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The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya

The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya

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Published by Cristina M. Pascari
I do not have the copyright and just published it for reading online only
It is a great book, enjoy it!
I do not have the copyright and just published it for reading online only
It is a great book, enjoy it!

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Published by: Cristina M. Pascari on Oct 23, 2013
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12/22/2013

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AnnotationTatyana Tolstaya's powerful voice is one of the best in contemporary Russian literature. She wrote many a commentaryon modern-day Russia for the New York Review of Books before moving back to Moscow to complete her first novel,The Slynx. Tolstaya is a descendant of the great Leo Tolstoy but that might be beside the point. The Slynx is a brilliantlyimaginative satire set in a hypothetical Moscow two hundred years after an event termed "the Blast." The Blast hasforever altered the landscape of Moscow. People now live with mutations, called Consequences. Some have cockscombsgrowing everywhere, some have three legs and then there are the Degenerators who are humans in doglike bodies.Some "Oldeners" still linger on. Their only Consequence is that they remain unchanged and seemingly live forever. Theyremember life before the Blast and moan the primitive cultural mores of the society they live in, where only the wheelhas been invented thus far and the yoke is just catching on. This feudal landscape is ruled by Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe, a
 
tyrant who rules with an iron hand. Kuzmich passes off all Russian literature as his own works and issues decrees at thedrop of a hat to keep the public ignorant and docile. The primary protagonist of The Slynx is a young scribe, Benedikt. His job is to copy all of Kuzmich's "works" on to bark, for use by the public. Benedikt marries a coworker, Olenka, anddiscovers the wonder of books through his father-in-law, Kudeyar Kudeyarich. His father-inlaw, however, harborsnefarious plans to oust the current regime. Benedikt's love of books soon turns ugly and Kudeyarich channels this forceto implement his own evil designs. The Slynx is translated fluidly by Jamey Gambrell. One wonders how she worked inintelligent phrases such as: "You feel sorry for someone. Must be feelosophy." Tolstaya's descriptions of the futuristicbackdrop where people eat and trade mice as currency are bizarre yet not hugely so. Sometimes she seems to be so inlove with her own creation that the storyline tends to wander. But she does not stray too far and her prose dripping withrich imagery more than makes up for it. Tolstaya's futuristic Russia might not be very different from the one she oftencomplains about. "Why is it that everything keeps mutating, everything?" laments an Oldener, "People, well all right, butthe language, concepts, meaning! Huh? Russia! Everything gets twisted up in knots." The perils of a society in which"Freethinking" is a crime and where an indifferent populace can be "evil" are ably brought out by the gifted Tolstaya."There is no worse enemy than indifference," she warns, "all evil in fact comes from the silent acquiescence of theindifferent." The scary "Slynx," in the novel, is a metaphor for all the evil that is waiting to rear its ugly head on asleeping people. The Slynx's descriptions of a tyrannical society might be too simplistic to apply to Russia. Its reception inthe country has been mixed. The newspaper Vechernaya Moskva commented: "After all that we have read and thoughtover about Russia during the last fifteen years, this repetition of old school lessons is really confusing. There is a surfeitof caricatures of the intellegentsia, of anti-utopias depicting the degradation and decay of the national consciousness,and postmodernistic variations on the theme of literarycentrism." That having been said, Tolstaya's haunting proseserves as a chilling reminder of the way things could be, especially when government censorship and other controlsmove silently back in. The "Slynx" is never too far away. History, as they say, does tend to repeat itself. Tatyana TolstayaGLOSSARY AZ BUKI VEDI GLAGOLDOBRO YEST ZHIVETE ZELO IZHE I KRATKOE DECREE I DESIATERICHNOE KAKO LIUDI MYSLETE NASH ON POKOI RTSYSLOVO TVERDO UK FERT KHER SHCHA TSI CHERV SHA ER YERY YER' YAT PS. THETAIZHITSA POETRY QUOTED IN The Slynx Tatyana TolstayaTatyana Tolstaya The SlynxTranslated by Jamey Gambrell, © 2003GLOSSARYBlin (bliny, pl): large, thin pancake, rather like a crepe. Golubchik (m), Golubushka (f): my dear, my good fellow, oftenused ironically. In the novel it is used as a form of address, like "comrade." Izba: small cottage or peasant hut, somethinglike a log cabin. Kvas: fermented drink, slightly sweet. Lapty: shoe or slipper made of bast, usually worn by peasants.Murza: Tatar feudal lord.Terem: mansion or large house, often several stories high.AZ
 
