Tatyana Tolstaya, it says here, belongs “to an aristocratic family that includes the writers Leo and Alexei Tolstoy.” So what could she do but write? Or maybe clean houses out of fear she’d never measure up. The Slynx came my way via a friend of my wife’s. LOL material, she said. (Notice how hip I am? LOL? Of course, I don’t know if it’s hip to say “hip” any more, but you do what you can.)
The Slynx returns yours truly to a post apocalyptic environment for the third time this year. (Butler’s Parable of the Sower, WW May, 2011; The Electric Church, August 2011) a while before that was McCarthy’s The Road in April, 2007. It’s easy to see what’s in a world like this for the writer’s imagination. Boundaries evaporate. You have to account for neither social norms nor the limitations of the human body.
Take our protagonist, Benedikt. He’s got a tail. Just a little one. He assumes everyone has them. He doesn’t realize that his is one of the “consequences” that abound among his fellow Russians as a result of “the blast” two hundred years earlier. Benedikt’s tail makes for some funny scenes, but it doesn’t have the import of some of the other consequences. There’s a guy who breathes fire. Very important in a world where one depends on wood stoves for warmth. There’s another guy whose eyes light up like flashlights. Very handy at night. Then there are the “oldeners,” people still alive from the days of the blast, two hundred years earlier.
For all these oddities, this is a primitive society. Benedikt is a copier. He and his colleagues receive material from their ruler, Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe, who presents everything as his own creation. They copy the text on to bark for people to read. We find out that books are dangerous. They’re all left over from ante blast days and are radioactive. Just having one in the house, let alone reading it, can kill you. There are book police for hoarders.
Benedict enjoys his job. Enjoys reading. Of course, he puts “The Gingerbread Man” and Pushkin’s poetry on the same level. He once is asked for an article about freedom and points to a passage from a knitting instruction book which talks about the design of a sleeve which allows “freedom of movement.” He’s got the same limitations in just about every area of life and thought. Gutsy of Tolstaya to trust her novel to a dunce. Gutsy and admirable, and she pulls it off. Of course, the esteemed ruler, Fyodor…Glorybe, can’t make such discriminations either. Every once in a while he’ll put out a decree that shows what a Wizard of Oz-like fraud he is.
I command that the holiday of New Year be celebrated. That this here holiday be celebrated on the First of March. Kinda like the May holidays.
And so on for three or four hundred words.
We follow Benedikt through momentous events of his life. He marries into a rich family. His wife manifests a wealth of “consequences” which make life both entertaining and nerve-wracking. The claws are a bit of a problem, for example. Still, he no longer has to live on mice the way commoners do. (Yes, mice. Lots of revolting recipes here. Mice because have you ever tried to kill a rabbit? Too fast to catch and you’d starve before you were lucky enough to hit one with a rock. No one seems to think of nets or traps.) Turns out the family has a library. Despite what people believe, books aren’t harmful any more, but they still are forbidden the commoners. For one thing, commoners misuse them–burn them for warmth, deface them for fun, let them get moldy in attics and under the bed. For another thing, They want the books for themselves.
So Benedikt gets addicted to reading. And he becomes a book cop. And he encounters The Slynx, which is nothing like you might think it is.
Whatever you might think of this work, I can guarantee you you’ve never read the like of it. It’s a bit Animal Farmish in its anti-government satire, and you will do some LOL’ing.
sitting up clapping

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *