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Reading experiment: The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya (Tатьяна Tолстая – kысь)

If you are a bit familiar with the Russian language, you know that it has an amazing vocabulary. For each sensation or event, there is another word. I am only half Russian and don’t reach even a quarter of understanding this language, so I am smart: I don’t read in Russian. I know from the start that I will not understand everything, even if I speak the language fluently. However, being a part of an International Reads club, and the book being of a Russian author – Tatyana Tolstaya, I said why not give it a go? I have the English version anyways. So i read both books.

Conclusion: I did not like the book. I gave it 3 or 4 starts on goodreads but I do not like it. It is a dystopian book and I do not like these types of books. I understood the book, got the message, just didn’t like the delivery of it. Thank God it was so unpredictable and I could read it until the end!

The basic story in a nut shell : City: Fiodor Cuzmici (city previous Moscow), 200 years after the Blast. The survivors of the Blast are the Oldeners – they still have the memories of how the world used to work. New generations – naive creatures with genetic mutation “consequences”. Benedict has very little mutations: just a tail and too many teeth.
Main character: Benedict is struggling to survive. He has no family left and is fearing a mythical creature – the slynx. He has some cravings of going far far away. But were? In every directions there are capital dangers. The order and lives of simple citizens -golubcichi – are strictly controled by the government. If you have dangerous tendencies – Freethinking – or signs of diseases, the government or the Saniturions, will eliminate you. Benedict works for the government, in the writing department, he copies booklets and orders of Bigest Murza – ruler of the city. Benedict’s life changes when he gets married to Olenka, a co-worker.  Olenka’s father is the Head of Saniturions. He discovers to Benedict the magic of reading old printed books, prohibided for the golubchiki. Benedict gets addicted and reads all the books during 1 year.  After that he wants more books, so his father in law convinces him that they must protect the book and all together the culture from the golubchiks, who are only destroying it. Under this pretext, they take over the city and kill Bigest Murza. But Benedict is in for a surprise: his father in law doesn’t care about the culture or books, he wants only power. The book ends with yet another Blast, caused by the misuse of the gasoline. Again, the Oldeners survive. and Benedict.

It was sad for me to see the signs of a generation under a regime (take all freedom, give them mice, and scare them ocazionaly) were life means survival, there is no progress and development.
It is true that those who don’t know the past are condemned to repeat it, and this is one of the main ideas of the book.
Translation wise, there were some details lost and at some point I felt that it is not a Russian novel anymore, the translator decided to include some additional lines for more clarity, but they lines are very English, same with some of the poems, same with names of songs, Christmas songs… The attitude towards women is much more respectuos in the English version and the language is cleaner.
The name of the book is a combination of words in Russian, such as  кысь (the sound you make to call a cat) – брысь (scat)- рысь (lynx) – Русь (the old name of Russian people), so in the end you get Slynx!
Some words were misspelled in Russian and the translation didn’t make sense to me, words as: ‘shopping-hower’ instead of schopenhauer, ‘pudential’ instead of potential, ‘feelosophy’ instead of Philosophy,  ‘runnysause’ instead of Renaissance, ‘more-allity’ instead of Morality, ‘Academishun’ instead of Academician , ‘guzzelean’ instead of Gasoline  and ‘worrums’ instead of Worms. These words got me confused and I could guess the meaning faster thanks to the Russian version.
I am not sorry for reading the book and it really took me out of my comfort zone. Even if the book was somewhat filled with events, I felt it didn’t go anywhere. After some research, I learned that this book was written during 1986-2000, so maybe the perspective and intentions of the author changed from what was initially planned. For me it was just “a book about people and mice”, how a critic called it.

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Book reviews | , , , | Leave a comment


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