imagined himself like this on Earth and felt disgusted and ashamed. Why? What has happened to me? Where did it go, my nurtured-since-childhood respect and trust in my own kind, in man—the amazing creature called man? Nothing can help me now, he thought in horror. Because I sincerely hate and despise them. Not pity them, no—only hate and despise. I can justify the stupidity and brutality of the kid I just passed all I want— the social conditions, the appalling upbringing, anything at all—but I now clearly see that he’s my enemy, the enemy of all that I love, the enemy of my friends, the enemy of what I hold most sacred. And I don’t hate him theoretically, as a “typical specimen,” but him as himself, him as an individual. I hate his slobbering mug, the stink of his unwashed body, his blind faith, his animosity toward everything other than sex and booze.”

It’s a very short book that packs a lot in its pages — very economically and yet effectively. Philosophical yet engaging, and with questions to which it does not hand nicely formulated simplistically moralistic answers, but instead forces you to think and consider your own reactions and impulses, and perhaps, just like Anton, get a bit horrified at what responses come to you naturally.

Very good.

4.5 stars.

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Buddy read with Kevin.

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Also posted on my blog.

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Recommended by: Kevin Lopez
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews256 followers
June 23, 2020
DAW Collectors #126

Cover Artist: Kelly Freas

Authors: Arkadi Strugatski & Boris Strugatski

Name: Стругацкий, Аркадий Натанович?Strugatsky, Arkady Natanovich, Birthplace: Batumi, Georgia, USSR, (28 August 1925 - 12 October 1991)

Name: Стругацкий, Борис Натанович?, Birthplace: Leningrad, Russia, USSR, ( 14 April 1933 -
19 November 2012)

"Hard to Be a God" tells the story of Don Rumata, who is sent from Earth to the medieval kingdom of Arkanar with instructions to observe and to influence, but never to directly interfere. Masquerading as an arrogant nobleman, a dueler and a brawler, Don Rumata is never defeated but can never kill. With his doubt and compassion, and his deep love for a local girl named Kira, Rumata wants to save the kingdom from the machinations of Don Reba, the First Minister to the king. But given his orders, what role can he play? "Hard to Be a God" has inspired a computer role-playing game and two movies, including Aleksei German's long-awaited swan song. he book. was translated by Wendayne Ackerman, working from a German translation.


Arkanar is a backward little kingdom on a world much like Earth, a feudal despotism of a familiar kind. Don Rumata claims to be an aristocrat from Estor, a region in a distant empire far grander than Arkanar. In fact he is from Earth, now a socialist paradise or as close as anything involving humans can be to paradise, and he has stolen the identity of a dead aristocrat. His job is to mingle with the upper classes of this kingdom, recording everything around him for his superiors back on Earth. Interference is absolutely banned; worlds must be allowed to develop at their own pace.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,860 reviews1,899 followers
March 16, 2016
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Don Rumata has been sent from Earth to the medieval kingdom of Arkanar with instructions to observe and to save what he can. Masquerading as an arrogant nobleman, a dueler, and a brawler, he is never defeated, but yet he can never kill. With his doubt and compassion, and his deep love for a local girl named Kira, Rumata wants to save the kingdom from the machinations of Don Reba, the first minister to the king. But given his orders, what role can he play? This long overdue translation will reintroduce one of the most profound Soviet-era novels to an eager audience.

My Review: It's hard to review a world-famous classic. I have to think the translation is faithful because it captures a voice that lesser translators more often than not miss entirely. The standard adventure plot is fun. In common with a lot of SF written in that era, we don't get a lot of well-drawn characters; in this case only one, Don Rumata himself.

What makes this a classic, then? It would raise few eyebrows today, if it was a new publication. That it is 52 years old makes all the difference; that it is an excellent example of its niche solidifies the place History has given it.

But anyone not already caught in the tentacles of the SF Cthulhu monster might want to pass by without slowing down too much.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,393 reviews3,266 followers
February 11, 2017
Different planet, different epoch, different consciousness, different psychology – how will observers or spies or watchmen from the future Earth succeed in their mission of controlling the alien history even if it resembles so much our own medieval period of dark ages.
“In the depths of the forest, a mile away from the road, beneath an enormous tree that had dried up of old age, stood a lopsided hut made out of enormous logs, surrounded by a blackened picket fence. It had been here since the beginning of time, its door was always shut, and there were crooked idols carved from whole tree trunks around its rotting porch. This hut was the most dangerous place in the Hiccup Forest. It was said that this was the very place to which the ancient Pekh would come every twelve years to deliver his offspring, after which he would immediately crawl beneath the hut and expire, so the hut’s entire cellar was filled with black poison. And when the poison seeped out—that’s when the end would come. It was said that on stormy nights, the idols dug themselves out of the ground, came out onto the road, and signaled to passersby. And it was also said that sometimes the windows shone with unnatural light, sounds resounded through the forest, and a column of smoke reached up from the chimney to the sky.
Not long ago, Irma Kukish, a sober simpleton from the farmstead of Plenitude (in common parlance, Stinkfield) foolishly wandered by the hut at night and peered into the windows. He came home completely incoherent, and after he recovered a little, said that the hut was full of bright light and that a man with his feet on the bench sat behind a crude table and guzzled from a barrel held in one hand. The man’s face hung all the way down to his waist and was spotted all over. It was obvious that this was the Holy Míca himself, before his conversion to the faith, a polygamist, drunkard, and blasphemer. To look at him was to be afraid. A sickly sweet smell wafted out the window, and shadows moved across the trees. People gathered from all over to hear the idiot’s story. And it all ended when the storm troopers came, bent his elbows to his shoulder blades, and hustled him off to the city of Arkanar. But people still talked about the hut, and it was now called nothing but the Drunken Lair.”
This fine excerpt excellently conveys the picturesque atmosphere of the novel. And of course this exotic place is a secret base of the earthlings.
“The essence of man,” Budach said, chewing slowly, “lies in his astonishing ability to get used to anything. There’s nothing in nature that man could not learn to live with. Neither horse nor dog nor mouse has this property. Probably God, as he was creating man, guessed the torments he was condemning him to and gave him an enormous reserve of strength and patience. It is difficult to say whether this is good or bad. If man didn’t have such patience and endurance, all good people would have long since perished, and only the wicked and soulless would be left in this world. On the other hand, the habit of enduring and adapting turns people into dumb beasts, who differ from the animals in nothing except anatomy, and who only exceed them in helplessness. And each new day gives rise to a new horror of evil and violence.”
Can historical processes be changed from the outside? Do the outsiders have the moral rights to change them?
These aren’t rhetorical questions – these questions are actual here and now, in our own home world.
January 18, 2019
👃 A Smelly Medieval Times Are Smelly Buddy Read with Evgeny and Elena 👃

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

So. Take some undercover operatives/historians from a future Shangri-La-type, advanced civilization. Send them to observe and study a planet that resembles Earth in the Super Fun Middle Ages (SFMA™). Strictly forbid them to interfere with the delightfully boorish puny locals’ puny affairs, regardless of how desperate/bad/fished up/morally reprehensible/choose all that apply the situation is. What do you get? A bunch of guys with godlike-powers on the verge of a nervous breakdown.



More or less, yes. By the way, Kirkie, I hear that the whole “thou shalt not interfere, NO, though shalt NOT” business is reminiscent of your Prime Directive Thingie (PDT™). Maybe you should consider applying for a consulting job with the above-mentioned reluctant god wannabes. Looks like they could use some advice and stuff.

