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The Slynx (New York Review Books Classics)…

The Slynx (New York Review Books Classics) (original 2000; edition 2000)

by Tatyana Tolstaya, Jamey Gambrell (Translator)

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4552222,893 (3.69)61
Title:The Slynx (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:Tatyana Tolstaya
Other authors:Jamey Gambrell (Translator)
Info:NYRB Classics (2007), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction, Translation, Read in 2012

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The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya (2000)

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The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya is a Russian dystopian novel. Set two hundred years after some kind of nuclear accident or blast, a government scribe named Benedikt lives in what was Moscow. Moscow is now called Fyodor-Kuzmichsk, after its dictator Fyodor. Kuzmich uses scribes to copy "his" writing, which is actually that of past literary works.

In this society, mice are dietary staples and a source of trading currency. Citizens born after the Blast often have mutations, that are called "consequences" while "Degenerators" are used as beasts of burden, but actually are humans. "Golubchiks" are the citizens/workers. "Oldeners," citizens born before the blast, haven't aged at all, and more importantly keep secret libraries of forbidden books.

While seemingly a short dystopian novel, The Slynx is actually a dense novel that features references to Russia's past political eras and literature, so some knowledge of Russian literature and history would be very helpful while reading it. Equally both funny and frightening, there are so many details imparted that it doesn't seem to matter that the actual plot starts out slowly. It is part political and social commentary, while also addressing lovers of literature. In the end the slynx seems to symbolize the beast in man.

Jamey Gambrell translated The Slynx from the Russian and I can't imagine how difficult this task must have been since this is a very Russian novel. Even the translation feels Russian. This is Tolstaya's first novel and, as Leo Tolstoy's great-grandniece, she has a literary heritage. I have a feeling there is a lot of symbolism that went right over my head because of my knowledge of Russian history and literature lacks the depth needed to fully appreciate The Slynx.
Highly Recommended - if you are up to the challenge; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/ ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Part Dead Souls, part A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Slynx is a work that should be more widely known and acclaimed. The setting is memorable, from the rampant mutations and the bureaucracy that survived the apocalypse to the way people make a living in the blighted world. The characters are likewise great, from the main character who people take for intelligent when he is actually a fool, to the tiny ruler of this wasteland, to the chief fire keeper who holds dreams of reviving civilization. The book later delves into the power of fiction, and how the urge to protect what you care about can warp your actions to evil ends. The message that eventually takes shape is surprisingly poignant, and the use of Russian literature snippets throughout is also an intriguing feature. Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in works of science fiction that don't follow the usual formula, and to people who want to experience a dystopian world where humor has managed to survive. ( )
1 vote BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Well, there's nothing more dystopian than a Russian dystopia, I guess. If there's a grimmer and more gruesome future world in fiction, I haven't found it yet. Yet the story's told in a jokey and boisterous style, full of exclamation points and metaphorical elbow-nudges. This must have been a tough book to translate, and much of the satire is simply irreproducible. But the Russian love of poetry shines through, haunting this bleak tale, even as the cited poems themselves are only pale versions of their originals. I couldn't love it the way a Russian could, probably, but I did my best. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Your standard dystopian fare with a focus on social stratification and the information that is available to the higher classes. The book makes several interesting points about the differences in being able to read and the ability to understand and put what you've read into context. I think this book is most likely a much better story read in the original Russian, there seemed to be hints of playing with language and the alphabet,that was lost in translation to me. ( )
  bethanyinthetaiga | Apr 8, 2014 |
[The Slynx] by Татьяна Толстая

"Ah, what a day! The night’s storm had passed, the snow gleamed all white and fancy, the sky was turning blue, and the high elfir trees stood still. Black rabbits flitted from treetop to treetop."

Fyodor- Kuzmichsk (Moscow) after the blast, freethinking is banned and books are transcribed and sold as the beloved leader’s own words. Benedikt, has a pretty nice job as a scribe, but still has to trudge home to his hovel to have watery mouse soup.

This is a book that didn't really fit its reader. It’s a rich satire and fine dystopian world building. The plot, well this is not an adventure novel. Split in a way into two parts, the 1st enjoyable world building and tale of the proles, the second X shifts into wealth and power and becomes obsessed with reading and taking books with (off) the poor

It’s just that after an exuberant start my interest started to wane. It is very clearly not a book for me, not only
because I am unfamiliar with Russian literature/politics, nor because though the translation works hard I suspect all those word puns are better in the original. No really it’s that the absurdist humour is not my own and it just grated.

But I must stress I think is still hugely accessible to anyone, even if like me you are ignorant of Pushkin. It’s well sign posted I suspect most of the time and all readers will enjoy the insatiable hunger for books or be amused by the books highly that are highly prized, yes the detritus and trash of the pot boiler left unloved and un-transcribed.

So I can't recommend it but I am aware I am probably not doing it justice. Go seek out other reviews

Benedikt coughed politely to interrupt.
“My life is spiritual”
“In what sense”
“I don’t eat mice”
( )
  clfisha | Aug 8, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tatyana Tolstayaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gambrell, JameyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Benedikt pulled on his felt boots, stomped his feet to get the fit right, checked the damper on the stove, brushed the bread crumbs onto the floor — for the mice — wedged a rag in the window to keep out the cold, stepped out the door, and breathed the pure, frosty air in through his nostrils. Ah, what a day!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618124977, Hardcover)

In what remains of Moscow some two hundred years after the “Blast,” a community persists in primitive, ridiculous, and often brutal circumstances. Mice are the current source of food, clothes, and commerce, as well as a source of humor for Tatyana Tolstaya. Owning books in this society is prohibited by the tyrant, who plagiarizes the old masters, becoming his people’s sole writer. One of the tyrant’s scribes, Benedikt, is the main narrator of The Slynx. He is in love with books as objects but is unable to derive any meaning or moral benefit from them. Like the imagined, feared animal of this rollicking satirical novel’s title, Benedikt represents lust, cruelty, egotism, and ignorance. The Slynx and Benedikt are one.
As Pearl K. Bell wrote of Tolstaya’s stories on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, “The blazing vitality of [her] imagination, the high-spirited playfulness . . . place her in that uniquely Russian line of satirists and surrealists.” David Remnick has called her “the most promising of all the ‘post-Soviet’ writers . . . She sounds like no one else.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:48 -0400)

"In what remains of Moscow some two hundred years after "the Blast," a community persists in primitive, ridiculous, and often brutal circumstances. Mice are the current source of food, clothes, and commerce as well as humor. Owning books in this society is prohibited by the tyrant, who plagiarizes the old masters, becoming his people's sole writer." "One of the tyrant's scribes, Benedikt, is the main narrator of The Slynx. He is in love with books as objects but is unable to derive any meaning or moral benefit from them. In the dystopian world of her satirical first novel, Tatyana Tolstaya addresses lust, cruelty, egotism, and ignorance through Benedikt's distorted eyes. Throughout the novel lurks the Slynx, the imagined catlike creature whose fearsome, shadowy presence threatens the mice and the humans alike."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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