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Big Thinks

Patricia Beer, 20 August 1992

Sleepwalker in a Fog 
by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated by Jamey Gambrell.
Virago, 192 pp., £13.99, April 1992, 1 85381 305 2
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... Tatyana Tolstaya’s collection of short stories, On the golden Porch, published in Britain in 1989, was received with hysterical enthusiasm. Some rather silly things were said, like ‘Tolstaya writes.’ Some rather lazy comparisons were made too: she was likened to every Russian writer one can call to mind, with the exception, as far as I know, of Tolstoy ...

Howling Soviet Monsters

Tony Wood: Vladimir Sorokin, 30 June 2011

The Ice Trilogy 
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell.
NYRB, 694 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 1 59017 386 2
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Day of the Oprichnik 
by Vladimir Sorokin.
Farrar, Straus, 191 pp., $23, March 2011, 978 0 374 13475 4
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... In Vladimir Sorokin’s novel The Queue, one of the protagonists is struggling with a crossword: ‘1 Across – Russian Soviet writer.’ Suggestions come from people next to him in the long line that is the book’s setting and subject – Sholokhov, Mayakovsky? – but are rejected, because neither fits both adjectives at the same time. When Sorokin wrote The Queue in the 1980s, these adjectives – always in tension – could still sit together in a handful of cases (the answer settled on is Gorky); but since then, they have been severed from each other by the watershed of 1991, and now represent distinct historical epochs, as well as two separate literary cultures ...

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