Our main character (real name Anton, covert name Rumata) is slightly on the brink of such a breakdown. A little. Well, the poor guy is no longer on the brink, really. He has been on this lovely feudal paradise for five years, and is positively swimming in neurasthenia. And fast developing wonderfully bipolar tendencies, too. It’s no wonder, to be honest. I mean, had I been in his place, I would have unleashed the crustaceans on those filthy, uncivilized alien lowlives (aka the “scientific specimens”) a mere five minutes after setting foot on that silly, backward planet. But Rumata has a heart, and I don’t, so he didn’t, but I would have. Oh yes, most definitely. Believe me, these medieval alien lab rats (or is it alien medieval lab rats? I forget) really deserve to die a deathly deadly death. Why, you ask? Well mostly because:

1) Their complete lack of personal hygiene is absolutely unacceptable and thoroughly revolting. (“My kingdom for a soap bar!” is reported to have said Rumata when taking his last distressfully bubble-free bath.)
2) Underwear conundrums *shudders*
3) Unwashed nymphs who reek of body odor mixed with heavy perfume (yummy).
4) Assorted, um, you know, exotic smells and stuff.



You could say that, yes.

Rumata, although concerned about these stinky predicaments, seems to be a great deal more troubled by local habits and customs I myself find quite charming and delightfully quaint: OTT violence, sex and booze, for example. Always a winning combination in my nefarious world, it is apparently not looked upon very kindly in Rumata’s Utopia-like homeland. (Some people are really weird.) Then there’s the whole, hey-why-don’t-we-turn-our-underdeveloped-medieval-paradise-into-a-feudal-facism-dreamland thingie, which I personally think is pure genius. Rumata, what with his disgusting ethics and repulsive decency, finds this a little distasteful, obviously. (The guy can be such a virtuous bore sometimes *eyeroll*) And doesn’t react too well when the local barbarian nutcases lovely natives start persecuting scientists and scholars, and basically eradicating anyone with an IQ score higher than 2. (I employed both methods myself during the Shrimpy Inquisition of 1256, and they worked wonders, just so you know. Well they worked wonders for me, obviously. Not for puny humans.)

Anyway, all this despicable shit goes down these positive changes are brought about, and they don’t really sit well with poor Rumata. How can an appallingly well-intended, principled guy like him watch these pathetic little not-so-green men feeble alien creatures be ruthlessly oppressed and callously slaughtered and not act, as he was ordered to, I ask you? Well he can’t, obviously. Hence the near-nervous breakdown, slight bipolarity and minor mental instability.



Hey, Rumata! How’s it going? Found any soap yet?

And then what happens, you ask? Rumata kinda sorta loses spoiler spoiler spoiler, and kinda sorta becomes spoiler spoiler spoiler. And then what else? Why spoiler spoiler spoiler, DUH.

Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): this is original. This is thought-provoking. This is funny. This is dramatic. This is fast-paced. And this is entertaining as fish. Need I say more? Didn’t think so.

P.S. Read the Olena Bormashenko translation of this book you must, for utterly crappy all the others are. You are most welcome.
Profile Image for Hosein.
159 reviews82 followers
January 15, 2023
توی چند ماه اخیر یکسری کتاب خیلی خونده شدن؛ ما، کارهای جورج اورل، دنیای قشنگ نو و در کل، کتاب‌هایی که یک جایی بهمون ربط پیدا می‌کنن. همیشه استقبال می‌کنم از اینکه بقیه کتاب‌های این مدلی بخونن، اما به محض اینکه خودشون رو توی داستان قرار بدن، همه چیز عوض می‌شه. شرایط دنیا و حکومت‌ها توی قرن بیست و یکم خیلی متفاوتن، حتی توی ده سال اخیر هم تفاوت زیادی درست شده. زمانی که به این آثار به عنوان چیزی جز یک داستان نگاه بشه، دقیقا همون لحظه‌ای که واقعیتمون رو باهاش بیشتر از حد ترکیب کنیم، توهم‌های خطرناکی درست می‌شه. من هر روز آدم‌هایی رو می‌بینم که مثل دن کیشوت خودشون رو توی روایت‌ها گم کردن. بیشتر وقت‌ها باعث نگرانیم میشه.

اما "خدا بودن سخت است" کاملا بحثش فرق داره، این کتاب بعد از سخنرانی خروشچف توی نمایشگاه آوانگاردها (1962) نوشته شده. من کاری ندارم که داستان کتاب چیه، چه صحبت‌های طولانیی داره که اهمیت زیادی دارن دونستنشون و...
چیزی که اهمیت داره "تاریخ" به عنوان یک اصله، چیزی که نمی‌شه تغییرش داد. تاریخ توی "خدا بودن سخت است" واقعا شبیه به یک موجود زنده‌ست که همیشه سایه‌ش روی انسان‌ها افتاده. اصلا اهمیتی نداره که توی کدوم سیاره باشه، اصلا بشریت هر جایی که شروع کنه و جلو بره، تاریخ مجبورش می‌کنه یکسری چیزهای تکراری رو بگذرونه تا به شکوه و جلال برسه. اما بخش بد اینه که همون شکوه و جلال هم ممکنه که از بین بره.

برادران استروگاتسگی اصلا قصد نداشتن مخاطب رو مجبور کنن از وارد داستان بشه و خودش رو درگیر کنه، حتی خیلی جاها به نظر میاد دارن بین مخاطب و داستان فاصله می‌ندازن. اونا می‌خوان از دید سوم شخص، یک خدا، از بالا همه چیز رو ببینه و از خودش بپرسه که باید چیکار کنه؟ دخالت کنه تا شرارت رو از بین ببره چون می‌تونه، یا اینکه هر دخالتی رو برای خودش ممنوع و اشتباه بدونه، چون نتیجه‌ش مشخص نیست.
خیلی از داستان‌های علمی تخیلی توی آینده می‌گذرن، نویسنده‌ها مفاهیمی که داشتن رو توی یک زمانی که "شاید" بهش برسیم قرار دادن. کار سختیه ولی من اعتقاد دارم به نسبت داستان‌هایی مثل خدا بودن سخت است، چندان هم پیچیده نیستن. برادران استروگاتسگی بلد بودن که خوب ببینن، خیلی دقیق‌تر از تمام نویسنده‌هایی که نظام‌های اقتدارگرا رو توصیف کردن این قضیه رو دیدن و تاریخش رو بررسی کردن. من نمی‌تونم بگم چه قدر تحسینشون می‌کنم و بهشون احترام می‌ذارم بابت این توانایی.

