...cut off all his birthmarks with a safety razor. Powdered the little wounds, sat at the typewriter and typed like a woodpecker, pounded like a blind chicken, screwed my brains up, kept annoying me with that kitchen of his, prenatal child, Zen Buddhist, schizophrenic, idiot, educated since he was in diapers, but in reality--a complete asshole, kept writing, kept typing, pounding like a blind chicken, exposed his dick, kept annoying me with that kitchen of his, drank, laughed, jerked off, shat on his cot and farted juicily, pissed in a violin for a long time, meanwhile getting hopelessly grey, meanwhile kept lying, trembling, swallowed cum, fucked the cat juicily and whistled, imitated a nightingale, flattened his fingers with pliers, tore Joyce up and swallowed him with milk, cut the drapes into pieces, gently licked his heels, put hand cream on the head of his cock and stuck it out the window, looked at it through a looking glass, saying : I fuck when I eat, cut the furniture with a handsaw, watered the flowers with kerosene, ate barley, ground a telephone into powder and gobbled it up, sent letters to cosmonauts, asked people to pray to Sabaoth, didn't forgive the argonauts, threw a bust of Homer off the balcony, played Couperin, chewed the music stand and shrieked, complained: Oh, Saint Helena, stole everything he could from himself, sent telegrams and typed, typed, typ...Then we arrested him and made him dance the cha-cha-cha. That's how it ended. Basically, Your Honors, the defendant's room by that time was a gruesome sight. Judge for yourself--everything trashed, pieces of broken furniture, spoiled food, paper. The defendant himself--all covered with a crust from a schizophrenic episode, sits at his typewriter and types, types, types. Didn't have time to write much, but nevertheless these twenty papers, in my view, are of deep interest to the court. I invite Your Honors and everyone in the courtroom to take a look at this defendant's so called creative output. After you do so we will resume.
--Vladimir Sorokin, on the front page of his website (translation mine)
( Vladimir Sorokin wrote the above words as a rather humorous response to a suit brought against him in Russia for "unlawful distribution of pornographic materials".)
He is a writer. Born in 1955 near Moscow, Sorokin graduated in 1977 from the Institute of Oil and Gas in that city. He's worked many odd jobs: graphic designer, conceptual artist, etc. Currently, he's possibly the most controversial figure in modern Russian literature.
Sorokin's writing is, well...strange. His most oft-used literary device goes roughly like this:
- The scene opens on a traditional Social Realism-type setting. Workers meeting at a plant, schoolchildren on a picnic, funeral of a respected community member. Everything is nice and stereotypical, giving off the typical aura of much pre-80s Russian literature.
- Subtle hints that something is not quite right are introduced. Often, these are so well-done that the reader will actually look back and check if he or she read correctly. This is followed by a shrug and continuing.
- BAM! the reader is hit with a succession of shocking and/or absurd imagery and situations. Generally (in the case of especially good stories) this is followed by paralysis for the inexperienced reader, who keeps thinking "HOW ARE THEY ALLOWED TO PRINT THAT?" For the experienced reader, this is hilarious, because it totally destroys any sense of moral wholesomeness that the Social Realist genre had left.
To give an example:
In one short story, a teacher is taking his graduated class for a picnic in the woods. They start a fire, discuss their future plans--everything is as it should be. The teacher announces that he will be right back. The story traces him going into the forest and graphically describes the process of him taking a shit. One of the students also announces he will be right back. He talks to the teacher (who is finished) one on one, then waits for him to go back to the fire. Greedily, the student devours the teacher's feces. When he is done, he returns to the group. The story ends on an idyllic note.
This is basically the blueprint for a Sorokin short story. His novels tend to be a strange mix of the realistic and the absurd, but whenever there is a bodily function, a death, or anything taboo involved, the descriptions are always extremely graphic and unsettling. One of his stories, I could not stop laughing for twenty minutes; another one kept me awake half the night. I'm experienced, if anything.
Sorokin is a good author, and his mastery shows in places. However, the majority of his stories seem to be fairly monotonous and cheap-thrill-focused. There are a few gems. All in all, Sorokin is much worse (IMNSHO) than Victor Pelevin, who is a master of the whole postmodernism thing.