Roadside Picnic is a 1971 science-fiction novel written by the Brothers Strugartsky, and is considered one of the best science-fiction novels to come from Russia. Its publication history in the then-USSR as well as in the United States and other countries is a complicated tale, beset by both political censorship, as well as poor translations and editorial battles.
In 2012, a new English translation of the work, by Olena Bormashenko, was published. It was put out by an independent press, the Chicago Review Press, and included a foreword by Ursula K. LeGuin, as well as an afterword by its surviving author. Although the book had long been considered a classic, much of its reputation was based on its innovative concept, and the movie made from it. The new translation restores the book to its original prose, which should give more insight into the book on a literary level.
On the subject of its original prose, this is one book that I wish I could have read the afterword to before reading the text proper. Throughout the book, I was put off by the casual violence and brutality that the book displayed. But after reading the afterword, what I took from my contemporary perspective to be thoughtless violence and crassness was a principled stand on the point of the authors: while "grim and gritty" seems to be a strategy for cheap shocks for me, at a time when the Soviet government was only slowly releasing its censorship, having characters who behaved badly was a stand for literary realism against the standard of having characters who were bland, propagandistic heroes. The afterword also states that the censorship of the book was not a matter of ideology so much as that the editors and publishers of the Soviet Union were prudish and wanted to drag their feet on a work that was an unknown quantity.
While this book has long been considered a classic, the new translation and material explaining its background make it easier to understand and appreciate.