I'm not a student of either Russian politics or literature,, so I'm sure plenty of the deeper meaning (and possibly the jokes) passed me by on this one. That being said, I'm enough a child of the Cold War - and Voinovich is enough of a writer - that I didn't feel lost or let down. My sister asked what I was reading. I showed it to her and said, "It's funny as hell. It's a lot funnier than it looks from the cover." She, of course, replied, "It would have to be."
Moscow 2042 came out in 1986, written just a few years before perestroika and glasnost and the reforms that swept through the USSR. If you were around back then, you know the images that the American public received of life under communism - bread lines, ridiculous bureaucracy, censorship, drab clothing, heavy vodka drinking, plenty of propaganda at work. Interestingly, that's nearly exactly how Voinovich portrays his dystopian version of communism at work. Now, I have no real idea how day to day life in Moscow went in the early 80s, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't quite as glum as we were led to believe. Reading this one boosted that feeling - if it was already that bad, the dystopian, possible future would have been a hell of a lot worse.
I wondered a few things while I read this one. Who is he satirizing with his working class writer hero, ready to ride into Moscow on a white horse and be declared Tsar? How much of what he was satirizing was already happening and how much was extrapolation? And what is up with so many writers giving their late-middle-age alter egos young, willing, sexually gifted women to fuck? I mean, sure, I get it. But really? Were there honestly that many Russian spy babes out to rub their naughty bits up on aging writers? I doubt it. Probably helps keep warm, though.
But there were still plenty of tasty little bits to enjoy. The horrors of vegetarian pork. The concept of food and shit and whether one is the other. Long bills on caps to prevent the people from looking at movies projected on the clouds. I do tend to love books that take government control to the absolute extreme. Reading them is like whistling past the graveyard: can't happen to me! Nope, not here!
final thought: For me to get this much enjoyment out of a translated novel satiring something I know so little about is fairly amazing. I have nothing but praise for