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download epub Понедельник начинается в субботу By Arkady Strugatsky – Blockdiagramwiring.co

A buddy read with my friend Sarah. I am not going to mention I tricked her into this.

Who is the greatest science fiction writer of US? Robert A. Heinlein? Roger Zelazny? Ray Bradbury? Issac Asimov? Hard to pick one. Who is the greatest science fiction writer of GB? Arthur C. Clarke? H.G. Wells? Neil Gaiman? Again hard to pick one. Who is the greatest science fiction writer of the former Soviet Union writing in Russian? This question is laughably easy. Ask anybody who was "lucky" to live in that country and the answer would be: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. As science fiction writers the brothers were on their own level; some people came close, but nobody quite managed to reach it.

The second title of the book is A Fairy Tale for Young Scientiststhis is a good description of what the book is about. It consists of three interconnecting stories. In the first one the main character, Alexander Privalov came from Leningrad to a northern Russian city for a vacation and ended up in a mysterious research institute called NITWITT (National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy). In other words, an institute researching magic. Spending a night in a hut with chicken legs and talking to a learned talking cat clued Alexander in.
Learned cat
If you think it had some Harry Potter vibes you are absolutely right, except that this book was written at the time J.K. Rowling was still wearing diapers.

In the second story Alexander became the unlucky one to get a work shift during New Year celebration. He walks around the institute (first four floors only) and we learn about different kinds of research done and all kinds of creatures working as assistants, cleaning staff, research material, etc. Think of any creature from any world mythology: it is there. Highlevel researchers deserve to be mentioned. How is about a guy formerly known as The Grand Inquisitor? His behavior mellowed out somewhat, but his methods did not. It should be obvious Merlin is there as well. He is written after Merlin of Mark Twain and Strugatsky brothers managed to make him even more hilarious than the classic of American literature did.
Merlin
The second story is full of funny moments.
“Strange department, this. Their motto was: "The comprehension of Infinity requires infinite time." I did not argue with that, but then they derived an unexpected conclusion from it: Therefore work or not, it´s all the same."
In the interests of not increasing the entropy of the universe, they did not work.”

The last story is about routine life of the institute. Only "routine" cannot be applied to such a place. Here Alexander got to use a time machine and the authors use his trip to satirize all of wellknown cliches and staples of science fiction. One of them in particular made me rethink the way the cloths are described not only in science fiction, but literature in general. The book ends with Alexander and a group of his friends cracking the mystery of the institute's director.

I talked to quite a few people doing research at the time the book was published. Their common opinion was, Strugatsky nailed the atmosphere and people. Personally for me this book is a tribute to scientists of the Soviet Union who loved their work, lived it, and were enthusiastic about it. These are the people that opened the space for humanity.
Spaceflight

It also has satiric description of people that did not belong, strictly speaking. I am talking about bureaucrats, people that never produced anything usefulbut were able to create a great PR around their socalled research. I already mentioned about satire related to poor writing in science fiction.

On the top of this (actually first and foremost) the book is genuinely funny. Unless I lost count it was my tenth reread and I still find parts to laugh at, despite my ability to quote some of the passages from memory. In other words, if this is not a 5star book, I do not know what is.

P.S. The latest English translation (by Andrew Bromfield) is quite good. Knowledge of Russian folklore and culture in general is not necessary, but it will make some of the parts funnier. For example, knowledge of the beginning of Pushkin's Ruslan and Ludmila helps understand the strange situations Alexander stumbled in the first story.
Pushkin

P.P.S. I keep my CV handy since the first time I read the bookin case NITWITT starts hiring. "Понедельник начинается в субботу Сказка для научных работников младшего возраста"под таким заголовком вгоду вышла книга, которой зачитывались и продолжают зачитываться все новые и новые поколения Герои ее, сотрудники НИИЧАВОНаучноисследовательского института Чародейства и Волшебства,маги и магистры, молодые энтузиасты, горящие желанием познать мир и преобразовать его наилучшим образом На этом пути их ждет множество удивительных приключений и поразительных открытий Машина времени и изба на курьих ножках, выращивание искусственного человека и усмирение выпущенного из бутылки джинначитатель не заскучает! This is one of the most fun and enjoyable books I've read in a very long time and it totally came of out of left field for me.

