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The Slynx

The Slynx

by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell

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Two hundred years after civilization ended in an event known as the Blast, Benedikt isn’t one to complain. He’s got a job—transcribing old books and presenting them as the words of the great new leader, Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe—and though he doesn’t enjoy the privileged status of a Murza, at least he’s not a serf or a half-human four-legged Degenerator harnessed to a troika. He has a house, too, with enough mice to cook up a tasty meal, and he’s happily free of mutations: no extra fingers, no gills, no cockscombs sprouting from his eyelids. And he’s managed—at least so far—to steer clear of the ever-vigilant Saniturions, who track down anyone who manifests the slightest sign of Freethinking, and the legendary screeching Slynx that waits in the wilderness beyond.

Tatyana Tolstaya’s The Slynx reimagines dystopian fantasy as a wild, horripilating amusement park ride. Poised between Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, The Slynx is a brilliantly inventive and shimmeringly ambiguous work of art: an account of a degraded world that is full of echoes of the sublime literature of Russia’s past; a grinning portrait of human inhumanity; a tribute to art in both its sovereignty and its helplessness; a vision of the past as the future in which the future is now.Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590171967
Pages: 312
Publication Date:


The Slynx, with its comical, tragical, post-nuclear holocaust setting, is a satirical blast, a linguistically inventive glimpse of a future nobody wants to see.
— Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered

It is impossible to communicate adequately the richness, the exuberance, and the horrid inventiveness of The Slynx.
— John Banville, The New Republic

This scenario may sound familiar, but what's new is the setting. Tolstaya, a noteworthy essayist and short story writer descended from the mighty Tolstoy, places her tale in a futuristic Russia and imbues it with a Russian's typically mournful optimism....Not for your average reader of futuristic tales, this belongs instead in all literary collections.
Library Journal

[a] spellbinding futuristic novel....Tolstaya's radioactive world is a cunning blend of Russia's feudal and Soviet eras, with abuse of serfs, mandatory government service, and regulation of literature. The dangers that threaten, however, feel more contemporary: to the south, Chechens; and to the west a civilization that might hold some promise, except that its members "don't know anything about us."
The New Yorker

The Slynx is a profound work. It is well served by Jamey Gambrell's fine translation.
— Books in Canada

A strikingly imagined first novel...skillfully creates a frightening and perversely funny postnuclear world....The slynx is thus less mythic than symbolic: it's the beast in man. Tolstaya enriches this mordant farce with a wealth of weird supporting detail reminiscent of Anthony Burgess's futuristic classic A Clockwork Orange. An ending note informs us that The Slynx was written between 1986 and 2000, and it's easy to see why. A densely woven, thought-provoking fantasy, and an impressive step forward for the gifted Tolstaya.
Kirkus Reviews

Though her short fiction combines a Chekhovian talent for character development with an Isaac Babel-like economy of prose, The Slynx is a complex, deeply rewarding masterwork about a man preserving the charred remains of Russian high culture.
The Washington City Paper

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