Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Queue

by Vladimir Sorokin

I think I recall from the intro (or afterword or something) and from a review I read, that this book was only recently published in English for the first time. In any case, I'd been meaning to read more Russian novels, so I gave it a try. The story is about people standing in line to buy something in Moscow, in the Soviet days when that was common. Interestingly, it's told entirely in dialog, and without any attribution, and the thing they're meant to be buying is elusive and fungible, and the characters almost seem not to care what they're queuing for even while they're anxious that supplies might run out. The author's intro/outro talks about the symbolic, cultural, historical, psychological, even spiritual properties of the queue vis-à-vis the ethos of the Russian people.

It was a very strange reading experience, given the sort of experimental or postmodern structure, which was at times a bit irritating but ultimately worked somehow to express the author's implicit messages. Particularly and peculiarly effective was a lengthy sex scene (two, actually, maybe three) made up entirely of alternating variations of aah's and haa's. It takes a bit of imaginative effort, but if you let yourself get lost in the rhythm and speed and sounds of the panting exhalations, you might find yourself becoming aroused. I personally found it quite stimulating.

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