There is a great documentary on YouTube titled Pandora's Box : The Engineers' Plot about how the Soviet Union attempted to use mathematical and scientific principles to bring about the greatest amount of happiness and comfort to the Russian people. Through pure logic and reason the Soviet scientists hoped to control an illogical and irrational population. This was a real thing and it went on for decades. And it was a total failure.

This book was published in the late 1960's during the beginning of a period of Soviet economic downturn. The (relatively) prosperous days of the 1950's and early 1960's of the Soviet Union were coming to an end and the reality of grossly inefficient Soviet rule was apparent to everyonethough not many people said anything publicly. The authors, one of whom was actually an astronomer, would have had a front row seat to many of the societal events of their day from a very unique perspective.

And that's what this book is about.

But it's not just about making fun of the Soviet Unionit's about how all institutions are a bungled mess of competing egos and endless bureaucratic quicksands. But unlike Kafka, they take a much more lighthearted approach to the joke of all human society.

Years ago I was friends with a lady who, like Boris Natanovich Strugatsky, was a scientist. She was one of those wizkid PhD's by her mid twenties and had done so in the field of astrophysics. At the time I was working with a friend making hand built telescopes for the (rich) amateur enthusiasts and so she was always coming by our shop and hanging around.

What I quickly learned, however, was that a genius PhD in astrophysics is not nearly as interesting or romantic as it sounds. Her job was (if I remember this right) the study of the gravitational effect between two incredibly distant galaxies and just those two galaxies. She didn't study anything else about those galaxies or any other structures in the universe, she only studied how gravity worked on a pair of multibillion year old galaxies in a constellation I had never even heard of.

And her knowledge of general astronomy was laughable in many regards. Current news and discoveries were things she was totally unaware of and was probably why she hung around us so that she wouldn't totally lose touch with the greater scope of the field she was working in.

This book deals with pretty much the same idea: scientists have become so hyperspecialized (and, honestly, everyone in higher academia suffers this fate) as to be nearly useless. Here, the scientists are all magus (magicians and wizardseven Merlin himself) who work at an institute devoted to discovering and perfecting human happiness. Their tools include a couch that interperts dreams, a sort of motorcycle that you can drive into the invented future realities of science fiction books. In town there is a mermaid in a tree and a wish fulfilling pike in a well. There are coins that always show back up in your pocket when you spend them and a man who is two men, one who at midnight instead of living into the next day like the rest of us time linear folks, reappears 24 hours earlier and lives that day instead.

It's a totally bonkers idea, but that's the whole point, too because in a way it mirrors not only what was going on in the Soviet Union at the time, but also what still goes on in the Ivory Towers of higherlearning around the world.

But there's a larger theme at work here, too, and that's of how the general public sees science. For many people the work of the scientists is not much different than that of a magician because it's nearly impossible to explain what scientists actually do. Academic papers might as well be fairy tales for all the good they do a regular person who has to go to work all day.

The authors then go on to make parallels to the media and the 'rock star' scientist who does no real science but the public loves them because they do a lot of neat tricks (like a magician).

Even economics is explored where they take their egotistical, rock star scientist, and task him with trying to create the perfect man but who only turns out to be so incredibly gluttonous because he has everything he wants and can be given everything he wants as to literally explode after gorging on nearly 3 tons of rotting fish heads.

Not bad that they could expose the failings of both Capitalism and Communism with only one metaphor!

And there is so much more here, too. That's what I love about this bookit's great fun and wildly imaginative, but it also gets you to really think about a great many concepts and ideas without hitting you over the head with them.

