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Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Sorokin’

Staff Picks: Harriet the Spy, Happy Fourth of July!

July 1, 2011 | by

In the embarrassing oversights department, I had been meaning and meaning to read the novelist Jean-Philippe Toussaint. Why did it take me so long? His latest work to be translated into English, The Truth About Marie, is haunting, clever, funny. I can’t wait to read more ... as soon as I finish Harriet the Spy. Where was she all my life? —Lorin Stein

I saw a really interesting film recently: The Target, which was cowritten by Vladimir Sorokin. It's a strange mix of Anna Karenina, sci-fi, and social commentary, but it works. Light viewing it's not, but if you're in the mood to stomach a dystopia in which love is a soulless illusion, it's worth seeking out! —Sadie Stein

Also, I’m going to see Le Rayon Vert—back at Film Forum by popular demand. —L. S.

This weekend, I’m reading Rebecca Wolff's The Beginners, a debut novel about a fifteen-year-old girl who befriends a new couple in town, the Motherwells. The Motherwells say they’ve moved to Wick, Massachusetts, to study the town’s history of witchcraft, but from the reviews, it sounds like spookier things start to happen. —Thessaly La Force

Even though Monday is Independence Day, today is the ninetieth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Check out one of my favorite contemporary Chinese short-story collections, the irreverent and absurd I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen. —Ali Pechman

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Jamey Gambrell on Vladimir Sorokin

June 23, 2011 | by

In 1985, Jamey Gambrell took her first trip to the Soviet Union as a reporter for Art and America. Her dispatches brought fresh news of the underground art scene to the United States and introduced her to a wealth of artists in Russia, including Moscow Conceptualists Ilya Kabakov, Erik Bulatov, and Andrei Monastyrsky. Among that group was writer Vladimir Sorokin, whose first stories were published that same year in the Russian-English art magazine, A-Ya.

Since then, Gambrell has translated work by some of twentieth-century Russia’s most significant writers: Marina Tsvetaeva’s Moscow diaries, fiction by Tatyana Tolstaya, and Alexander Rodchenko’s essays. More recently, she took on four highly stylized novels by Sorokin: Day of the Oprichnik, a dystopic satire of modern Russia, and Ice Trilogy, three books that span the twentieth century and describe the strange tale of a group called the Brotherhood. In a café near her apartment on the Upper West Side in New York, Gambrell and I discussed the particular challenges Sorokin presents.

When did you first meet Sorokin?

I met him in ’88. I had become a familiar face in Russia, and I became friends with artists I knew in New York—Komar and Melamid, Alexander Kosolapov, Leonid Sokov. Once you meet one Russian, you meet hundreds. And the art world in Russia was pretty small, so an American from Art in America who spoke Russian? I was a very unusual creature, and everyone introduced me to everybody they possibly could. The first time I met Sorokin was at a kind of picnic/boat ride organized by some of the formally unofficial artists after the Sotheby’s auction. But I didn’t know him very well. And then, for the first time, a lot of people were allowed to go out of the country; a group of German artists invited them to do a show in West Berlin. It was so cool that I could get on a plane and go visit all of these people that I knew, with no visas and nobody tapping the telephones. It was exciting. And that’s when I really met him, really talked to him for the first time.

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Staff Picks: Sarah Bakewell, Vladimir Sorokin

March 11, 2011 | by

For the last few months I’ve been rereading—very slowly and very late at night—Montaigne’s essays. All thanks to Sarah Bakewell (who won a National Book Critics Circle Award last night for her biography of Montaigne: How To Live). —Lorin Stein

Several years ago I read Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice and found its matter-of-fact sci-fi narrative intriguing but its conclusion quite disappointing. Turns out it’s the second book in a trilogy, which, thankfully, NYRB has published in a single volume—the way it ought to be read. I haven’t reached the end yet, but so far it’s wonderfully weird. —Nicole Rudick

The reviews of Margaux Fragosos’s Tiger, Tiger gave me the chills. It’s a memoir of her relationship with Peter, a pedophile forty-four years her senior. When a copy of the book was slipped on my desk this week, I had to pick it up. —Thessaly La Force

As an undergraduate, I remember catching my necromantic tutor in Old Icelandic obliviously reciting poems from the language on the top deck of the city bus. This week, I’ve been putting those extracurricular lessons to use by whipping out Basil Bunting’s Collected Poems on the subway. It doesn’t take long for the short, incantatory lines of “Briggflatts”—studded with monosyllabic words that Bunting excavated from Anglo-Saxon and his regional Northumbrian dialect—to achieve the twin effect of making me forget my surroundings and baffling my fellow passengers. I mean, what on earth is an oxter? —Jonathan Gharraie

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