Their Four Hearts, by Vladimir Sorokin
Their Four Hearts follows the violent and nonsensical missions carried out by a group of four characters who represent Socialist Realist archetypes. However, the degradation inflicted upon them is hardly a Socialist Realist trope. It is a novel about the failure of the Soviet Union, about its metaphysical designs, and about the violence it produced, but presented as God might see it or Bataille might write it. Are the acts of violence they carry out a more realistic vision of what the Soviet Union forced its “heroes” to live out? A corporealization and desacralization of self-sacrificing acts of Soviet heroism? How the Soviet Union truly looked if you were to strip away the ideological infrastructure? Sorokin burrows down to the libidinal impulses that fuel a totalitarian system and forcing the reader to take part in them in a way that isn’t entirely devoid of aesthetic pleasure.
As presented alongside Greg Klassen’s brilliant charcoal illustrations, which have been compared to the work of Bruno Schulz and the work of Ralph Steadman as filtered through Francis Bacon, this angular work of fiction becomes a scatological storybook-world that the reader is dared to immerse themselves in.
Praise for Their Four Hearts
"Generously spiced with filthy and vulgar terms... an absurdist work, a veritable encyclopedia of... the bizarre." —Liza Rozovsky
"Sorokin’s sudden exposure is long overdue as he is probably both the most acclaimed and the most controversial author in Russia today, hailed by critics as a ‘living classic’ even as his subject matter takes the tradition of Russian grotesque into areas Gogol or even the Stalin-era absurdist Daniil Kharms never dared venture." —Daniel Kalder, Publishing Perspectives
Translated by Max Lawton