این کتاب خیلی سوال‌های مختلفی توی ذهنم گذاشت، بیشتر از هر کتابی (شاید دروغ بگم، سولاریس هم سطحش بود توی این قضیه) من رو ترسوند و می‌دونم تا زمانی که ذهنِ سالم و زنده‌ دارم، قراره یادش بیوفتم. اگه قصد خوندن این کتاب رو دارین، باید بگم نسخه‌ی انگلیسی و فارسی کتاب جلوم بود و خیلی‌ جاها متن رو از روی هر دوتا دیدم. مشکل اینه که مترجم انگلیسی اصلا ایده‌ای نداره رمان در مورد چیه یا چه حرفی می‌زنه، باهاش به شکلی رفتار کرده که با هر رمانِ کلاسیک سای‌فای دیگه‌ای رفتار می‌کرد. حس می‌کنم ترجمه‌ها کلمه‌به‌کلمه از روی متن روسی بودن، خیلی جاها معنی نمی‌داد. اما از اون سمت، نسخه‌ی فارسی ترجمه‌ی خوبی نداره چون به نظرم مترجم تسلط چندانی به علمی تخیلی یا فارسی نداشته، اما کاملا متوجه بوده که توی متن دنبال چی باشه و چیکار کنه. بعضی از جاها همین آشنا نبودن به علمی تخیلی یکم کار رو خراب می‌کرد، اما توی بخش قابل فهم بودن و رسوندن منظور نویسنده، فارسی بهتره.
امیدوارم یک روزی این کتاب بیشتر خونده بشه، نیازه که انسان‌های بیشتری به تاریخ و اتفاقاتی که میوفته دیدِ مناسبی پیدا کنن.
Profile Image for Becky.
85 reviews
March 1, 2011
This is one of the best books ever! It's such a unique & nuanced look at the past human and social condition, yet so relevant to the present time for both. It tells the story of a human society on another planet that is circa the middle ages in development. A group of earthlings are monitoring this society covertly and it is through the eyes of one of the earth born humans that resides amongst this society that we get a good look into the mirror of the past and into the magnifying glass of the present. What's best is that it has a fantastical feel, yet there is nothing unreal about it - other than the existence of another planet with a human society ;)

The main theme of this book and one aptly identified in the title Hard to Be a God is how the advanced human beings from earth should react to the harsh human conditions that exist within the more primitive race of humans on the planet. Should they intercept with the knowledge and technology they have in order to better their condition?

A friend pointed out to me that to truly appreciate the relevance of this story to actual human events, one only has to note the environment in which the authors lived which happened to be communist Russia. For example, parallels can be drawn between the main theme of the story and the Russian Revolution of 1917. At the time of this revolution, Russian people were inert slaves and did not participate in the revolution. The Revolution was performed by a very small group of communist revolutionists comprised of intelligentsia and ethnically oppressed minorities such as Jews, Latvians, and Poles which can lead one to surmise that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was indeed forced on the Russian people by "people from another planet”! So now consider, was interference really the right thing to do? Forced advancement of the social system within Russia (and other places) didn't necessarily succeed, though the temptation of interfering was strong and seemed right. The authors do a good job in accurately portraying this truth.

I highly recommend this book for those who love fantasy, but maybe want to read something a little more scholastic. And I highly recommend it for those in academia who don't delve too much into fantasy, but would like something creative, yet compatible with their sensibilities. The authors throw in a bit of scientific vocabulary here in there; sound philosophical observations; and seem to have a genuine ease in storytelling. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Ivana Books Are Magic.
523 reviews183 followers
August 19, 2020
Hard to Be a God is a novel with a cult following and for a good reason. It is an engaging tale set in future that questions relationship between society and an (advanced) individual. This is the second novel by Strugatsky brother that I have read with this premise. The first one was Inhabited island (Prisoners of Power). However, Inhabited island featured a protagonist who explored on his own and got strangled on another planet. Both protagonists try to improve the society they found themselves in and both are equipped with special powers. Interestingly, both individuals don't reveal that much about Earth society. In both of these novels Earth is supposed to be this perfect society but it is never described in detail- I mean just how does that society function? Is it really as perfect as it seems?

Hard to Be a God tells a tale of Anton, an Earth-man from a future society who dwells on a newly discovered planet with middle age society (feudalism). Anton dwells there for research purposes and assumes a disguise persona of a nobleman. Anton isn't the only human dwelling on the planet, there are other researchers and scientists like him. In fact, Anton and other Earth-men are expected to send information back to Earth so that future historians can examine it. There are also expected to follow strict rules, they are not to interfere with the natural development of society.

It is a novel that shows the inner battle of its protagonist Anton, who is full of doubt, both in himself and in the mankind (on both planets). Anton constantly doubts himself and his colleagues. At the start of the novel, Anton can see that things are going baldy on this planet. All the learned men are being killed and Anton is not content to stand and watch. At the same time, Anton is not sure what exactly is he supposed to do. His colleagues give him examples of Earthman who have forgotten their true identity and got mixed up in the struggles of the planet. How does one remain distant and remain a human? Anton is torn between pity for the people and his hate towards the more brute examples of this medieval society:

...“Because I sincerely hate and despise them. Not pity them, no—only hate and despise. I can justify the stupidity and brutality of the kid I just passed all I want— the social conditions, the appalling upbringing, anything at all—but I now clearly see that he’s my enemy, the enemy of all that I love, the enemy of my friends, the enemy of what I hold most sacred. And I don’t hate him theoretically, as a “typical specimen,” but him as himself, him as an individual. I hate his slobbering mug, the stink of his unwashed body, his blind faith, his animosity toward everything other than sex and booze. There he goes, stomping around, the oaf, who half a year ago was still being thrashed by a fat-bellied father in a vain attempt to prepare him for selling stale flour and old jam; he’s wheezing, the dumb lug, struggling to recall the paragraphs of badly crammed regulations, and he just can’t figure out whether he’s supposed to cut the noble don down with his ax, shout “Stop!” or just forget about it. No one will find out anyway, so he’ll forget about it, go back to his recess, stuff some chewing bark into his mouth and chew it loudly, drooling and smacking his lips. And there’s nothing that he wants to know, and there’s nothing he wants to think about.”

Hard to Be a God is a wonderful SF novel, full of interesting ideas and moral debates. My only complain would be that it ended sooner than I expected. I do appreciate the economy of the writing. A short novel can convey a lot if a writer is skillful and this one certainly does raises many interesting questions. However, I was left wanting more. I wanted to know more about the characters, about the future societies it describes and etc. I have a feeling that the novel ended mid sentence. I don't mind an ambiguous ending, but I hoped for something more towards the end. Nevertheless, this is still a great novel and one that I would recommend to everyone.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,230 reviews1,004 followers
May 12, 2014
Fascinating and important work. Published in 1964, I feel that it may have been an influence on, or at least a precursor to, many of my favorite books. I saw thematic similarities with some of Iain Banks’ Culture novels, especially Inversions, and Kage Baker’s Company series.
The story deals with a ‘deep’ agent from an advanced civilization, who is supposed to observe and record the feudal society he’s been planted in, without interfering. However, the society he’s working in is on the verge of a shift from feudalism to fascism. Purges of intellectuals are increasing, and the agent finds it harder and harder to maintain any kind of objectivity. Meanwhile, he also battles the tendency to lose sight of his identity; he finds himself becoming more and more like the callous, boorish aristocrat he is impersonating. But he also finds himself truly caring for his native lover…
There’s a lot going on in the relatively brief book. Anton, while maintaining his cover identity as Don Rumata, tries to balance his ethics against the demands of his job. His attempts to rescue the scientists and artists that he sees as the lights of hope in a dark and ignorant world make for an exciting story. But it’s also very philosophical, exploring the ramifications of a non-interference policy, the tendency toward abuse of power, and the nature of humanity.
It’s very interesting to see science-fiction themes which I’ve seen explored from American and European perspectives many times from the point of view of Russian authors. Here, the advanced, peaceful and free society which the researchers are from is, of course, one where the ideals of communism have come to full fruition. I wished I could see more of that world – and may have to seek out some of the Strugatsky brothers’ other books to explore further. However, their vision is not all starry-eyed: the world of Arkanar and its Inquisitorial brutalities are very clearly parallel to abuses and purges from Russia’s history.
Highly recommended – both as a great reading experience, and for anyone interested in the various facets of science fiction as a genre.

