Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: August 16, 2022
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated from the Russian by Max Lawton
An NYRB Classics Original
Telluria is set in the future, when a devastating holy war between Europe and Islam has succeeded in returning the world to the torpor and disorganization of the Middle Ages. Europe, China, and Russia have all broken up. The people of the world now live in an array of little nations that are like puzzle pieces, each cultivating its own ideology or identity, a neo-feudal world of fads and feuds, in which no one power dominates. What does, however, travel everywhere is the appetite for the special substance tellurium. A spike of tellurium, driven into the brain by an expert hand, offers a transforming experience of bliss; incorrectly administered, it means death.
The fifty chapters of Telluria map out this brave new world from fifty different angles, as Vladimir Sorokin, always a virtuoso of the word, introduces us to, among many other figures, partisans and princes, peasants and party leaders, a new Knights Templar, a harem of phalluses, and a dog-headed poet and philosopher who feasts on carrion from the battlefield. The book is an immense and sumptuous tapestry of the word, carnivalesque and cruel, and Max Lawton, Sorokin’s gifted translator, has captured it in an English that carries the charge of Cormac McCarthy and William Gibson.
Telluria is as much a feast for the senses as it is the mind. Its 50 idiosyncratic chapters — varying greatly in style and voice — unfold kaleidoscopically into a single, giant and multi-dimensional tapestry. Like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, Telluria is stuffed with a carnival of characters. . . . Prescient. As more of his works become available to English-speaking audiences, we will soon learn what other futures Sorokin has prophesied.
—Matthew Janney, Financial Times
One of the cornerstones of Sorokin’s second period, Telluria. . . is perhaps the most fully articulated vision of Sorokin’s New Medieval aesthetic universe. The English-speaking world has already been treated to two works in this cycle, Day of the Oprichnik and The Blizzard. . . and while those books have already become modern classics, neither matches Telluria's towering narrative ambition and mind-boggling stylistic diversity. . . . a high-concept feat of world-building that captures a capacious sociological portrait of Sorokin’s brave new world . . . Telluria pummels its readers with a such a dazzling kaleidoscope of shifting narratives and fantastic images, it is almost as if the book itself is a hallucinogenic tellurium nail.
—Ben Hooyman, Los Angeles Review of Books
The novel, mixing elements of speculative fiction against a feudal backdrop, typifies Sorokin’s defiance of convention.
—Matthew Broaddus, Publishers Weekly
Telluria. . . is a dystopian fable set in the near future, as Europe has devolved into medieval feudal states and people are addicted to a drug called tellurium. Through the smokescreen of a twisted fantasy teeming with centaurs, robot bandits and talking dogs who eat corpses, Sorokin smuggles in a sly critique of contemporary Russia’s turn toward totalitarianism.
—Alexandra Alter, The New York Times
In Sorokin, Russia found its Pynchon.
—Vladislav Davidzon, Bookforum
Telluria describes a time when comprehensive visions have failed. Heterogeneous societies have crumbled. The world no longer tolerates diversity. The very idea of grand unifying politics, an ‘end of history,’ seems ridiculous. Pluralism, as an ideal, or even as a concept, has disappeared. Members of one society, social class, or economic stratum have little incentive or opportunity to interact with others.
—Bradley Gorski, Public Books
Searing, effervescent prose . . . Sorokin builds paranormal worlds in which, disquietingly, we find illuminating rhymes with our own.
—Matt Janney, Calvert Journal