THE SNAIL ON THE SLOPE

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Translation -

Arkady Stru­gatsky, Boris Stru­gatsky, Olena Bor­mashenko (Trans­la­tor), Chicago Re­view Press (AU­GUST) Hard­cover $28.99 (240pp), 978-0914091-87-5

Arkady and Boris Stru­gatsky grap­ple with iden­tity, fear, self-dis­cov­ery, and progress against the sur­real back­drop of their novel, The Snail on the Slope.

This is a novel of op­po­site per­spec­tives. The first is that of Peretz, a philol­o­gist pressed into the ser­vice of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion; he can’t seem to fig­ure out his place in the strange bu­reau­cracy. The Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pri­mary goal is to tame the mys­te­ri­ous For­est that sur­rounds its com­pound. Peretz is drawn to the For­est––not be­cause of any di­rec­tive from his su­pe­ri­ors, but be­cause of a long­ing for es­cape and free­dom.

Mean­while, Can­dide, an em­ployee of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion who crashed a he­li­copter in the For­est some time ago, seeks a way out of the wild­ness and back to the Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Both men are dis­con­tent with their cur­rent sit­u­a­tions and ro­man­ti­cize their per­ceived means of sal­va­tion.

The prose is of­ten won­der­fully dis­ori­ent­ing. Every­one ex­cept Peretz seems to un­der­stand the bizarre in­ner work­ings of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion. One minute, he is thrown out of his room by a para­noid ho­tel man­ager, and the next, he is lis­ten­ing through a col­league’s phone to in­com­pre­hen­si­ble in­struc­tions from the Di­rec­tor un­til he’s told that his phone is else­where. Or­der is con­stantly in flux.

Sim­i­larly, the For­est of­fers a wealth of dream­like im­agery. Can­dide must nav­i­gate a path filled with oth­er­worldly crea­tures, thieves, and a group of women who are able to con­ceive chil­dren with­out men, all while the peo­ple he meets try, with slip­pery lan­guage, to dis­suade him from go­ing to the City. In both men’s cases, there are no neat res­o­lu­tions to be found, though an af­ter­word by Boris Stru­gatsky sheds some light on the gen­e­sis and the­matic con­cerns of this fas­ci­nat­ing novel.

The Snail on the Slope pro­vokes ques­tions about hu­man­ity’s tra­jec­tory in light of sci­en­tific and so­cial progress.

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