cover image Blue Lard

Blue Lard

Vladimir Sorokin, trans. from the Russian by Max Lawton. NYRB Classics, $18.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-68137-818-3

This frenetic 1999 novel by Sorokin (Ice Trilogy), 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. Sometime in an alternate reality, Soviet scientists in a Siberian lab raise mutant clones of the country’s greatest writers—Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Anna Akhmatova, Nabokov, and so on—each of which write gonzo versions of their famous works. Their crazed output turns out to be a mere by-product of the scientists’ true purpose: to produce the “blue lard” used to power a hidden reactor on the moon. After the scientists are attacked by a sacred order of nationalists, the blue lard falls into the hands of Joseph Stalin, who takes time from his various misdeeds to engage in a passionate sexual affair with Nikita Khrushchev. Stalin’s final mission lies in the New Germany, where he allies with his fellow would-be utopian, Adolf Hitler, who in this version of history is a warlock who can fire lightning from his fingertips, to fight the Americans who are behind the Holocaust. Sorokin’s patchwork fever dream takes on a weird and wonderful life. Readers will revel in the pandemonium. (Feb.)