Copy provided by NetGalley - thanks for bringing this book to my attention! As always, my opinion is purely my own.
Profile Image for Nilüfer.
2 reviews1,058 followers
July 20, 2017
"Bütün belalar, kardeşler, bütün belalar şu okumuşlardan çıkıyor! Önce gelmiş parayla saadet olmaz, diyorlar, sonra köylü dediğin de insan evladıdır; sonra küfre varan maniler, peşinden ayaklanma... Hepsini asacaksın bunların, kardeş! Mesela ben olsam ne mi yapardım? Evvela sorardım: Okuman yazman var mı? Öyleyse doğru darağacına!"
666 reviews87 followers
April 11, 2013
It's intelligent, and philosophical, and it makes you angry, and it makes you think, and it makes you hope.

It involves a planet which is in a Medieval stage of development, so Earth sends in "on the ground" observers for study purposes, who are trained to blend in. The thing is, what to a researcher on Earth "interesting development, 200 people got killed in a routine feudal coup," to the person on the ground are his friends dying. Yet, they cannot interfere, shortcircuit the curse of history and give (e.g.) the more enlightened guys guns, as that would result in more death, more innocent people (only different ones) dying.

But does standing back make you less human? When you start to see people not as individuals but as masses, there's a problem. The main character, Anton, is probably one of my favorite fictional characters ever, and the end? Wow. You see him fall apart more and more during the book, as he witnesses more and more events he knows he should not interfere in, but is morally repulsed to let proceed. He is a good man, whose humanity is outraged more and more daily, and he is teetering on the edge of losing it the whole book, But there is also no question that if he did not act, he would forfeit a claim to his own humanity, because it would be inhuman not to have a snapping point. And of course his actions do not make it better.

The book really does make a point that people as people, matter. For example, Kira is not even a blip in a history book, she didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But of course, she was the world to Anton, And every person who died in any of these events historians record, routine palace coups, book burnings, little wars, really mattered to somebody. But, and that's why I love it, interference does not make it better for others. These people are not ready for modernity. Interference allows you to save your own humanity, but no more. I don't know how something so hopeless comes across as so hopeful, but it does.

Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,007 followers
November 8, 2015
I was fascinated by the sound of this when I came across it in the library, because I really liked Roadside Picnic, and because the foreword mentions parallels with Star Trek and Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels. However, I found this… pretty much unreadable. There’s a sort of opaqueness I associate with reading Russian novels in translations, but in spades. Supposedly, this translation is much more readable than the old one, which was done via German, but… if that’s the case, I hate to think what the old one was like.

It’s really disappointing, honestly, because the foreword makes it sound interesting, it’s blurbed by Ursula Le Guin, and the parallels mentioned are there. But I couldn’t even hold onto the meaning of the action — why did this character say that, what was the significance of that…

I might try again at some other time, maybe with the other translation, or with some future translation. The setting itself — being fairly traditional-fantasy-esque — doesn’t bother me, and I did, as I said, enjoy Roadside Picnic. Hm.

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Milo.
40 reviews116 followers
April 25, 2011
I have been delaying this review for a while now. I wanted to do the Strugatsky's justice but I just haven't been able to come up with anything intelligent or witty to relate to you in honor of their work. All I can say is read the book, you won't regret it.

The Story

It starts off very symbolically with some kids playing on a one way street; this mirrors evolution and history. All these things flow in one direction and travel along with their own unalterable velocities. Now lets suppose that evolution follows a linear course. Every planet capable of housing life develops similar lifeforms as our Earth with the primates ultimately adapting into primitive versions of the human race. We superior humans, who have attained the pinnacle of perfection, ship some of our own off to these developing planets to observe and indirectly help speed along the progress of the various indigenous peoples.

And so the story begins. Anton is covertly trying to further the medieval age humans with his fellow comrades. They quickly discover that evolution does not come as easily to a people who aren't ready for it. If fact the social evolution of these alien civilizations worked in the opposite direction than they had initially thought. The ignorance and prejudices of the day work against them while the effects of culture shock begin mounting. After several years spent in vain Anton begins seeing the people as little more than savages fit for being abandoned or destroyed. His mental condition gently starts to deteriorate as he spends time in a vastly different environment than he is accustomed to. He yearns for his home planet but must fulfill his responsibility to the people. It truly is hard to be a god, he realizes.

The Writing

One word. Seamless.
The Strugatsky combo of Boris and Arkady is so dynamic and well-meshed that I had no idea when I made the transition from one writers work to then next. I have read many works written by dual authors and it has always been relatively simple to spot the parts where one author passed the pen to the other. Not so with Boris and Arkady! (Maybe it's solely a brother/sister thing) Another thing that I always find pleasing is the structure of the sentences in stories originally written in Russian. There was something distinct added to the story when long flowing sentences were used to depict the thoughts of the author. I find this to generally be the sign of talented Russians writers.

Final Summation: I promise you'll like this book. If you don't it's short so you won't hate me too much.


Profile Image for David.
826 reviews27 followers
April 7, 2017
I've waited a long time to read this book, due to its rarity and price, but it was thankfully recently republished and I had to get my hands on it, being such a fan of Soviet science-fiction and the Strugatsky brothers in particular (Roadside Picnic... So good).

This novel imagines that Earth achieved perfect Communism, and the Moscow Historical Society sends agents out to other worlds to guide the development of the human condition with a subtle invisible hand. The protagonist, Don Rumata, is one such cosmonaut/agent, and discovers it is indeed 'Hard to be a God,' watching in dismay as the intelligentsia and dissident ideas are destroyed by the forces of Don Reba (originally Don Rebia, an all too obvious anagram of the infamous Beria of the USSR). I love that the Strugatsky brothers were able to publish such brilliant and incisive literature in a repressive communist society under the guise of criticizing feudalism's treatment of freedom of speech, the fate of freethinkers, innovators, and the intelligentsia.

The book also provides room for philosophical thought, as Don Rumata talks with a persecuted doctor/thinker about what he would ask God to do about the problem of evil and the human condition, with Rumata playing the role of God explaining why each well-intentioned intervention would ultimately fail. Another philosophical conversation follows Don Rumata's conversation with 'Arata the Beautiful,' a man fighting for freedom from tyranny and oppression who asks Rumata to provide him with the proverbial 'fire from heaven' with which to strike down all the oppressors. Once again, Rumata realizes his limitations as a God, and though Arata was a man before his time, he could not oblige his request; causing Arata to tell Rumata that it would be better if he and his comrades had never come at all.


A wonderful novel about oppression, the human condition, evil, satire, and imagination.
Profile Image for Велислав Върбанов.
327 reviews24 followers
February 3, 2023
„Трудно е да бъдеш Бог“ е изключително въздействаща книга! За мен, това е гениален и многопластов роман, в който е събрана страшно много мъдрост... Аркадий и Борис Стругацки напълно заслужено са смятани за едни от най- големите фантасти! В своите книги те влагат невероятно силни послания към цялото човечеств��, както и разсъждават върху важните житейски теми...

На пръв поглед „Трудно е да бъдеш Бог“ е приключенска фантастика – тъжна „мускетарска история“, повлияна от творчеството на Александър Дюма. Обаче, в нея читателите са въведени в доста мрачното и тягостно Средновековие на далечна планета, където цари абсолютен феодализъм, насилие и безпросветност... На място, където всички интелигентни хора биват преследвани и убивани, понеже от гледна точка на властимащите представляват опасност. Училището там съществува, само колкото да бъдат създавани пос��ушни войници, защото за поддържането на тази зловеща система са нужни верни, но не и разумни хора. Земята по това време е много напреднала, нашето човечество е постигнало по някакъв начин мир и хармония... но не иска да се намесва директно в развитието на изостаналата планета! Изпратени са няколко наблюдатели, които да се опитват да помогнат индиректно в развитието на тамошнното население, както и да спасяват доколкото е възможно разумните жители, преди да бъдат избити от насилниците.

