THE BLIZZARD by Vladimir Sorokin is a wonderfully strange little book that I got most of the way through in one night. Part of the strangeness is down to the translation by Jamey Gambrell, which is fluid and musical but has weird Americanisms like “cain’t” and “tuckered,” which threw me off a little. But Gambrell had her work cut out with this weird, alienating, disorienting book, and I can’t blame her for a missed foothold here and there when she does so marvellously in framing what is a hallucinated fusion of 19th Century Russian literature crossed with 20th Century Russian science fiction and 21st Century concerns.
It starts out as a familiar-seeming story — in a period that could well be the 1800s or early 1900s, a doctor arrived in a distant Russian village tries to get horses to travel to an even more remote location to deliver vaccines against a plague outbreak. After much frustration, he is introduced to the local bread man, Crouper, who has fifty horses and a “sledmobile.” And then you have to flick back a couple of pages, to make sure you understand what you just read.
The horses are the size of partridges and they run on a drive belt under the hood of the snowmobile.
And the plague, of course, is a zombie outbreak.
It gets weirder from there. By the time the doctor is doing hallucinogens in a tent that’s been grown over a cemetery through “zoogenous” technology, you’re as lost in the titular blizzard as the doctor himself, and you find that you don’t really care. It’s too good a trip through the snow to mind. Just a magnificent piece of work. Bulgakov and Tolstoy via ROADSIDE PICNIC.
THE BLIZZARD, Vladimir Sorokin (link)