Blue Lard (Paperback)

Blue Lard By Vladimir Sorokin, Max Lawton (Translated by), Max Lawton (Afterword by) Cover Image

Blue Lard (Paperback)

By Vladimir Sorokin, Max Lawton (Translated by), Max Lawton (Afterword by)


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Blue Lard is an act of desecration. Blue Lard is what's left after the towering masterpieces of Russian literature have been blown to smithereens, the most graphic, shocking, controversial, and celebrated book to be published in Russia since the end of Communism. Denounced as an abomination on publication in 1999—a crowd of angry Putin supporters gathered in front of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater to toss shredded copies of Sorokin’s books into an enormous papier-mâché toilet—this ferocious takedown of Russian greatness has since found its way into the canon of Russian literature itself.

The book begins in a futuristic laboratory where genetic scientists speak in a dialect of Russian mixed with Chinese. There they work to clone famous Russian writers, who are then made to produce texts in the style of their forebears. The goal of this “script-process” is not the texts themselves but the blue lard that collects in the small of their backs as they write. This substance is to be used to power reactors on the moon—that is, until a sect of devout nationalists breaks in to steal the blue lard, planning to send it back in time to an alternate version of the Soviet Union, one that exists on the margins of a Europe conquered by a long-haired Hitler with the ability to shoot electricity from his hands. What will come of this blue lard? Who will finally make use of its mysterious powers?

Max Lawton’s translation of Blue Lard, the first into English, captures this key work in all its grotesque, havoc-making, horrifying, visceral intensity.
Vladimir Sorokin was born in a small town outside of Moscow in 1955. He trained as an engineer at the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas but turned to art and writing, becoming a major presence in the Moscow underground of the 1980s. His work was banned in the Soviet Union, and his first novel, The Queue, was published by the famed émigré dissident Andrei Sinyavsky in France in 1985. In 1992, Sorokin’s Their Four Hearts was short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize; in 1999, the publication of Blue Lard led to public demonstrations against the book and demands that Sorokin be prosecuted as a pornographer; in 2001, he received the Andrei Bely Award for outstanding contributions to Russian literature. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. Sorokin is also the author of the screenplays for Moscow, The Kopeck, and 4, and of the libretto for Leonid Desyatnikov’s The Children of Rosenthal, the first new opera to be commissioned by the Bolshoi Theater since the 1970s. His most recent novel is Inheritance. He lives in Berlin.

Max Lawton is a novelist, musician, and translator. His translations of Sorokin’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and n+1. In addition to more than ten of Sorokin’s books, forthcoming from NYRB Classics and Dalkey Archive Press, he is currently working on translations of works by Michael Lentz, Antonio Moresco, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline.  He lives in Los Angeles.
Product Details ISBN: 9781681378183
ISBN-10: 1681378183
Publisher: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: February 27th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English
"[Blue Lard]'s most ingenious passages are parodies of such stalwarts as Tolstoy and Nabokov. A number of loosely related sketches, including a play that lampoons the age-old obsession with Jewish ritual murder and a scene of the Bolshoi Theatre drowning in fecal matter, allow Sorokin to take down Russian culture high and low. Although there's enough sodomy in Sorokin's work to fill a world-class bathhouse [...] perhaps what angers many is that in [his] vast and sordid imagination it is Khrushchev who mounts Stalin and not the other way around." —Gary Shteyngart, The New Yorker

"Sorokin, global literature’s postmodern provocateur, is both a savage satirist and a consummate showman....[he] resembles his countryman Gogol, a comic enigma whose wonderfully bizarre fictions — like the best and worst of dreams — beg for interpretation while flouting meaning...Blue Lard features a world largely bereft of meaning, love, moral concern or many of the other familiar signposts of fiction. In its place is a new vocabulary, a free-floating grammar of debasement and ecstasy. But one need not stumble into the trap of nihilism. Even Sorokin’s most debauched episodes can be understood as camouflaged bids for transcendence. Each is a challenge, an incitement to change. He reminds us of our scandalous freedom.” —Dustin Illingworth, The New York Times Book Review

"This frenetic 1999 novel by Sorokin,  translated for the first time into English by Lawton, led to widespread protests in Russia due to the irreverent political satire contained within its science fiction frame....Sorokin’s patchwork fever dream takes on a weird and wonderful life. Readers will revel in the pandemonium." —Publishers Weekly

“Armed with fearless wit, giga-brain wordplay, and epicurean style to spare, iconoclastic supernova Vladimir Sorokin’s Blue Lard hits like a pipe bomb in the despot’s wet dream of how we are. Already an archetypal subversive masterpiece that has literally incited right-wing riots in the streets—and now brought to new life in a bravura high-wire translation by Max Lawton—Gravity’s Rainbow, Naked Lunch, The 120 Days of Sodom, and Dr. Strangelove could be good kin . . . but really nothing should prepare you for the parade of unsparingly hysterical gallows terror in these pages, which demand we reckon with that fact it’s no longer merely satire to portend the systemized demise of literature itself, much less our souls’. Like fresh air in a gashouse, a waterfall in an inferno, what a blessing there’s Sorokin. Read, read, you jackals, while you still have eyes!” —Blake Butler

“In Sorokin, Russia found its Pynchon.” —Vladislav Davidzon, Bookforum