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Blue Lard

Blue Lard

by Vladimir Sorokin, translated from the Russian and with an afterword by Max Lawton

Regular price $18.95
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Blue Lard is an act of desecration. Blue Lard is what's left after the towering masterpieces of Russian literature have been blown to smithereens, the most graphic, shocking, controversial, and celebrated book to be published in Russia since the end of Communism. Denounced as an abomination on publication in 1999—a crowd of angry Putin supporters gathered in front of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater to toss shredded copies of Sorokin’s books into an enormous papier-mâché toilet—this ferocious takedown of Russian greatness has since found its way into the canon of Russian literature itself.

The book begins in a futuristic laboratory where genetic scientists speak in a dialect of Russian mixed with Chinese. There they work to clone famous Russian writers, who are then made to produce texts in the style of their forebears. The goal of this “script-process” is not the texts themselves but the blue lard that collects in the small of their backs as they write. This substance is to be used to power reactors on the moon—that is, until a sect of devout nationalists breaks in to steal the blue lard, planning to send it back in time to an alternate version of the Soviet Union, one that exists on the margins of a Europe conquered by a long-haired Hitler with the ability to shoot electricity from his hands. What will come of this blue lard? Who will finally make use of its mysterious powers?

Max Lawton’s translation of Blue Lard, the first into English, captures this key work in all its grotesque, havoc-making, horrifying, visceral intensity.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378183
Pages: 368
Publication Date:


[Blue Lard]'s most ingenious passages are parodies of such stalwarts as Tolstoy and Nabokov. A number of loosely related sketches, including a play that lampoons the age-old obsession with Jewish ritual murder and a scene of the Bolshoi Theatre drowning in fecal matter, allow Sorokin to take down Russian culture high and low. Although there's enough sodomy in Sorokin's work to fill a world-class bathhouse [...] perhaps what angers many is that in [his] vast and sordid imagination it is Khrushchev who mounts Stalin and not the other way around.
—Gary Shteyngart, The New Yorker

Forbiddingly postmodern, Sorokin’s texts are a jolting literary and rhetorical head-trip. They test the limits of linguistic boundaries, political satire and scatological humour. Perhaps none of Sorokin’s works embodies this more than Blue Lard, the genre-bending 1999 novel that became his literary calling card and is finally available in English for the first time...From a translation perspective, Blue Lard presents a task almost as fiendish as its subject matter. In the novel’s epistolary opening section, a Russian scientist communicates with his lover in a futuristic dialect that veers between different languages. In some parts, Sorokin uses a mixture of Russian, a made-up Chinese dialect, French and near-incomprehensible science-speak. In other sections, he mimics canonical Russian authors....Lawton does a mighty job...with a work that still leaves the reader with the same assault on the senses as Sorokin’s original...
— Courtney Weaver, Financial Times

Sorokin, global literature’s postmodern provocateur, is both a savage satirist and a consummate showman....[he] resembles his countryman Gogol, a comic enigma whose wonderfully bizarre fictions — like the best and worst of dreams — beg for interpretation while flouting meaning...Blue Lard features a world largely bereft of meaning, love, moral concern or many of the other familiar signposts of fiction. In its place is a new vocabulary, a free-floating grammar of debasement and ecstasy. But one need not stumble into the trap of nihilism. Even Sorokin’s most debauched episodes can be understood as camouflaged bids for transcendence. Each is a challenge, an incitement to change. He reminds us of our scandalous freedom.”
—Dustin Illingworth, The New York Times Book Review

This frenetic 1999 novel by Sorokin, translated for the first time into English by Lawton, led to widespread protests in Russia due to the irreverent political satire contained within its science fiction frame....Sorokin’s patchwork fever dream takes on a weird and wonderful life. Readers will revel in the pandemonium.
Publishers Weekly

Armed with fearless wit, giga-brain wordplay, and epicurean style to spare, iconoclastic supernova Vladimir Sorokin’s Blue Lard hits like a pipe bomb in the despot’s wet dream of how we are. Already an archetypal subversive masterpiece that has literally incited right-wing riots in the streets—and now brought to new life in a bravura high-wire translation by Max Lawton—Gravity’s Rainbow, Naked Lunch, The 120 Days of Sodom, and Dr. Strangelove could be good kin . . . but really nothing should prepare you for the parade of unsparingly hysterical gallows terror in these pages, which demand we reckon with that fact it’s no longer merely satire to portend the systemized demise of literature itself, much less our souls’. Like fresh air in a gashouse, a waterfall in an inferno, what a blessing there’s Sorokin. Read, read, you jackals, while you still have eyes!
—Blake Butler

The year is 2068; the sensibility is savage and gay. . . . The clone manuscripts are brilliant tour-de-force sources of entertainment on their own, and Max Lawton’s translations are pitch-perfect. The reader starts with a pleasant sense of recognition; then a twisted humor invades the story, a couple of weird glitches, until everything collapses into a comic-strip nightmare.
—Michael Scott Moore, Los Angeles Review of Books

Baffled or not, attentive readers will likely emerge altered by the novel’s sheer extravagance, physicality and erudition.... Perhaps a clinching proof of Blue Lard’s achievement and prescience is in how closely it now hews to the absurdities of contemporary Russian life.... This is pure Vladimir Sorokin — just as, in Russia’s present reality, one can imagine Putin, his courtiers and his propagandists fueling their madness from the blue lard they secrete as they compose their daily scripts of lies.
—Julian Evans, TLS

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