Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Roadside Picnic, first published in 1972, is the best-known work of Russia’s most famous modern science fiction writers, Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, together the authors of 26 novels and scores of short stories. To discuss it we are joined by the writer and radio presenter Jennifer Lucy Allan, and the publisher and translator Ilona Chavasse. The book is based on the premise that Earth has been briefly visited by an alien civilisation that have left behind them six ‘Zones’, places strewn with their debris, some of it lethal to humans; all of it fascinating and perplexing. The Zones feed a black market in artefacts supplied by ‘Stalkers’ who are prepared to risk their lives and sanity by entering the forbidden areas to retrieve them. We consider why the book is still considered one of the greatest of all SF novels, how it came to be read as a dark foreshadowing of the Chernobyl disaster and why it has proved itself so ripe for adaptation, both as a series of video games and, most famously, as the basis for Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic 1979 film, Stalker. This episode also finds Andy returning to a haunting novel he read earlier this year: The High House (Swift Press) by former guest Jessie Greengrass, while John is carried away by Everybody (Picador), Olivia Laing’s magnificent book about freedom and the human body.

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8:10 – The High House by Jessie Greengrass
17:02 – Everybody by Olivia Laing
23:29 – Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

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