Most of us know Boris and Arkady Strugatsky from their novel Roadside Picnic — but their fantastic output was much greater than that. And now at last, there's an English-language edition of their trippy book The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, translated by Josh Billings with an introduction by Jeff VanderMeer.
First published in 1970, The Dead Mountaineer's Inn is a biting, deeply funny tale that sends its readers down unpredictable paths. Our hero is police inspector Peter Glebsky, a family man anticipating two weeks of leisure — his first vacation in four years. Soon after arriving at the titular inn, Inspector Glebsky finds out about a tragedy that occurred several years before — a man falling to his death on a nearby peak. Now, the inn has a museum housing many of the late climber's belongings, and a rambunctious St. Bernard, the last living remnant of the dead man, roams freely.
Guests at the inn also include a famous magician, a physicist, a hypnotist and a nervous youth counselor with a bad case of tuberculosis. This bunch of oddballs eats together, they play billiards and cards, they ski — and occasionally they share personal accounts of the spookery they've encountered since setting foot in the inn. Apparently some sort of miscreant — or ghost, or something — is wandering the premises, stealing shoes, filling ashtrays with tobacco, and leaving the shower running.
Read more about Dead Mountaineer's Inn over at NPR.