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"Monday Begins On Saturday", a Russian Equivalent of Harry Potter.

Updated on March 14, 2011

Surrogates

When my son is at home, we like to watch a good movie together. I get my popcorn, he gets barbeque wings… and, of course, a good movie that we usually rent at a Family Video store. Tonight it was “Surrogates” with Bruce Willis. The movie was released in 2009 and was based on the 2005–2006 comic book series of the same name. The movie is well known and this hub is not about it, though “Surrogates” deserve a deep review, as it touches serious problems and dilemmas.

The idea of using remotely-controlled androids instead of their own selves stirred some memories in me.


There is an amazing book written by two brothers, famous writers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky- Monday Begins on Saturday , or Monday Starts on Saturday (Russian: Понедельник начинается в субботу).

It was written in 1964 and it is a science fiction, or rather, a science fantasy novel. The scene happens in a fictional town in northern Russia, where highly classified research in magic occurs. This novel influenced several generations of young Russians, opening up new horizons of intellectual freedom, combined with endless fun.

Sometimes it is called “Russian equivalent of Harry Potter written 40 years ago” because of its magic content, but I personally don’t agree with this and consider “Monday begins on Saturday” far above “Harry Potter” because it has much deeper meaning and much more humor, as well it is very positive and has light aura unlike black aura of Harry Potter books..

Actually the novel was a satire of Soviet scientific research institutes, their bureaucracy, inept administration, dishonest professors, and numerous equipment failures. It offers an idealistic view of the scientific work ethic, as the title suggests that the scientists worked without rest.

The novel is written with great humor, lots of hidden hints, reflections of fairy tales (with a large number of references to well-known Russian fairy tales and children's stories:

Baba Yaga and Zmey Gorynych to name a few, and the Learned Cat from Pushkin's "Ruslan and Lyudmila")

with amazing illustrations by E.Migunov

Science, fun and satire

The novel is written from the point of view of Sasha Privalov, a young programmer from Leningrad, who picks up two hitchhikers during a road trip north through Karelia. After the two find out that he is a programmer, they convince him to stay in Solovets (hints at Solovetsky Islands) and work together with them in the Scientific Research Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry (abbreviated NIIChaVo in Russian, which sounds very close to "Ничего", the word for "nothing")- In the English translation by Andrew Bromfield, the name of the Institute has been translated as NITWITT (National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy).

The research institute is described as a place where everyone should work hard willingly, otherwise their loss of honesty results in hair growing from their ears. These hairy-eared people are viewed with disdain, but (and it is very typical of Soviet times), many of them stay in the institute because it provides them with a comfortable living no matter what.

The novel is remarkable for its colorful characters. For example, Cristóbal Josevich Junta was formerly a Grand Inquisitor, and is now the head of the Department of the Meaning of Life. He is also a talented taxidermist. Modest Matveevich Kamnoedov (whose surname translates to "stone-eater") is an archetypal administrator and bureaucrat who does not understand the "Monday begins on Saturday" work ethic.

Much of the action happens in the laboratory of Vybegallo (roughly "one who runs out"), a professor whose experiments are spectacularly wasteful and crowd-pleasing but utterly unscientific. Vybegallo’s image is modeled in large part on Trofim Lysenko, the charlatan and politico responsible for many setbacks in the science of genetics in USSR.

The final part of the book concerns the mystery of Janus Poluektovich Nevstruev, the director of the institute, who is known to be one man in two personas, called A-Janus and U-Janus. The latter fact was commonly acknowledged, but generally not questioned, until the main characters finds out that U-Janus is a future version of A-Janus who started traveling back in time in a peculiar way: each day at the stroke of midnight he goes to the previous day instead of the next one (dubbed "discrete contramotion").

Anyway, what resemblance does this 1964 year Soviet novel has with 2009 “Surrogates” movie?

The Russian novel “Monday begins on Saturday” describes “clones”, androids, that were used by young scientists. In the novel they are called “doubles”- “A double - that's a very interesting item. As a rule it's a fairly accurate copy of its creator. Let's say a man doesn't have enough hands - he makes up a double that is brainless, mute, who knows only how to solder contacts, or lug weights, or take dictation, but knows how to do these things very well indeed. Or he needs a model anthropoid, also brainless and mute but capable only of walking on ceilings or taking telepathgrams and doing that well. Or again, take the simplest of cases. Say the man is expecting to receive his pay, but does not wish to lose time getting it, so he sends his double in his place, who knows only to keep anyone from getting in front of him in the queue, to sign his name in the record book, and to count the money before leaving the cashier. Of course, not everyone can create doubles. I, for one, was unable to do it. So far, whatever I put together couldn't do a thing - not even walk”.

Of course, “surrogates” of 2009 are much more advanced than “doubles” of 1964, but this is what made me recollect my favorite book of that time.

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    • ReuVera profile imageAUTHOR

      ReuVera 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you all for visiting and commenting.

      Alison, yes, this is the link I put in my links capsule. It's great that you found it. Isn't it nice when you can read a book online for free?

      You should read Monday Begins on Saturday slowly, it is full of hidden hints and intellectual humor and also it gives a great picture of Soviet reality. Thank you for your interest.

    • Alison Graham profile image

      Alison Graham 

      8 years ago from UK

      This is great, I have had a look online and you can read the book Monday Begins on Saturday at http://home.freeuk.net/russica2/books/mond/cont.ht... for free! Thanks so much for sharing this, I am looking forward to settling down for a good read!

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 

      8 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Interesting.

    • sjk6101983 profile image

      sjk6101983 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      awwww! how cute! :)

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