Day of the Oprichnik has ratings and reviews. Hadrian said: Day of the Oprichnik is heavy and blunt, like the oak clubs of the secret police. Haunting, terrifying and hilarious, The Day of the Oprichnik is a dazzling novel and a fierce critique of life in the New Russia. Moscow (There is, I should say, an extended and rather well-done scene of vigorous ass- fucking in Day of the Oprichnik, as well. It an orgy in the truest.

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The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. The Oprichniks were Ivan the Terrible’s thugs, a decadent team of raping and torturing servicemen charged with policing interior threats, especially those posed by the nobility.

Vladimir Sorokin thhe resurrected them in Day of the Oprichnik. As Solzhenitsyn chronicled a day in the life of Gulag prisoner Ivan Denisovich, Sorokin’s novel follows Komiaga, a high-ranking Oprichnik, through his day-to-day routine in a near-future Russia, where Oprichniks serve a deified emperor.

The Oprichniks are a charming bunch. They wear golden bell-shaped earrings, smoke Motherland cigarettes, have special seals implanted in their arms for stamping official documents – the seal can only be taken from them by taking the arm. From those seeking their help and influence, they extort small dah fish, which swim through their bloodstreams and into their brains, causing euphoric collective hallucinations.

Every day they mount new dogs’ heads on the hoods of their red Mercedovs. Komiaga’s attendant presents him the pick of the day in question – “a shaggy wolfhound, eyes rolled back, tongue touched with hoarfrost, strong yellow teeth” – for his approval. And it will do. Early on, the Oprichniks take down a nobleman and then commence the obligatory gang rape of his wife.

Thf Komiaga takes his turn, justifying and celebrating the rape, Sorokin effects a literary orgasm: Sweeter than cutting off the heads of the enemies themselves. Sorokin has fun with this stuff.


Day of the Oprichnik – Vladimir Sorokin | Full Stop

Maybe that’s his strength and his weakness. Optichnik, it’s made him the enfant terrible of contemporary Russian literature. He most notoriously had fun with a scene from his novel Blue Lardin which a clone of Khrushchev buggers a clone of Stalin, and which led to his being charged with distributing pornography.

During that period, one of the favourite pastimes of several pro-Kremlin youth groups was the burning of books by Sorokin and fellow literary raconteur Victor Pelevin. Maybe it comes as no surprise, then, that one of the primary techniques of the Oprichniks, in their quest “to keep order and exterminate rebellion,” is the policing of literary works. And like many book-burners, Komiaga fancies himself a capable critic and poet all in one: Defending himself against pornography charges inSorokin explained, “The pornographer aims to help the reader achieve an erection but the writer’s task is to provide the reader with aesthetic pleasure.

What’s alluring about it all is the fondness Sorokin seems to have for Komiaga as a savage dimwit, tbe the endless ridicule to which he subjects him. Komiaga personally enacts all the evils inherent in the political leadership of modern-day Russia, from the big suppressing the media and the opposition to the small calling ahead to a traffic cop on his mobilov to clear one of the notorious Moscow traffic jams og that the powerful can slip through.

In the penultimate scene, in which the Oprichniks attach themselves to one another in a hierarchical caterpillar chain of anal sex, the book gives way to gratuitous farce.

Sorokin is not one for nuance. It’s so much fun it’s laughable. New Fiction from a New Russia. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe. If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters globeandmail. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter. Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.


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Day of the Oprichnik, by Vladimir Sorokin

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Review: Day of the Oprichnik – Russia Reviewed

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