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The Queue by Vladimir Sorokin
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The Queue (original 1985; edition 1988)

by Vladimir Sorokin

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150None79,717 (3.63)40
Member:cameling
Title:The Queue
Authors:Vladimir Sorokin
Info:Readers Intl (1988), Paperback, 150 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:literature, fiction, Soviet Union

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The Queue by Vladimir Sorokin (1985)

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English (5)  French (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
Interesting little book - plays fast and loose with the rules of writing. Describes life inside of a massive line during the Brezhnev stagnation of the Soviet Union. Consists wholly of dialogue and the rituals of boredom and monotony in life. A fun little book, and I'll have read the rest of Sorokin later. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Who hasn't eavesdropped on a conversation taking place at the next table, or when standing in line at the post office? This book is an eavesdropper's treasure trove. The entire book is a series of short conversations between people standing in line in Moscow. You don't quite know what they're standing in line for, and it doesn't appear that they people in line do too. But if there's something for sale, people will stand in line for it anyway, just in case.

The snippets of conversations overheard are between a mother and her young son, a man and a young woman who meet while standing in line, an elderly man looking for drink while his wife stands in another line elsewhere, someone doing the crossword puzzle and other people who drift in and out of the line, running errands while others keep their place for them or stopping for a bite to eat in a cafe. It's ordinary conversation with real voices.

I didn't think there could be a story formed through short comments that aren't even written as a screenplay, but it works. It really works. The only part of the book I thought could have been shortened without losing the rhythm was the part when the sales clerk ran through a roll call of names.

But there is an ironical twist at the end which will make the reader chuckle. ( )
1 vote cameling | Jan 24, 2013 |
Excellent classic. ( )
  Mithril | Aug 26, 2011 |
For me, the most interesting thing about this book was its form: entirely unattributed dialogue, mostly extremely short comments by a variety of people waiting over the course of two days in one of the Soviet Union's iconic queues. Sorokin is trying to create the whole feeling of waiting in the queue: the boredom, the conversations, the woman annoyed with her child, groups of people leaving the queue for drinks or food, couples flirting, monitors urging the people waiting to line up more neatly or counting off their names and numbers for pages and pages. There are even blank pages where one of the characters (for characters do emerge from the seemingly random talk) passes out or goes to sleep, and at the end there is a scene, still in dialogue, that takes place outside the queue. What are they queuing for? We never find out, and in fact, the descriptions of the item change as the novel proceeds.

I found this book fascinating for its look at the queue phenomenon and for its experimental style, but otherwise it didn't really grab me.
2 vote rebeccanyc | Sep 28, 2010 |
Tired of standing in line this holiday season? Well, nothing you faced could compare to the thousands of Muscovites who wait in line in Sorokin's The Queue. Yes, thousands. In Soviet style, people join the line when they hear some imported good is at the head of it -- shoes, coats, jeans, who knows what awaits the winners who make it to the front? Sorokin wrote this dialogue-only novel as his ode to the long-lost Soviet queue -- a unique beast that I saw in action during my time in Leningrad in the 1980's, but which, out of sheer stubborness, I avoided becoming part of.

This is the first and only pure dialogue novel I've ever read. Even more unnerving than having no narrative is the fact that there are no tag lines with the dialogue. Crafty, humorous writer that Sorokin is, setting, characters and conflict emerge, and we ultimately follow the hapless Vadim, through flirtations and fights, through sleep (announced by blank pages) and drinking binges, even the start of a love affair, all while he waits in this never-ending queue. The translator, Sally Laird, does an excellent job of making sense of Russian and Soviet jargon and slang. Anyone who's been part of a massive crowd or, god forbid, a queue, will find much to laugh over in this book.

(Note: Sorokin has an excellent essay in the afterward of thiis novel about the end of the queue. An abridged version of this essay can be found in the Borders Without Words anthology, Wall in my Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain, which I reviewed in the December issue of The Quarterly Conversation) ( )
2 vote kvanuska | Dec 23, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sorokin, Vladimirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Urban, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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