Literature / Monday Begins on Saturday

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He should really be more careful with those keys...

Monday Begins on Saturday (Russian: "Понедельник начинается в субботу") is a 1964 novel, one of the most beloved works by the Strugatsky Brothers. A mix of fantasy and science-fiction, it tells the stories of a Soviet research institute dedicated to studying magic and the supernatural, the dedicated scientists who work there, and the wide variety of monsters, ghosts, and other critters that they study and work with. Adapted into a two-part Christmas special back in the early 80s. It's a fun movie in its own right, but it has very little to do with the novel it's supposedly based on (which annoyed the Brothers quite a bit at the time).

Was followed by a much more cynical Tale of the Troika just three years later.

Tropes found in the novel:

  • Adam and/or Eve: The first pithecanthropus has two children named Add-Am and Eihoua. His own name was Ayyoukh, probably a play on Yahweh (normally written in Russian as Iyegova)
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Institute building. Outside, two stories and ten windows per story, inside it is over a kilometer wide and has twelve stories for institute alone, and over hundred other stories.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: A "non-changeable dime" that returns to its owner every time it's spent. Until it's confiscated by policemen as an instrument of petty fraud. Or not so petty: one policeman mentions that there were crooks who collected sums to buy a car (a big deal in the USSR) by repeatedly spending the magical coin and collecting spare change.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The secret institute is called the Scientific Research Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry. In Russian, that abbreviates to NIIChaVo, which sounds suspiciously like the Russian word for "nothing".
    • One English translation gives the laboratory's name as "National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy".
    • The Scientific Research Institute of Kabbalistics and Witchcraft is also mentioned. It abbreviates to NIIKaVo (Sounds like "No one" or "Nobody").
  • Gratuitous French: Vybegallo tries to use French to seem intelligent, but constantly fails — in no small part because all his French phrases are taken out of War and Peace and he doesn't seem to understand what some of them actually mean. This contrasts with his usual overly-colloquial manner of speech, hinting at uneducated upbringing in Russian province.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Completely Satisfied Cadaver turns out to be the human-made Cosmic Horror. He is destroyed by Roman Oyra-Oyra just before he could collapse the space and stop the time.
  • I Want My Jetpack: parodied with Privalov's travel into future narratively imagined possibilities.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Battle magic is in severe decline ever since World War I. The last worker in the corresponding department managed to hold out until he heard of the H-bomb. No one has seen him ever since.
  • Trapped in TV Land: In the third part, Privalov travels to an imaginary future made by the collective imagination of Science Fiction writers. While he's not, strictly speaking, trapped there (he can leave at any moment), that part of the book seeks to parody tropes common to 1960s and earlier SF.

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