Blue Lard, by Vladimir Sorokin

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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.

Praise for Blue Lard

[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 theres enough sodomy in Sorokins 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

“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

Translated by Max Lawton
368 pages.

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