This paper offers a close reading of the contemporary Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice trilogy and explores its deep roots in early gnostic spiritual movements of late antiquity, Russian esoteric philosophy and literature, and Western popular culture. Reflecting sources as varied as the Apocryphon of John, the Disney movie Escape to Witch Mountain, Russian New Age paganism, and esoteric Soviet science, these three interconnected novellas are based on the real-life “Tunguska event,” the great fireball that appeared over the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908, flattening more than 800 square miles of forest. Famous in ufo circles as the “Russian Roswell” and long a magnet for esoteric speculation, in Sorokin’s hands this probable meteor strike becomes the springboard for a contemporary gnostic fantasy in which a giant chunk of ice carries the spirits of 23,000 gnostic demiurges to earth, where they inhabit human bodies that they despise and seek only to reunite and return to their source. More than a simple postmodern parable of the seventy-year Soviet regime and post-Soviet societal excesses, Sorokin’s damning portrait of his “children of the Light” illuminates the deeper and darker currents of human nature, ethics, and spirituality.
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