Synopses & Reviews
Haruki Murakami in Japan; Javier Mar'as in Spain; W.G. Sebald in Germany; Michel Houellebecq in France-these are names that are indelibly associated with contemporary writing in those countries, writers whose work, though distinctly controversial, has transformed recent literature. In Russia, the corresponding figure is without question Vladimir Sorokin, whose work is making its inaugural American appearance as a special hardcover NYRB Classic.
"Ice" is the major new novel by Sorokin, a writer who mixes genres to hypnotic effect. Sorokin is simultaneously a master manipulator of language, a kind of DJ of the word, and a worthy successor to Gogol, breathing new life into the great Russian tradition of fantasy and humor that began with "The Overcoat" and "The Nose."
"Ice," the first book in a projected trilogy, draws the reader into a mysterious story of serial murder, biological determinism, and religious enthusiasm. The book follows a secret sect of blond-haired, blue-eyed people, whose hearts have been "awakened" by contact with a block of interstellar ice, as they seek to hunt down their spiritual "brothers and sisters" among the population of Moscow. Members of the sect consider themselves the scattered remnants of a divine emanation whose original brilliance has been obscured by their sojourn on earth. When they reunite they expect to put an end to the travesty that is human life. But what is the secret relation of the group not only to the KGB but to the Gestapo? And why is it that they are now going into business in a big way, packaging the sacred ice and distributing it to the grateful world?
"Ice" is at once a work of fantasy, prophecy, parody, and wild paranoia. Itis the finest work to date of a writer of proven genius and growing international renown, whose work is here to stay.
"Blond, blue-eyed contemporary Muscovites are being kidnapped, driven to remote areas and bashed in the chest with hammers that have iceblock heads; the victims are being 'cracked' by their assailants, who want to free their hearts to 'speak' literally. The 'empties' (those whose hearts are silent) are left to die; the others (whose hearts spontaneously utter a word or two in the 23-word 'heart language') are recognized by their assailants as fellow 'heart speakers.' Over the course of this bizarrely beautiful novel, three 'heart-speakers' Lapin, Nikolaeva and Borenboim are instructed by Khram, the mentor of Russia's heart speakers, in the tenets of their new life, in which they love one another and hammer humans to achieve the apocalypse. Khram herself was 'hammered' by a German S.S. officer in a WWII slave labor camp, and in a long flashback, she returns to Stalin's Russia to secure the Siberian ice needed for hammering and to exploit the gulag for heart speakers through mass murder. In stripped down, poker-faced prose, Sorokin registers a world in which the inhumanity of man to man is exploited by a murderous emerging race who are, by contrast, in sweet mutual harmony with one another. This is a Master and Margarita for the age of Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
is at the center of Vladimir Sorokin's epic Ice Trilogy,
which is also published by NYRB Classics.
Moscow has been hit by a wave of brutal murders. The victims are of both sexes, from different backgrounds, and of all ages, but invariably blond and blue-eyed. They are found with their breastbones smashed in, their hearts crushed. There is no sign of any motive.
Drugs, sex, and violence are the currency of daily life in Moscow. Criminal gangs and unscrupulous financial operators run the show. But in the midst of so much squalor one mysterious group is pursuing a long-meditated plan. Blond and blue-eyed, with a strange shared attraction to a chunk of interstellar ice, they are looking for their brothers and sisters, precisely 23,000 of them. Lost among the common herd of humanity, they must be awakened and set free. How? With a crude hammer fashioned out of the cosmic ice. Humans, meat machines, die under its blows. The hearts of the chosen answer by uttering their true names. For the first time they know the ecstasy of true life.
For the awakened, the future, like the past, is simple. It is ice.
What is Ice? A gritty dispatch from the front lines of the contemporary world, a gnostic fairy tale, a hard-boiled parable, a New Age parody, a bitingly funny fantasy in the great Russian tradition that begins with Gogol and continues with Nabokov, a renegade fiction to set beside those of Philip K. Dick and Michel Houellebecq, and the most ambitious and accomplished novel yet by Vladimir Sorokin, the stylistic virtuoso and master of provocation who, in the words of The Moscow Times, is “the only living Russian author who can be called a classic.”
About the Author
VLADIMIR SOROKIN was born in Moscow. He trained as an engineer, but turned to writing novels, plays, short stories, and screenplays. In 1992, his Collected Stories was nominated for a Russian Booker Prize. He was presented with the 2001 Andrey Biely Award for outstanding contributions to Russian literature, and in 2002, he wrote a libretto for an opera for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Sorokin is a member of the Russian Pen Club and his books have been translated into numerous languages. He lives in Moscow with his wife and twin daughters.