The book is outrageous, the characters are thinner than the pages, there is no dramatic tension at all, but none of that stuff matters because the ideas rule here. And there are also some wonderfully powerful images that will linger : the ride into the future where we meet the soldier near the Iron Curtain thousands of years into the future, or the bird, or my favorite: the giant, lazy mosquito the size of a dog that he shoos out the window into a driving blizzard in the middle of the night where it immediately disappears in the storm and cold.

Strange and brilliant. 🧙 Most Frolicsome Soviet Wizards R Us Buddy Read (MFSWRUBR™) with Evgeny (aka He Who Forces Me To Read All This Russian Stuff Against My Nefarious Will) 🧙

Actual rating: 8.568426 stars

⚠️ This crappy nonreview is a disgraceful disgrace, and a revolting insult to the Greatness that is this book. Thou hast been warned and stuff.

There’s really just one thing you need to know about this Slightly Very Good Book (SVGB™): the characters in it work at a place called NITWITT. Don’t believe me? Check this out:



Ha! Now if that isn’t the best incentive to read a story ever, I don’t know what is. And for those of you who show spectacular lack of judgement think this frolicsome NITWITT business isn’t reason enough to pick this SVGB™ up, here are a few things that better might entice you to read it post haste:

① Evgeny might unleash his Villainously Villainous Minions (VVM™) on you if you don’t. (Given that I am one of said minions, expect a friendly visit from the murderous crustaceans pronto and stuff.) But hey, no pressure and stuff.

② NITWITT stands for National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy. I want to work there when I grow up. Because it is “gloriously, colourfully and perfectly believably dysfunctional.” Meaning complete, utter, delicious wackiness abounds, and the place is packed with complete loonies (aka one of the mostest gloriousest cast of characters ever). In other words, the perfect work environment for my nefarious little self and stuff.



Yeah, more or less. Only that NITWIIT has magic tablecloths, flyingcarpets, people who can spell ‘ghoul’ properly (don’t ask), mermaids that clamber around in trees, pseudomonkeys in white coats, a Department of Linear Happiness, truckloads of herring heads, a Department of Militant Atheism, caps of darkness, working models of gravitational sevenleague boots, breeches of darkness, and selfplaying psalteries. But no magic divan, I’m afraid. Anyway, moving on and stuff.

③ There’s a slightly unbalanced cat who suffers from memory loss, a condition that drives him slightly a little nuts sometimes. Also, he sings and tells the most fascinating stories. Well the parts he remembers, anyway.

‘And in the field, the fiaowld,’ he sang, ‘the pliaow runs of itself, and mmmeh … mmmiaow, and following that pliaow … mmiaow … Our Lord himself does walk … or stalk?’
④ Hahahahahahahaha. Hahahahahaha. Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha ← I think this kinda sorta means this book made me laugh some. Not much though. Just a little bit and stuff.

④ Baba Yaga FTW! Okay, so my favorite grandma isn’t at her best here, what with her broomstick being in a museum and her flying mortar not getting repaired, but she’s still the coolest, most funloving gram ever, if you ask me.



See what I mean?

⑤ Evgeny read this book too many as many times as I’ve read Burn for Me. This should tell you something. Yes, it should.

⑥ There’s a pike that has rheumatism and speaks in a strong northern Russian accent. (Which I am told is a teensy little bit unusual for a pike.) So QED and stuff.

⑦ Merlin (yes, that Merlin) is head of the Department of Predictions and Prophecies. And has lots of interesting stuff to say about his fight against Yankee imperialism back in the Middle Ages *waves at Mark Twain* Also, he has a miracle cure for radiculitis. I kid you not.

