The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya

The Slynx - Tatyana Tolstaya, Jamey Gambrell

I joined a book club! I've never been a part of one before so I thought that it would be a fun experience. The book club is called International Reads here on GoodReads and its purpose is for its members to read as diversely as possible. We want to read as many books from foreign countries because foreign novels are rarely ever highlighted. We read a different book each month then have a discussion on said book at the end of each month. This month's book is The Slynx. I ordered my copy from the library (I don't like buying books unless I know I am going to like it and considering I have never heard of this book, I didn't really want to risk it) and just finished reading it.

I want to start off by saying that I think this book is very interesting. The story Tolstaya created highlights Russian society very well and satirizes its culture in a highly intellectual way. I can't comment on her writing style because it's a translated work, but I will say that the translation was a bit hit and miss with me. I am not blaming Jamey Grambell as a translator. I think she did an amazing job! I just think that with something as complex as this literary composition, it just loses a lot of its meaning in the translation. That's the difficult thing about translated works. You'll never get the full meaning of what's being written unless you read it in its native tongue. Still, from what I've gathered and the very little (VERY LITTLE) knowledge I have of the Russian language, Grambell did what she could to bring a very natural, and enjoyable, reading experience to English speakers.

Even though I think that this book is brilliant with what it set out to do, I was not a huge fan of it. The way it was written, switching from second to third person, took some time getting used to but that's not why I struggled with this read. I just felt that, for the most part, it just seemed to drag on and on. I couldn't get invested in the story because it would talk about the society one moment then about eating mice the next and it was just a bit too... all over the place for me. Also, I did not like the main character. Benedikt was shallow, moronic, and childish. I can overlook the fact that he's shallow; that just makes him human. It's his close-mindedness that made want to throw him into a ditch. He was just so dumb! Ugh!

I know and can recognize the brilliance of this novel. I appreciate the fact that the book club chose this to be the first book we read because there's so much symbolism and depth to its narrative; I just really love reading things like this. But because of its pacing and the fact that I really couldn't follow the story too well, be it the translation or the fact that I don't know much about Russian society, it's just not one of my favorite reads. However, if you like dystopians and Russian politics/culture, I think you should give this a read. You might find it quite fascinating!