Read Vladimir Sorokin’s beautiful, abject, horrifying story “Nastya”

You can read the full text of  Vladimir Sorokin’s beautiful, abject, horrifying very long short story “Nastya” at The Baffler. 

The novella-length piece swirls between fairy tale magic and Sadean cruelty. It is probably best if you consume “Nastya” on an empty stomach—like his novel Their Four Hearts, “Nastya” is reminiscent of Pasolini’s horrifying masterpiece Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. And like Their Four Hearts, this story is translated by Max Lawton, who vividly conveys the dream-nightmare-reality energy of Sorokin’s prose.

“Nastya” is from the collection Red Pyramid, which will publish in Lawton’s English-language translation early next year. (You can read the title story here.)

Here are the opening paragraphs of “Nastya”

A GRAYISH-BLUE LULL BEFORE DAWN, a slow boat on the heavy mirror of Denezh Lake, emerald caverns in the juniper bushes creeping menacingly toward the white wash of the alpine waters.

Nastya turned the brass knob of the door to the balcony and pushed it open. The thick, reeded glass swam to the right, splintering the landscape with its parallel flutes and mercilessly dividing the little boat into twelve pieces. A damp avalanche of morning air flowed through the open door, embraced her, and shamelessly flew up into her nightgown.

Nastya inhaled greedily through her nose and walked out onto the balcony.

Her warm feet recognized the cool wood, and its boards creaked gratefully. Nastya lay her hands upon the peeling paint of the railing, tears came to her eyes as she took in the motionless world: the left and right wings of the manor, the garden’s milky green, the severity of the linden grove, the sugar-cube church on the hill, the willow branches lying on the ground, the stacks of mown grass.

Nastya rolled her wide, thin shoulders, let down her hair, and stretched out with a moan, listening to her vertebrae crack as her body woke up.

And here is a sentence from later in the story that made me laugh out loud:

“Don’t dare overcook my daughter!”

Great fucked up stuff.

3 thoughts on “Read Vladimir Sorokin’s beautiful, abject, horrifying story “Nastya””

  1. I really don’t get why you rate this guy so highly. Perhaps a bad choice for first read but I bought Day of the Oprichnik and had to stop after the first chapter – peurile, simplistic and frankly unbearably boring – like a high school essay. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

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    1. I mean if you didn’t like it you didn’t like it. I didn’t think Oprichnik was as good as Telluria or Blue Lard, but I certainly didn’t think it was boring—violent and gross, sure. I don’t think Sorokin is an acquired taste. I think his stuff might be repellent to many readers. But I don’t think it’s callow writing at all, but rather a response to his native country’s twisted mythology and history, as well as the postindustrial world in general.

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  2. Yeah, I get where you’re coming from – I think Oprichnik put me in mind of American Psycho, which is perhaps a response to the twisted mythology and history of Ellis’ native country. Suffice to say that neither of these novels, or indeed their style (or lack thereof) appeal to my reading appetite.
    Anyway, keep up the good work – I have found much new reading from visiting your pages.

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