⑦ Scrumptiously Scrumptious Stuff (S³) galore: service personnel impsflyingbroom squadrons and the Hundred Years’ Warifrits trained as flamethrowing antielephant pursuit battalions by King Solomon Himself and In The Fleshprinters that, um, you know, print stuff like “I’m thinking. Please do not disturb”macrodemons called Entrance and Exit who play rouletteparrots that were cremated tomorrow and no longer exist but come back asking for sugarcadavers whose total scientific value is “quite clearly zero”cumbersome copper aquavitometers =



Get it? Good.

➽ Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): this book in a nutshell? Alice's in Wonderland meets Doorways in the Sand meets the Marx Brothers’ cabin. I rest in my case and stuff.

P.S. I have to say that my Evil Russian Translator of a Nemesis Andrew Bromfield managed not to mess the translation up this time did a pretty good job with this translation. Color me slightly discombobulated and stuff. So kudos to him and stuff.



[Prereview nonsense]

So much original originality, so much hilarious hilarity.

So much delicious nonsense, so much scrumptious absurdity.

So much brilliant wit, so much scintillating cleverness.

How dare some puny humans compare this Slightly Very Wondrous Book (SVWB™) to Harry Potter and Discworld?! (I have nothing against Little Harry, but DISCWORLD?! *starts convulsing a little*) This is most outrageously outrageous indeed, and calls for immediate, ruthless retaliation, if you ask me.



➽ Full review to come. Someday. When pigs have wings, chickens have teeth, and crayfish whistle on the mountain. Maybe. First published in 1965, Monday Starts on Sunday has an unusual feel. Written by a pair of Russian brothers, it applies elements of folklore and fantasy to social commentary on institutions and politics, with a solid dollop of humor on top. I was drawn to it for the above reasons, along with the comparison to Zelazny, and found it enjoyable, as long as I was in the exact right reading mood.

This is not one of those books that can cajole me into enjoying regardless of attention and mood. No doubt, some of this is due to cultural and temporal barriershere I am, a female American, reading this almost 55 years laterbut much is owed to the actual whole of the stories themselves. There's the barest of characterizationsthough I think we are likely to sympathize with the 'straight' man narrator who is recruited into the crazinessbut that's really beside the point, because some of the people exist to present ridiculous situations. This can workthink of oftcompared work, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

boy, am I ever interrupting myself today. Excuse me while I drink more coffeebut what ended up killing it for me was that the situations were interrupted by somewhat didactic narrative about what was happening. Essentially, tone down the absurdity of Hitchhikers, fail to apply even its loosest semblance of plotting, and then interpret said absurd situations for the reader.

All this is to explain why it took me a ridiculous amount of time (by my own standard) to read it, having started and restarted in fits. All that said, once I found my reading groove, it was amusing in spots, and Strugatsky's commentary does seem on point.

Structurally, it's really three novellas, loosely linked. The first includes a number of folklore references, so if you have read fairlystandard Russian folklore, it's particularly fun. The second is more research institution commentary, and while it is occasionally biting, it's also a bit fond as well. The whole reason Monday starts on Saturday, you see, is because these people love what they do.

I can appreciate that, and I can also appreciate some of the institutional and political commentary, if only there wasn't so much of it. The man from the first story is now a member of the Institute, and is charged with maintaining order on the eve of the new year, when everyone should be out celebrating. Only as he makes his rounds, people keep trickling back in. They end up watching the research of the Happiness Department as his latest project is decanted: the Happiest Man, who is noncoincidentally, a literal consumer. It's obvious to everyone that the researcher is a bit of an ass and the experiment will be a disaster, but like a Saturday Night Live skit gone on for ten minutes instead of three, it turns into variations on a theme.

I never got past this story because I kept falling asleep. I felt like I had to restart to get the rhythm of the text and the story, but then would get sleepier and sleepier. It didn't help that there were a number of extremely chaotic happenings in my personal life during the time I had the book checked out. I kept hoping for a more opportune time, but instead Life kept throwing up challenges. I finally surrendered, and paid my library fine.

