Open Ending: Russia’s literary scene in 2013
"Telluria," a long-awaited novel from postmodernist Vladimir Sorokin, is among the most talked-about sensations of the year. Sorokin's life as a writer can be divided into two eras. He earned his notoriety in the 1980s, when his conceptual prose was a parody montage of the Soviet regime and its accompanying bourgeois lifestyle. His work was illustrated by flamboyant descriptions of carnal pleasures and perversities.
In the late 1990s, he switched from this “Sots Art” style—a humorous juxtaposition of elevated Soviet propaganda coupled with a dose of harsh reality. He began instead to portray the horrors of an alternative, fictional history. What would life have been like, had mother Russia taken a different turn? These visions are elaborate and nightmarish with varying degrees of phantasmagoria.
"Telluria" is another dystopia in this same vein. The book comprises 50 short stories united by a shared nightmare: Russia has broken down into numerous small pieces and all of these feudal fiefdoms are ruled by a magical metal, tellur, which is mined in Siberia and transported to Moscow. The absurdist satire offers a bizarre reflection of Russia's reality; the novel also fulfills the author’s literary ambition to pay tribute to renowned writers: In his 50 stories/chapters, Sorokin parodies the writing style of famous authors from Dan Brown to the great James Joyce.
Sorokin's rival for fame outside Russia, Victor Pelevin, author of “Omon Ra,” and “Home Zapiens,” published a novel this year, called "Batman Apollo." This surreal world is governed by vampires, immortal beings served by “chaldeans,” the people seen on TV every day.
The third most significant novel of the year is Evgeniy Vodolazkin's "Lavr"(Laurus). The work was nominated for three of the most prestigious literary prizes, the Big Book, Natsbest and the Russian Booker—ultimately winning the Big Book. Unlike the first two authors, Vodolazkin creates a fantasy from the Russian past, a narrative about a 15th-century physician, who has the gift of healing.
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