Vladimir Sorokin – Their Four Hearts / Telluria
Russian author and his translator discuss their latest two books
Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin makes a rare U.S. appearance with his translator Max Lawton for a conversation about his newly translated novels, Their Four Hearts (Dalkey Archive) and Telluria (NYRB Classics).
Sorokin is widely regarded as one of Russia’s most inventive writers, an iconoclast who has chronicled the country’s slide toward authoritarianism, with subversive fables that satirize bleak chapters of Soviet history, and futuristic tales that capture the creeping repression of 21st-century Russia.
But despite his reputation as both a gifted postmodern stylist and an unrepentant troublemaker, he remains relatively unknown in the West. Until recently, just a handful of his works had been published in English, in part because his writing can be so challenging to translate, and so hard to stomach.
Now, four decades into his scandal-scorched career, publishers are preparing to release eight new English-language translations of his books. — Read the full profile of Sorokin published in the NY Times in April 2022.
Sorokin is a moralist in the misanthropic spirit of Swift, attacking his era’s social and political life through the medium of fantastical tales set in speculative futures. The subversion of totalitarianism is hardwired into every word he writes, but in a provocatively improper way. . . . Sorokin the moralist is intent on attacking the corruption of language and thought, as much as violations of the social contract, by laying bare the inauthenticity of these self-deceiving declarations that go unchallenged in their context. —Victoria Nelson, The TLS
This free event will be held at the Dance Palace.
Vladimir Sorokin was born in a small town outside of Moscow in 1955. He trained as an engineer at the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas but turned to art and writing, becoming a major presence in the Moscow underground of the 1980s. His work was banned in the Soviet Union, and his first novel, The Queue (available as an NYRB Classic), was published by the famed émigré dissident Andrei Sinyavsky in France in 1985. In 1992, Sorokin’s Their Four Hearts was short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize; in 1999, the publication of the controversial novel Blue Lard, which included a sex scene between clones of Stalin and Khrushchev, led to public demonstrations against the book and demands that Sorokin be prosecuted as a pornographer; in 2001, he received the Andrei Bely Award for outstanding contributions to Russian literature. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. Sorokin is also the author of the screenplays for Moscow, The Kopeck, and 4, and of the libretto for Leonid Desyatnikov’s The Children of Rosenthal, the first new opera to be commissioned by the Bolshoi Theater since the 1970s. He has written numerous plays and short stories, including the O. Henry Award winner “Horse Soup,” which will appear in Red Pyramid, a volume of stories forthcoming from NYRB Classics. His most recent novel is Doctor Garin. He lives in Vnukovo and Berlin.
Max Lawton is a novelist, musician, and translator. His translations of Sorokin’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker and n+1. In addition to eight of Sorokin’s books, forthcoming from NYRB Classics and Dalkey Archive Press, he is translating two books by Jonathan Littell. He lives in New York City.
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