„Трудно е да бъдеш Бог“ разглежда изключително важни проблеми, като невъзможността да помогнеш на общество, което не желае да осъзнае своите слабости и в което всеки е сам за себе си... Основен персонаж в тази тъжна приказка е Дон Румата – Земен човек, който живее в Арканар под прикритието на благородник, като измъква от ръцете на монархията разумните жители. Живеейки от години в това общество, той се бори както със Сивите и най-опитния и алчен за власт интригант Дон Реба, така и със себе си, внимавайки да не се превърне в звяр като тях. Което не е трудно да се случи в тези тъмни и лишени от разум времена... Румата решава да отиде в Двореца, за да измъкне от там стария Будах, като по този начин навлиза в сериозни опасности...

Освен силно поучителна фантастика, тази творба на братята Стругацки е и страхотна критика към съветския режим! През годините на цензурата, налагана от тоталитарната държава, научната фантастиката е била начинът, чрез който по завоалиран начин да изкажеш своето мнение! Посланието на братя Стругацки в „Трудно е да бъдеш Бог“ са много хуманни, също както и в друга тяхно великолепно произведение – „Пикник край пътя“. Въпреки сериозните теми, които засяга, книгата е завладяваща вниманието и се чете лесно! Надявам се повече хора да се потопят в нейната непреходна мъдрост...




„Свършено, помисли си Румата. Цялата история свърши. Винаги по един и същ начин. Проверка, предпазливо разменяне на двусмислени приказки... По цели седмици се блъскаш с глупави брътвежи с разни отрепки, а когато срещнеш истински човек, няма време да си поговориш с него. Трябва да го укриеш, да го спасиш, да го изпратиш на безопасно място, а той си отива, без дори да разбере дали е имал работа с приятел или с някой капризен чудак. Пък и ти нищо не си научил за него. Какво иска, какво може, за какво живее...“
Profile Image for [P].
145 reviews497 followers
October 4, 2015
One of the things that makes alien contact attractive is the possibility of interacting with a species more advanced than our own. Outside of films, whenever we think of aliens we tend to see them as superior beings, with great knowledge to impart, more sophisticated technology, etc. In the Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic the Russian brothers cleverly played on this idea, with the visitors being completely disinterested in human beings, suggesting, you might argue, a kind of haughtiness in their attitude towards us. But what if it is not the case? What if contact was made and it turned out that we are actually the more advanced species? Looking around me, that strikes me as really quite a depressing thought.

In any case, this is the situation in Hard to be a God, only the alien planet is not simply primitive, relative to earth, but is essentially earth with the clock turned back thousands of years to the middle ages. Upon discovery of this planet human beings have taken to sending observers to live amongst the natives. The reason for this never seems particularly clear, but it is stressed to these people that their task is limited to observation, that they must not interfere or intervene, and they certainly should not reveal their purpose or real identity. Most of the agents find these rules easy enough to stick to, with the notable exception being Rumata [earth name Anton].

For me, this is one of the great existential novels, with Rumata's emotional and intellectual crisis being as intense, and unrelenting, as any of Dostoevsky’s antiheroes. His role, or part, is as a womanising nobleman and dangerous, expert swordsman. In this he fails, not only because he isn’t allowed to kill anyone, but also because he cannot bear to sleep with any of the native women, who are not prone to bathing. More interestingly, he is a superior, more evolved being, who every day is forced to live amongst, to confront, the barbarous, drunken, and primitive. Moreover, the city is run by the tyrannical Don Reba, who plots and kills, and generally brutalises the locals, paying particular attention to the literate, who are captured and hung. It is in relation to this that one begins to understand the significance of the title.

description
[From Aleksei German’s film adaptation of the book]

Rumata is the God [in fact numerous characters believe him to be divine] who has the power and knowledge to alter what is happening, even put a stop to it altogether. The dilemma that he faces is a theological one, is one that is generally thought to be God’s. Think about how often you hear people cussing God, criticising Him for not doing something to prevent certain tragedies. When bad things happen He is charged with not caring, with abandoning his children. The counter argument is that if you force people to be good, then goodness essentially becomes meaningless, and if you stop all disasters, if only positive things ever happen, you prevent people from learning through adversity. God, it is said, created free will, and created the world, and then left us all to it, come what may, and this is the best thing for us. These are some of the issues Hard to be a God asks you to consider.

Furthermore, Rumata is aware that he cannot make people enlightened. He could remove Don Reba, he could save individual lives [and he does], but this will actually change nothing, or very little, because the people will still be primitive. On this, I was put in mind of certain conflicts, which are deemed humanitarian, whereby the UK and/or US government has invaded countries and sought to remove a tyrannical regime, with Iraq being the most obvious example. I’m not, I ought to point out, calling Iraqis primitive, but there are parallels between that situation and Hard to be a God, as both raise questions about how much of a responsibility do we have to protect other nations, and how worthwhile is it if you cannot guarantee that the people will accept the new conditions and way of living? There is, moreover, something of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness about the Strugatsky’s book, in that there is a certain arrogance in going into another country [or planet, in this instance] and negatively judging it against your own. In fact, Hard to be a God could be interpreted as a comment on colonial arrogance, because it suggests that perhaps ‘uncivilised’ countries ought to be left alone, be allowed to develop and work things out on their own.

“And no matter how much the gray people in power despise knowledge, they can’t do anything about historical objectivity; they can slow it down, but they can’t stop it.”


It ought to be clear by now that this is a weighty, complex book. I have in this review really only tentatively jabbed at all the fascinating themes and ideas contained with in it [I haven’t, for example, discussed the cyclical nature of history]. However, one thing that does demand some attention is the theory that Hard to be a God is political allegory, that the world it describes is really Russia in the 1960’s, the decade in which it was written. This is given weight by the Strugatsky’s themselves, who claimed to have started the book as a kind of Three Musketeers in Space-type historical romp, only to change their minds. They did so, it is said, due to fears that the death of Stalin, and 'the thaw' that followed, had done little to change the climate of the country, that artists and their art were still under attack, would be suppressed etc. Yet while there is clearly some of this in the book – specifically Don Reba’s hatred for writers and the literate – I feel it is reaching somewhat to suggest that this is the real or primary focus.

Before finishing I want to briefly touch upon a couple of negatives, one more serious than the other. The first is that Hard to be a God is essentially plotless, and pretty repetitive. You will, I’m sure, have your own tolerance levels where this sort of thing is concerned, but it didn’t particularly bother me. More of an issue was the ending, which felt rushed to me. It was as though the Strugatsky’s had simply taken on too much, too many big questions, and couldn’t figure out how to neatly tie up their narrative, and so it ends at an arbitrary point. Yet while this is a criticism it is, in a way, also a kind of compliment too, because I wanted the book to be longer, I wanted another couple of hundred pages so that we [the reader and the authors] could really, fully ride this engrossing and challenging story out and so achieve a more natural and rewarding conclusion.
Profile Image for Paul Sánchez Keighley.
149 reviews90 followers
July 2, 2021
A thoroughly satisfying, creative and intelligent book.

This is a book about history made even more interesting by the fact that it’s told through a Marxist lens. This is what I want when I read books from other cultures; books that give me an insight into other ideologies or ways of thinking. I’m tired of Soviet writers idolised in the West because they secretly disparaged against the regime. I get it. Now give me a stiff glass of Soviet bardcore sci-fi!

