One of The Telegraph s Best Fiction Books Moscow,A scream, a moan, and a death rattle slowly pull Andrei Danilovich Komiaga out of his drunken stupor But wait that s just his ring tone So begins another day in the life of an oprichnik, one of the czar s most trusted courtiers and one of the country s most feared menIn this new New Russia, where futuristic technology and the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible are in perfect synergy, Komiaga will attend extravagant parties, partake in brutal executions, and consume an arsenal of drugs He will rape and pillage, and he will be moved to tears by the sweetly sung songs of his homelandVladimir Sorokin has imagined a near future both too disturbing to contemplate and too realistic to dismiss But like all of his best work, Sorokin s new novel explodes with invention and dark humor A startling, relentless portrait of a troubled and troubling empire, Day of the Oprichnik is at once a richly imagined vision of the future and a razor sharp diagnosis of a country in crisis A wonderful depiction of Russia under autocracy Sorokin does what Margaret Atwood does, extrapolates the present into a plausible, nightmarish future He shows us a day in the life of an oprichnik think of an SS officer, crossed with an FBI agent, working for the Russian state and Russian Orthodox Church While the novel veers into the fantastic a couple of times, overall, it is a believable, chilling look into the future of Russia Sorokin keeps the reader entertained and discomfited, while provoking horrified laughs A terrific read Four and a half stars. Weak satire, gross but unfunny, like Victor Pelevin without the metaphysical musings that make his writing so compelling. The satire on Putin s Russia is clear, and in its way effective, but as a literary work Day of the Oprichnik soon palls The excess of this dystopian vision rapidly becomes repetitive by the final chapters what are supposed to be further revelations of Oprichnik decadence become vague irritants Speculative fictions that are unmoored from any real internal reality no matter how fantastic lose the reader s interest rapidly. It s a book Having recently finished reading Russian originals of both The Blizzard and Day of the Oprichnik, I decided to go through respective English translations out of sheer curiosity I must say that as long as the translation of the Day of the Oprichnik is concerned I am not extremely satisfied with the result of Jamey Gambrell s work Granted, the Russian original presents numerous challenges, but hitting home with some of the terms mobilov, Mercedov really inventive matches to what author uses in the original , she sometimes misses on common phraseologisms And what really got me to snap out of my general serene laziness and write this review is a following blunder What will happen to Russia She doesn t answer, but looks at me carefully I wait with trepidation It ll be all right I bow, touching the stone floor with my right hand And I leave.A literally translation from the original goes something like With Russia, there will be nothing Although indeed, Russian nothing can be translated as all right, in this particular context it has a direct meaning too, and Sorokin s phrase carries the connotation of a gloomy Zen saying, a word play which is lost in translation.But maybe I am indeed a bit too peeky I must say that even since I started reading English translations of Russian authors, trying to find a fitting translation of Solzhenitsyn s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which I could recommend to an American friend, I have not so far found a work that would fully satisfy me At the same time, truth be told, I think that Jamey Gambrell did a much better work with Sorokon s The Blizzard A good translation, a solid read in it s own right. What are we reading Day of the Oprichnik, by Vladimir Sorokin translated by Jamey Gambrell.Give me the short version Ritual, torture, lust Politics of deadly bent Starting hungover, alternate future oprichnik Danilovich jams into his day than most could take in a week.There s a lot going on in this novel, for its relatively modest length Lovers of history, sociology and politics will all find fascinations to plunge into, but don t baulk if none of that fires your blood I just picked it up cause I like Russia.Day of the Oprichnik is wide open and enjoyable to anyone curious, from any background although possibly not for faint hearts, unbending sensibilities or queasy stomachs More suited to adventurous minds, keen to wander off the beaten track and question everything they know, let alone read If you like doubling up it d make a great companion piece to Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange.Invariably this is a world you re left wanting to know about, but Day of the Oprichnik is a perfectly balanced piece and really didn t need to be a sentence longer If like me you cracked the pages unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Russian history, do take the time to read up on the brutal real life historical oprichninaMy favourite bit His Majesty s father, the late Nikolai Platonovich, had a good idea liquidate all the foreign supermarkets and replace them with Russian kiosks And put two types of each thing in every kiosk, so the people have a choice A wise decision, profound Because our God bearing people should choose from two things, not from three or thirty nine Choosing one of two creates spiritual calm, people are imbued with certainty in the future, superfluous fuss and bother is avoided, and consequently everyone is satisfied. I couldn t even imagine how close it could be to the current situation in Russia Vladimir Sorokin describes in detail bizarre and sadistic rules by which previous and current rulers of Russia govern the huge empire. Bizarrely, imaginatively, and articulately written Sorokhin captures the brutal and corrupt exceptionalism that is always adopted by a ruling class with absolute power, whether in the Stalinist USSR or current day Moscow or Washington These regimes always look back to what they view as better days in the past and try to recreate them in the present, whether they be the days of Ivan the Terrible or the ante bellum US South This was a difficult book to translate My command of Russian is not sophisticated, so the translation seemed OK to me My Russian sources tell me that Sorokhin s use of and reference to antiquated language make it impossible to deliver the full flavor in English It would help an Anglphone to have knowledge of or do some some reading in Russian history to appreciate this novel fully.