Honestly, I don't know that I can recommend it to most readers. Because it is so much about the subtext, the actual plotting didn't seem to be enough to drive the story. It would help a great deal if one was familiar with socioeconomic theories as well as the general political state of the major world powers prior to 1965 to appreciate the subtext. And clearly, knowledge of Russian culture and history would be particularly helpful. None of these are needed, persay, but I think all of these are probably what makes it a more standout text, much in the same way Doorways in the Sand pulls in so many references beyond the simple (but bananas!) plot. What a fun read. Now How the hell am I going to get my hands on the rest of the books from this series in English... Younger Me You Fool, Why didn't you pay attention in Russian classes back in high school!?

Anyway, regrets aside, to the review. The book comprises three humorous short stories featuring Soviet Scientists/Wizards working at NITWITT (National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy) and their daily troubles. By the style it's like the wizards from The Unseen University but written almost 20 years before Pratchett's Discworld series and dealing with typical Soviet (and basically any variation of a socialist regime) bureaucracy, inept administration, a dishonest, showhorse professor, and equipment failures. Not to mention fairy tales gone wrong: Baba Yagas property belonging to the state and waiting for compensation, the wish granting Gold Fish died from a depth charge in WWII, the wish granting trout exhausted from giving televisions and radios to the people, the all knowing cat suffering from dementia and many many more.

The characters are almost all scientists working at the institute trying to figure out happiness, meaning of life and solve mathematically proven unsolvable problems, while arguing, debating and trying to survive their other colleagues. And who knew that Merlin was a staunch Communist before Karl Marx.

And finally the brilliant title Monday Starts on a Saturday that reflects the authors ideal of a proper scientist. I just finished listening to a magnificent audio version and I already know I'm ready to do it again. Says me, who rarely does audiobooks, because audiobooks put me to sleep. Well, with this one I couldn't doze off because I laughed too often.
I had soooooo much fun! Both on the intellectual level as well as shits and giggles level, because this book has it all. On one hand it's a pity I haven't read this one as a teen, but on the other I'm pretty sure I would miss most of political allusions together with all the tongueincheekness Strugatskys put into this book. Anyway, it can never be too late for a great timeless classic. Even if it is in fact a tad datedof course it's full of komsomolskiy optimism and enthusiasm for science and futureI still think it aged rather well, much better in fact than some of the western scifi books written in 60'ies. And much better than other soviet scifi for sure.
A sudden thoughtif I first read this and then later Zelazny and Pratchett, they wouldn't probably seem so fresh and original to me... But no worriesI still love them.
Anyway, gotta get myself more Strugatskys this year, definitely got to reread Roadside Picnic soon... 5 stars for this one! Maybe I'm too dumb for some books. Or maybe some books are too dumb for me. I've no idea which was the case here.

Fun though. An extra star for that. Even though it wasn't the fun kind of fun. One of the best books I've ever read. I keep rereading it from time to time when I need a chuckle at the foolishness of life, or when I am too stressed with exams and research papers for my own good.

The Brothers Strugatsky managed to satirise everything under the sun: Academic research, communist optimism, sciencefiction (and especially sciencefiction authors), academia, and on and on.

The book might prove a touch impenetrable for the foreign language (English or otherwise) reader, due to its reliance, especially in the first part, on Russian folk tales. But this is hardly a problem that cannot be overcome with a measure of footnotes and creative extrapolation. I started rereading it almost by accident because I wanted to find the timetravelers' contramotic Tunguska reference (which is tucked away at the very end), and the book was nice and pleasing in some chunks and rather irritating in others. It's very obvious how it has aged (something that is ridiculed by the authors themselves in the scene where Privalov is witnessing the worlds depicted by science fiction authors; and, for example, in these same scenes the sexual division of labor is glaringly obvious, but it's not something Privalov is commenting on). The second part is the most boring; there's no plot to speak of; but as an illustration of the frame of mind of a certain chunk of Soviet intelligentsia it's certainly very interesting.