'Monday Starts on Saturday' is an absurdist romp thru a dystopian Bell Labs

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/02/13/monday-starts-on-saturday.html


I loved this book as a teenager, have read it many times since… A cheap yellowing paperback found in a second hand shop. I had no context for most of the references in the book, most of which borrow from russian folklore. The title refers to the workaholic nature of most of the people in the lab who dreaded the day off on sunday and so pretended it didnt exist. The book is hilarious, but an extra bit of pleasure came from not understanding the references and so trying to piece together some sort of logic to the story. If you can find it, buy it…

Incidently, the authors are also responsible for the book on which Tarkovsky’s movie Stalker is based.


And do not miss the Strugatsky brothers “The Snail on the Slope” - also a fantastic tale about bureaucracy: A research station outside the mysterious “Forest”.
”Peretz, who works at the Administration, wants to visit the Forest. Candide crashed in the Forest years ago and wants to return to the Administration. Their journeys are surprising and strange, and readers are left to puzzle out the mysteries of these foreign environments. The Strugatskys themselves called The Snail on the Slope ‘the most perfect and the most valuable of our works’.”
There are, in fact, a lot in Jeff Vandermeers Southern Reach books - especially “Authority” - that reminds one of the mood or ideas in the Strugatsky’s books.


Hard to be a God is next.


That’s why the names sounded familar…

A college friend’s ex-pat Russian wife got me a copy. It is nicely illustrated!

The first and second halves have different tones; I wonder if they were written at different times. Part one is recruitment; part two is a look at life in the institute.

Learned a lot of interesting stuff. Like, Soviet-era Russia had rental cars. (The story begins with the lead character on a road trip vacation.)

In another scene, a bunch of folks are lined up with computer punch cards waiting for their turn to run jobs on the institute’s computer. Included was a guy from a local factory who wanted to run the payroll. That strikes me as something the Strugatsky’s might have seen in real life.


The spouse got this for just over a year ago for Xmas. I read it first after having read The Doomed City thanks to a post about it here. I also read through Roadside Picnic in that time. I love the absurdity mixed with Russian fatalism of this story and it made me laugh out loud which few books do.

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This was the book that got me into Strugatsky at the age of 12. I am Bulgarian so the local translation doesn’t diverge from the original and having read lot’s of russian fairytales I knew most of the references. At the same time I was discovering Terry Pratchett and couldn’t stop myself drawing a paralellel between this book and his writing.
Enthusiastically I went to the library to find more of the Strugatsky brothers got myself thrown into deeper and darker world that I’ve reread many times since.
Now I am trying to collect all of their books in Bulgarian (and nobody is publishing them anymore) since I prefer to have access to these translations and not to an English one which I suppose will put some cultural distance between me and the world the brothers lived in.


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