by Vladimir Sorokin, translated from the Russian by Sally Laird
With a new afterword by the AuthorOver the last twenty-five years Vladimir Sorokin has established himself as a provocative and unignorable presence in contemporary Russian literature, and The Queue, his first novel, is now recognized as a modern classic. Sorokin’s brilliance—his formal daring, his keen eye and ear for the absurdities of life and language, his unequaled playfulness—is manifest in this sly comedy set during the late Soviet “years of stagnation.” Thousands of citizens are in line for … nobody knows quite what, but the rumors are flying. Leather or suede? Jackets, jeans? Turkish, Swedish, maybe even American? It doesn’t matter—if something’s for sale, it’s time to queue up. The endless line of expectant, irritable, inquisitive, bored but never less than determined people has a life and a will of its own, and Sorokin, in a tour de force, conveys that life entirely through the ebb and flow of conversation. We get to know his characters as they joke and curse, flirt, fight over position in line, make love or break up, slurp down ice cream and vodka, run errands, fill out crossword puzzles, fall asleep and stand to attention again when morning comes around and the queue—which may be as long as life and as wide as the world—exercises its hypnotic hold.
Sally Laird’s translation of The Queue has been revised to reflect the changes in the latest Russian edition of Sorokin’s youthful masterpiece, while in a new afterword Sorokin himself looks back with peculiar nostalgia on the bygone world of the Soviet Union.
With humor, anger and irony, Sorokin creates a brilliant set piece, conveying the absurdity, the dehumanization and, above all, the inevitability of waiting in line.
— Publishers Weekly
[A] landmark of international postmodern fiction.
— Keith Gessen
If queues were arranged in order of merit, it would only be fair to put the Soviet writer Vladimir Sorokin at the head.
— The Guardian (London)
Mr. Sorokin demonstrates a remarkable ear for dialogue...Occasionally in its characters' speech The Queue resembles, as befits a colloquial account of an overnight queue, Waiting for Godot. Its humor, however, is broader and nowhere as stark.
— The New York Times
[Vladimir Sorokin is an] innovative young writer, never published officially in the USSR, who draws on two great Russian traditions sorely missing from Soviet literature: avant-garde experiment and a flair for nonsense. The book has no description, settings, or stage direction, nothing but voices: snatches of conversation, rumors, jokes, howls of rage, roll calls, and sexy moans. Sorokin's magic pen turns this framework into a mini-picaresque novel with a hero of sorts. Readers with some imagination will enjoy following Vadim and his co-queuers through their days and nights on line and off.
— Library Journal
The Queue is a devastating satire of Soviet bureaucracy, and its message is made even more effective by the deadpan method chosen for its delivery...reminiscent of Kafka, Orwell and Beckett in their explorations of nightmare societies...It's ending is ironic and funny, while reinforcing the cynical tone of the whole novel and the impression that the Soviet Union is a vast, unmanageable bureaucracy.
— Globe and Mail