Claudia Putnam's Reviews > Day of the Oprichnik

Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin
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really liked it
bookshelves: literary-fiction

I found this book both wickedly funny and rendingly sad. Reading through the comments, I saw that many were a bit lost in terms of the references to Russian history and the literary allusions. So, read up just a bit on Ivan the Terrible (Wikipedia is fine) and on the Oprichnina. Understand that there has never been a time in Russian history when there has been no terrifying band of secret police. Under Ivan and some of his successors, these were monastically linked to the church. Because, in Russia, nothing ever really changes, and the new boss is the same as the old boss, which is usually gangsterism and profiteering, Sorokin imagines a near-future Russia in which there is again an autocracy supported by a monastic band of psychopaths.

To get the humor, it's best if you've read some Gogol, Tolstoy, and Grossman (there's a direct allusion to the Tolstoy/Grossman lineage in the book... life and fate). But above all you should read The Master and Margarita. Having said that, I actually found Sorokin funnier, perhaps because of all the inside jokes related to Russian literature and history. M&M is incredibly ballsy, which is why it wasn't published till well after Stalin had died. But the deal with the devil thing has been done to death, and can even be seen as a literary fashion that peaked in Bulgakov's day. Sorokin is a more vivid writer. He's also telling a different side of the story, so we don't get the typical Russian neurotic intellectual as a main character, which was one of the big jokes of M&M. Also, Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is important. Anyhow, highly recommended and good luck!

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Reading Progress

May 12, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
May 12, 2014 – Shelved
January 4, 2015 – Started Reading
January 7, 2015 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
January 7, 2015 – Finished Reading

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