Benedikt pulled on his felt boots, stomped his feet to get the fit right, checked the damper on the stove, brushed thebread crumbs onto the floor-for the mice-wedged a rag in the window to keep out the cold, stepped out the door, andbreathed the pure, frosty air in through his nostrils. Ah, what a day! The night's storm had passed, the snow gleamed allwhite and fancy, the sky was turning blue, and the high elfir trees stood still. Black rabbits flitted from etop to treetop.Benedikt stood squinting, his reddish beard tilted upward, watching the rabbits. If only he could down a couple-for anew cap. But he didn't have a stone. It would be nice to have the meat, too. Mice, mice, and more mice-he was fed upwith them. Give black rabbit meat a good soaking, bring it to boil seven times, set it in the sun for a week or two, thensteam it in the oven-and it won't kill you. That is, if you catch a female. Because the male, boiled or not, itdoesn't matter. People didn't used to know this, they were hungry and ate the males too. But now they know: if you eatthe males you'll be stuck with a wheezing and a gurgling in your chest the rest of your life. Your legs will wither. Thickblack hairs will grow like crazy out of your ears and you'll stink to high heaven. Benedikt sighed: time for work. Hewrapped his coat around him, set a wood beam across the door of the izba, and even shoved a stick behind it. Therewasn't anything to steal, but he was used to doing things that way. Mother, may she rest in peace, always did it thatway. In the Oldener Days, before the Blast, she told him, everyone locked their doors. The neighbors learned this fromMother and it caught on. Now the whole settlement locked their doors with sticks. It might be Freethinking. Hishometown, FyodorKuzmichsk, spread out over seven hills. Benedikt walked along listening to the squeak of fresh snow,enjoying the February sun, admiring the familiar streets. Here and there black izbas stood in rows behind high pikefences and wood gates; stone pots or wood jugs were set to dry on the pikes. The taller terems had bigger jugs, andsome people would even stick a whole barrel up there on the spike, right in your face as if to say: Look how rich I am,Golubchiks! People like that don't trudge to work on their own two feet, they ride on sleighs, flashing their whips, andthey've got a Degenerator hitched up. The poor thing runs, all pale, in a lather, its tongue hanging out, its felt bootsthudding. It races to the Work Izba and stops stock-still on all four legs, but its fuzzy sides keep going huffa, puffa, huffa,puffa. And it rolls its eyes, rolls 'em up and down and sideways. And b
ares its teeth. And looks around… To hell with
them, those Degenerators, better to keep your distance. They're strange ones, and you can't figure out if they're peopleor not. Their faces look human, but their bodies are all furry and they run on all fours. With a felt boot on each leg. It'ssaid they lived before the Blast, Degenerators. Could be. It's nippy out now, steam comes out of his mouth, and hisbeard's frozen up. Still-what bliss! The izbas are sturdy and black, there are high white snowdrifts leaning against thefences, and a little path has been beaten to each gate. The hills run smooth all the way up and back down, white, wavy;sleighs slide along the snowy slopes, and beyond the sleighs are blue shadows, and the snow crunches in colors, andbeyond the hills the sun rises, splashing rainbows on the dark blue sky. When you squint, the rays of the sun turn intocircles; when you stomp your boots in the fluffy snow it sparks, like when ripe firelings flicker. Benedikt thought amoment about firelings, remembered his mother, and sighed: she passed away on account of those fire-lings, poorthing. They turned out to be fake. The town of Fyodor-Kuzmichsk spreads out over seven hills. Around the town areboundless fields, unknown lands. To the north are deep forests, full of storm-felled trees, the limbs so twisted you can'tget through, prickly bushes catch at your britches, branches pull your cap off your head. Old people say the Slynx lives inthose forests. The Slynx sits on dark branches and howls a wild, sad howl-eeeeennxx, eeeeennxx, eeenx-a-leeeeeennnxx!-but no one ever sees it. If you wander into the forest it jumps on your neck from behind: hop! It grabsyour spine in its teeth-crunch-and picks out the big vein with its claw and breaks it. All the reason runs right out of you. If you come back, you're never the same again, your eyes are different, and you don't ever know where you're headed,like when people walk in their sleep under the moon, their arms outstretched, their fingers fluttering: they're asleep, butthey're standing on their own two feet. People will find you and take you inside, and sometimes, for fun, they'll set anempty plate in front of you, stick a spoon in your hand, and say "Eat." And you sit there like you're eating from an emptyplate, you scrape and scrape and put the spoon in your mouth and chew, and then you make to wipe your dish with apiece of bread, but there's no bread in your hand. Your kinfolk are rolling on the loor with laughter. You can't do foryourself, not even take a leak, someone has to show you each time. If your missus or mother feels sorry for you, shetakes you to the outhouse, but if there's no one to watch after you, you're a goner, your bladder will burst, and you'll just die. That's what the Slynx does. You can't go west either. There's a sort of road that wayinvisible, like a little path.You walk and walk, then the town is hidden from your eyes, a sweet breeze blows from the fields, everything's fine andgood, and then all of a sudden, they say, you just stop. And you stand there. And you think: Where was I going anyway?What do I need there? What's there to see? It's not like it's better out there. And you feel so sorry for yourself. Youthink: Maybe the missus is crying back at the izba, searching the horizon, holding her hand over her eyes; the chickens

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