I might as well add I came to this book by way of the Aleksei German film adaptation, a film I would only recommend to seasoned cinephiles, as it’s a three-hour-long black-and-white mostly atmospheric and borderline incomprehensible Russian monstrosity. The book, on the other hand, while still revolting and plot-thin, is a light and riveting read, especially in this new translation by Olena Bormashenko (older translations are reportedly terrible).

The premise is brilliant and perfectly executed. In the far future, Earth has become a Communist utopia, and when man sets out to explore the stars, they discover human life is developing on other planets as well. Observers are then sent to supervise and study the evolution of history on these other planets as they make their slow but (according to Marxist theory) inexorable way towards Communism.

All this is mere context and hardly mentioned. They don’t milk the fact that our hero is a future spaceman on a primitive alien planet. And that’s great. The focus of the story is on this man’s immersion into local society and it wouldn’t be half as effective if it kept making spacey sci-fi remarks.

From the get-go, we are thrown in media fucking res into the messy, strinking, muddy, bloody, drunken cesspool that is Arkanar, a city stuck in the mediaeval ages. The book follows the day-to-day life of our observer, posing as a local baron, as he does his best to not intervene while he watches the godless turmoil of history in motion.

Most interesting of all is the character study of the villain, don Reba, a thinly veiled personification of Beria, the depraved, double-crossing minister of Internal Affairs under Stalin.
He emerged out of some musty basement of the palace bureaucracy three years ago, a petty, insignificant functionary, obsequious and pallid, with an almost bluish tint to his skin. Soon the then-First Minister was suddenly arrested and executed, a number of horror-stricken and bewildered officials died during torture, and this tenacious, ruthless genius of mediocrity grew like a pale fungus on their corpses.

Damn that’s good. And the echoes of the chaos following Stalin’s death make for a wonderful piece of hidden nerdfuel.

Will read more by the Strugatsky bros. Love it, love it, love it.
Profile Image for Dato Kvaratskhelia.
60 reviews22 followers
April 26, 2017
"ხანდახან მეჩვენება, რომ არავის არაფერი შეგვიძლია, მეამბოხეთა მარადიული მეთაური ვარ და ვიცი, რომ მთელი ჩემი ძალა არაჩვეულებრივი ამტანობაა. მაგრამ ეს ძალა ჩემს უძლურებას ვერაფერს შველის. ჩემი გამარჯვებები რაღაც ჯადოსნური ძალის წყალობით დამარცხებებად იქცევა ხოლმე. თანამებრძოლები მტრები ხდებიან, ყველაზე მამაცები გარბიან, ყველაზე ერთგულები მღალატობენ ან გაქცევით შველიან თავს. და არაფერი გამაჩნია შიშველი ხელების გარდა, შიშველი ხელებით კი ვერ მისწვდები ციხესიმაგრის კედლების მიღმა წამომსხდარ მოოქრულ კერპებს.."

"ჩვენს საქმეში ნახევრად მეგობრობა შეუძლებელია, ნახევრად მეგობარი ყოველთვის ნახევრად მტერია."
Profile Image for Maria Dobos.
108 reviews43 followers
July 20, 2017
Ooof... Puține sunt cărțile care mă învăluie în disperare, dezamăgire, absurditate și... greață. Greață față de mizeria care colcăie în oameni, față de cruzimea, egoismul, indiferența și bestialitatea macabră care le întunecă sufletul.

Într-un viitor nedefinit, Anton, specialist al Institutului de Istorie Experimentală de pe Pământ, călătorește spre o altă planetă cu misiunea de a-i observa pe locuitorii acesteia, fără a interveni în evoluția generală a societății. In această lume cenușie și fără de speranță, Anton devine Don Rumata, un nobil feudal a cărui avere îi permite să se strecoare în cele mai înalte cercuri ale guvernării. Captiv într-o societate mizerabilă în care cărturarii, doctorii, poeții și artiștii sunt vânați, torturați și sfârtecați cu sălbăticie de către "Cenușii", garda de securitate a regelui,(Nu avem nevoie de deștepți. Avem nevoie doar de oameni devotați.), Don Rumata este sfâșiat în permanență între dorința de a-i salva pe cei din jur, de a-i elibera de suferința și groaza care bântuie ținutul și datoria sa, ordinele pe care trebuie să le respecte.

Avem nervi minunați: știm să nu întoarcem capul când cineva este bătut măr sau executat. Avem o incredibilă stăpânire de sine: suntem capabili să rezistăm la efuziunile unor cretini iremediabili. Am uitat și de silă, suntem mulțumiți de vasele care de obicei sunt date câinilor să fie linse, apoi, pentru ca acestea să arate totuși frumos, le ștergem cu poalele hainelor jegoase. Am devenit niște monumente de impersonalitate, nici măcar în somn nu mai rostim limbile Pământului.

In mijlocul acestei lumi ce amenință să-i strivească sufletul pentru totdeauna, Anton are cunoștințele și puterea care ar putea schimba soarta a mii de oameni. Măcinat de îndoieli, cuprins de deznădejde, sufocat de mediocritatea care îl înconjoară, Don Rumata se străduiește să salveze câte o fărâmă din umanitatea rătăcită a Arkanarului, pune la cale eliberarea unui doctor, ușurează evadarea unor învățați, finanțează actele de rebeliune sau negociază răscumpărarea unor cărturari. Dar fiecare act de bunătate se pierde în vâltoarea Râului, în mizeria și indiferența de fiecare zi... Unde e scăparea?

...toţi, aproape fără excepţie, nu erau încă oameni în sensul contemporan al cuvântului, nu erau decât nişte lingouri, nişte piese brute din care numai secolele sângeroase ale istoriei vor şlefui cândva un om mândru, cu adevărat liber. Erau pasivi, lacomi, inimaginabil de egoişti. Din punct de vedere psihologic erau aproape cu toţii nişte sclavi – sclavi ai credinţei, sclavi ai semenilor lor, sclavi ai patimilor şi ai cupidității. Şi dacă printr-un capriciu al sorţii careva dintre ei se năştea sau ajungea stăpân, nu știa cum să profite de libertatea lui. Se grăbea iarăşi să devină un prizonier – rob al bogăției, al exagerărilor nenaturale, al prietenilor depravați, rob al robilor săi.

Lăsând deoparte macabrul Universului creat, consistența narativă și abilitatea fraților Strugatski de a-și amesteca cititorii în gândurile personajului este uluitoare, pagină după pagină simți suferința, iminența dezastrului, claustrofobia și lipsa de speranță. Cu toate că elementele de science fiction se pierd destul de ușor în contextul general al romanului, secvențele introspective și armonia stilului compensează destul de ușor aceste aspecte, cel puțin pentru mine; în cele din urmă, totul depinde de așteptările cititorului.

A trecut ceva timp de când nu m-a mai apăsat o carte atât de îngrozitor.
Profile Image for Stacey.
631 reviews
June 29, 2014
Written by two Russian brothers in the mid-20th century in response to political pressure on art and artistic works under Khrushchev, Hard to be a God is about one man's struggle with the questions of how far to go to save others and live by his moral code, and if he can observe without interfering.

The main character in this novel, known mostly as Don Rumata, is a 'historian' who has been placed on a more primitive world to live in and observe the feudal culture that exists there. In kind of a Truman Show way, a camera placed in a gold circlet on his head reports everything he sees, his interactions, the daily life of the people. This culture that he witnesses is a mix of medieval feudalism and 20th century totalitarianism, with secret police and attacks on literate, artistic individuals - writers, poets, artists, musicians, scientists, philosophers, etc.

