1. Vladimir Sorokin’s ‘Ice Trilogy’

    (Photo: Dominique Nabokov)

    What on earth does Sorokin’s weird Ice Trilogy mean? In April 2005, as he was finishing 23,000 [the last book in the trilogy], Sorokin published an article headlined “Mea Culpa?” in the newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta, venting his irritation with the way Ice and Bro [the first two books of the trilogy] had been received by academic Slavists. He rebuked his friend the eminent Igor P. Smirnov (professor emeritus at the University of Konstanz), for his interpretation of Bro as a mockery of consumerist society. (Smirnov is satirized in Day of the Oprichnik as Igor Pavlovich Tikhy, who Komiaga catches discussing the ‘Negation of a Negation of Negation of a Negation’ on an underground radio station—Smirnov and Tikhy both mean ‘quiet’ in Russian.) Ice Trilogy is a ‘metaphysical novel,’ Sorokin declared, an ‘attempt to talk about Homo sapiens.’

    and continued in a later paragraph

    While some Slavists may indeed need reminding that violence is not a text, the fictional Slavist Tikhy’s ‘negation of a negation’ is not an entirely absurd description of God’s appearance at the end of Ice Trilogy. Sorokin’s theology is negative theology in the Orthodox tradition, which seeks God, who ‘dwelleth in a secret place,’ through exploring everything that God is not. As Sorokin hands over the language of faith to be emptied and desecrated by violent ecstatic cults like the Earthfuckers, the oprichniks, and the Brotherhood of Light, he looks ever more like a writer in the great Russian tradition, conversing with God (or God’s absence), through storytelling, about the mysteries of language, history, and the human body.

       — from a review by Rachel Polonsky in The New York Review of Books of Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy and Day of the Oprichnik, both translated by Jamey Gambrell in what is called a “heroic translation.”


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