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15 November 2018

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Monday Starts on Saturday

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (Chicago Review Press, $15.99), translated by Andrew Bromfield

Sometimes the best prescription for the onslaught of modernity is to take refuge in a classic. This new translation of the Strugatsky brother’s science fiction adventure novel offers a satisfying refuge.

A young computer programmer (Sasha, of course) on his way to a vacation picks up a couple of hitchhikers and they convince him to take a job in their odd, dysfunctional institute. Part Gogol, part Kafka, part Douglas Adams, this 1964 work remains one of Russians’ most favorite science fiction works, and it is laced with the veiled critiques of the Soviet system that the genre was famous for, most specifically spoofing the idea that one could scientifically pursue or perfect human happiness.

For a taste, here is a fairly typical, randomly selected paragraph:

Alfred came running up, cracking a whip, and the vampires withdrew into a dark corner, where they immediately started swearing obscenely and slapping down homemade cards on the floor in a frenzied game.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Jan/Feb 2018