The story kind of drops its readers in the midst of Don Rumata's work. He's been an undercover historian for some time, and has been made sick to his soul by the atrocities committed under the oppressive regime. His dilemma: ordered to observe and never interfere, he feels compelled to rescue the members of the intelligentsia that he can. His role as don, or noble, is to drink and fool around with other dons and ladies, and he finds the company of the other nobles stultifying and dull. When he's not carousing, he tries to avoid the grey police, the ones who arrest and hang the 'bookworms,' as the intelligentsia are called.

This novel explores several interesting issues, such as political control of art and science and intellect, how totalitarian regimes affect their subjects, what sparks rebellion, when to prevent (or not at all) abuse, and what consequences acting "for the greater good" might have. In general, these issues aren't explored deeply, but the novel does pose the questions, leaving it up to the readers to think about it further. There is a thesis - that stifling art and science and culture ruins individuals' lives, but more importantly it destroys the society as a whole.

As a science fiction novel, I enjoyed Hard to be a God. It's a mix of bleakness and humor, action and silliness. The premise is interesting: sending 'operatives' to other, less-developed worlds, to study the cultures and societies that live there. The world-building is unique and convincing, a mix of Spanish and Russian cultures, medieval society and mid-century communism that have taken on their own characteristics and become a grey, depressing, and dangerous civilization.

I struggled with the only female characters - one, an unscrupulous and promiscuous woman who, it is implied, "deserved what she got," and the weak saint, who is helpless without the main character and so honest and simple and true and everything else. Clearly, we have the Madonna and the whore stereotypes here, and no other female characters to balance them out. The characterizations of women are weak, insubstantial, and decidedly unoriginal.

The other thing I found difficult was how distanced I felt from the story. For whatever reason, I never felt fully engaged or absorbed. Don Rumata's difficulties were thought-provoking, but the immediacy of the action was filtered too heavily by his narration. Additionally, it seemed like a clip had been taken from Don Rumata's life and work as an operative. As readers, we never really learn about how it was for him before the events that take place in the book. The context of his own life is hard to perceive.

Overall, this book gives readers an interesting glimpse into classic science fiction from Russia. If you're looking for a diverse perspective, that would definitely qualify. An adventurous, dark tale that questions the results of totalitarianism, it is not difficult to read. I would recommend this book for fans of classic science fiction and more literary science fiction.

See my post on The Book Adventures for read-alikes.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,194 reviews176 followers
March 10, 2019
Не знам как изобщо са издали книгата в СССР. Доста смели са били и издателите, не само Братята Стругацки.

Това е книга за смелостта и какво всъщност значи да си смел: да се въздържиш от каквато и да е намеса в един побъркан и закостенял свят - въпреки, че всичко в теб крещи, или да се хвърлиш с главата напред без изгледи за оцеляване, защото иначе вече спираш да си човек.

Има си любов, интриги и битки, всичко както си трябва за фантастика, не е претоварено с философия, при това не е тухла, част от безкрайна поредица. Красота!
Profile Image for Merl Fluin.
Author 6 books42 followers
July 23, 2021
Damn, this was tough.

The whole book is one long howl of despair and disgust. Not in a this-is-elegantly-bleak way, but in an oh-jesus-please-make-it-stop way. Even the slapstick "light relief" passages are dispiriting.

It's a deep tribute to the Strugatskys' skill when I say I just couldn't bear it. Yeah, thanks fellas for making me feel something of what it was like to be an artist in the USSR in the 1960s. And double thanks for making me feel the parallels with what's happening in the world in general lately.

Now please excuse me while I go and scream into a bucket.
Profile Image for Tuncer Şengöz.
Author 6 books225 followers
May 20, 2016
Pushkin'den Gogol'e, Dostoyevski'den Tolstoy'a kadar Rus edebiyatının hangi büyük yazarını okursanız okuyun, elinizdeki kitabın kapağını kapattığınızda midenize bir yumruk yemiş gibi oluyorsunuz.

İlginç roman kahramanları, zihninizde derin izler bırakan diyaloglar, beklenmedik olaylar, felsefi sorgulamalar ve edebiyatı yaşamlarımızda önemli ve değerli kılan her bir unsur...

Büyük çalkantılarla geçen 19. yüzyılın ve 20. yüzyılın ilk yarısından sonra Rus edebiyatı durulur gibi olur. 2. Dünya Savaşı'nın insan ruhlarında açtığı derin yaraların üstüne bir de Stalin'in ürkütücü gölgesi düşer. Rus edebiyatının son büyük yazarları da tarih sahnesinden çekilir ve Rus edebiyatı kuraklaşmaya başlar.

İşte tam bu dönemde, 1960'larda Strugatski kardeşler sahneye çıkarlar. Boris ve Arkadiy Strugatski Kardeşler 1961 yılından itibaren Noon evreni serisini kaleme alırlar. Zor Şey Tanrı Olmak, bu serinin 5. kitabı. Serinin diğer kitaplarını okumadığım için, bu romanın diğer kitaplarla ilgisini bilmiyorum. Ancak Zor Şey Tanrı Olmak, bağımsız bir roman olarak okunabiliyor.

***Spoiler***



1964 yılında yazılan bu romanın, simgesel olarak Sovyet devriminin ve Sovyet sisteminin bir yorumu ve eleştirisi olduğu yorumunu yapanlar var. Gerçekten de Strugatski kardeşler satır aralarında hep şu soruları soruyorlar: Toplumların gelişimi doğal akışına mı bırakılmalı, yoksa tarihin akışı (Sovyet devriminde olduğu gibi) zorlanmalı mı? Tarihin akışı zorlanırsa "ideal toplum" hedefine ulaşım gecikir mi?

Müthiş etkileyici diyalogların ve paragrafların olduğu bu roman Türkçe'ye oldukça iyi çevrilmiş, ancak bazı bölümleri okurken, yazarların anlatmak istediklerinin çok iyi yansıtılamadığını düşünmeden edemedim.

İlaveten, Türk okurlarının çok yabancı olduğu Sovyet bilim kurgusu ile ilgili bir tanıtım yazısı iyi olurdu diye düşünüyorum. Kitabın yeni baskılarında bu tanıtım yazsının yer almasını umuyorum.
Profile Image for Alex.
89 reviews
April 26, 2012
To those who read *that crappy SCI-FI jazz* in quest to run away
From grim reality of life - I must, in truth, to say
This piece is not, my friends, at all your regular fantastic tale
It is much deeper, it was written to unveil
How cruel, ignorant, barbaric we still are - at large, as Human Race
How progress strides its winding roads in slow, painful pace

1. Memorable 5
2. Social Relevance 5
3. Informative 3
4. Originality 5
5. Thought Provoking 5
6. Expressiveness 4
7. Entertaining 5
8. Visualization 2
9. Sparks Emotion 5
10. Life Changing (Pivotal, crucial, determining, defining, momentous, fateful, consequential, climacteric, transformational) 1

5,5,3,5,5,4,5,2,5,1 ======>> 40/10 = 4.0

http://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/51...

http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A2%D...

One of the reviews, which I have seen, says that the mission was "to help speed along the progress of the various indigenous peoples".
To clarify above, as I recall it, the book says that the mission was ONLY to watch and that interference with the natural historical and social development on that planet was strictly prohibited (with the exception to allow some concealed limited humanitarian actions in saving lives of artists and scientists).
It is important to stress that Strugatskys did not mean "active" "hands-on" God - they meant the God, who never interferes and instead only observes - and that is WHY for humans it is hard to be such a God!

Probably it is also hard (;-) ) for English language reviewers to appreciate the enormous amount of humor encapsulated in this book, which is probably lost in translation. Here is the example of such humor ...

`Румата перенес отца Кабани на скрипучие нары, стянул с него башмаки, повернул на правый бок и накрыл облысевшей шкурой какого-то давно вымершего животного. При этом отец Кабани на минуту проснулся. Двигаться он не мог, соображать тоже. Он ограничился тем, что пропел несколько стихов из запрещённого к распеванию светского романса "Я как цветочек аленький в твоей ладошке маленькой", после чего гулко захрапел.`
АБС "Трудно быть Богом"

`Rumata moved father Kabani on squeaky bunk, pulled off his shoes, turned on the right side and covered the bald skin of some long-extinct animal. At this point, the father Kabani for a moment awakened. He could not move and had not an ability to think. He contented himself by vocalizing several verses from the prohibited to sing secular romance "I am like a scarlet flower in your little palm", then began to snore loudly.`
ABS "Hard to Be God"
Profile Image for Ezgi Tülü.
420 reviews1,111 followers
April 3, 2018
Rumata yolun yarısını gözleri kapalı yürüdü. Aldığı her nefesle canı yanıyordu adeta. Bunlar insan olabilir miydi? İnsana ait ne kalmıştı bunlarda? Kimilerini sokaklarda kılıçlarla biçmişlerdi, diğerleriyse evlerinde oturuyor ve uysallıkla sıralarının gelmesini bekliyorlardı. Ve her biri, kimin canını alırlarsa alsınlar, yeter ki beni esirgesinler, diye düşünüyordu. Kılıç sallayanların soğukkanlı zalimliği, kılıçlarda biçilenlerin soğukkanlı uysallığı. Soğukkanlılık; en korkuncu da bu. On kişi, korkudan donmuş, uysalca bekliyorlar; sonra biri yanaşıyor, kurbanını seçiyor ve soğukkanlılıkla biçiyor onu. Bu insanların ruhları çürümüş, uysallıkla bekledikleri her saat, onları da da zehirliyor. Korkuyla sinmiş olan bu evlerde alçaklar, muhbirler, katiller, hayatları boyunca korkuyla zehirlenmiş olarak kalacak binlerce insan doğuyor, bunlar çocuklarına, onlar da kendi çocuklarına merhametsizce öğretecekler dehşeti. Daha fazla dayanamıyorum. Biraz daha devam edersem aklımı yitireceğim, onlar gibi olacağım, neden burada bulunduğumu bile anlamaz olacağım... Kendime gelmeliyim, bütün bunlara arkamı dönüp sakinleşmeliyim...

Akarsu yılının sonunda -yeniçağın şu-şu senesinde- merkezkaç kuvvetleri eski imparatorlukta belirginleşmeye başladı. Bundan yararlanan, esasen feodal toplumun en gerici gruplarının menfaatlerini temsil etmekte olan Kutsal Nişan, çözülmeyi her türden araçla durdurma girişimi sırasında... Ama şu kazıkların üzerindeki sıcak cesetler nasıl korkuyordu, biliyor musunuz? Sokağın tozu içinde, karnı yarılmış yatan çıplak bir kadın gördünüz mü hiç? İnsanların sustuğu, sadece kargaların gakladığı şehirleri gördünüz mü?
Profile Image for Şahin Kalkay.
55 reviews9 followers
April 14, 2018
Sovyet bilim kurgusunun bir tanrısı olsaydı, iki başlı olurdu herhalde. Adı da Strugatsky tabiki...
Profile Image for Austra.
601 reviews72 followers
January 13, 2020
Tas bija ļoti, ļoti, ļoti garlaicīgi. Neinteresants stāsts un neinteresanti varoņi, kuriem nespēju just līdzi tieši necik, spēju tikai gaidīt beigas. Sākumā vēl cerēju, ka ar laiku varbūt kļūst interesantāk, jo Elīna šo bija pamatīgi salielījusi. Protams, tēmas darbā ir pietiekami aktuālas arī šodienai, bet nu izpildījums pilnīgs naftalīns, un tāds tas droši vien bija arī sešdesmitajos gados, tikai tad bija mazāka konkurence. Grāmatas pēcvārds izskaidro, kā viņi dabūja šo gabalu cauri tajos laikos, jo daži no tiem viedokļiem gan jau varēja pagādāt vienvirziena biļeti uz Tālajiem Ziemeļiem.
Profile Image for Aysel HALLAÇOĞLU .
44 reviews7 followers
February 20, 2019
Bilim kurgu hiç tarzım olmadığı halde kitabın yarısından sonra başlayan felsefe,sosyoloji beni kitaba bağladı. Hümanist Rumata seni çok sevdim. Belki de dünyayı bir kurtarırsa Don Rumata kurtarır diye umutlandığım içindir.
Profile Image for Santiago.
689 reviews
December 27, 2019
7.25/10

El clásico dilema de la ciencia ficción envuelto en una gratificante aventura medieval: ¿Puede o debe el observador de una civilización menos avanzada que la propia inmiscuirse e intervenir en el desarrollo y destino de la observada? Una novela escrita en 1963 tras el telón de acero en la que, sin perder de vista el debido objetivo de sano entretenimiento, la carga política, irónica y reivindicativa frente al capitalismo y toda suerte de totalitarismos, incluido —o sobre todo— el régimen comunista opresivo bajo el que vivían los autores, se hace evidente y tan actual hoy como entonces. El progreso humano ha sido demasiadas veces acompañado de violencia y sangre, pero ¿es algo inevitable? El conocimiento ha sido algo a temer por parte de las élites dirigentes, algo a reprimir entre el pueblo, pero ¿podría haber sido de otra manera? ¿Puede la Historia evolucionar por otros caminos menos tortuosos o es unidireccional y está condenada a escalar siempre unos mismos escalones hasta alcanzar el ideal? Volviendo a la pregunta inicial, básica en la novela, ¿debe quién más sabe instruir a los que están por debajo de él? En una obra que se anticipa a la Directiva principal de Star Trek, los hermanos Strugatsky no van a ofrecer respuestas sencillas, sino que construyen una gratificante y en ocasiones estremecedora reflexión sobre el poder y las repercusiones de su uso indiscriminado.

Reseña completa en Sagacomic:
https://sagacomic.blogspot.com/2019/1...
Profile Image for Simon Hollway.
154 reviews9 followers
October 18, 2014
Oh dear. Roadside Picnic is an astonishing novel - Hard to be a God is a shocking misfire. Maybe it was the new translation only just released - 2014 Bormashenko translation published by Chicago Review Press. As soon as I smacked up against the word 'ballyhooed', I knew I was in for a rocky ride. Actually, come to think of it, even the newly commissioned 'Foreword' to the book by Hari Kunzru read like a C-grade student essay...and I quote, 'this is no reactionary celebration of aristocratic derring-do.' Yep, the clues were there at the start.

Cod medieval fantasy served up in heavy-handed political satire. Might possibly appeal to the Hunger Games crowd. Have no idea why this has so many good reviews...it must be me. A quick scan of most of the reviewers' thumbnail pics suggests a younger, less photoshopped crowd plus a number of cats but even they look pretty fresh. So I'm thinking that this is essentially a young adults' or a young cats' book. Don't get me wrong, I like young adults but only to look at or touch, not to actively converse or share reading lists with.

I was initially intrigued by the comparisons with Iain Banks. In retrospect, those observations are at best sacrilegious but more likely libellous and the work of Satan. But Roadside Picnic was so very, very good?!!

No, it must be the translation. Or is it the book?
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