Research Output
Beautiful Lepers, Monstrous Human: The Impossibility of Utopia in the Strugatskys’ The Ugly Swans.
  Jerome Cohen argues that the creature or the monster provides a space of interaction: ‘The space of transformation, becoming, passion, alterity, the uncanny, the utopian, is in fact an interspace.’ The relationship and conflict between the monster and its other open an ‘unstable exchange’, in which each side serves as a mirror to the other, questioning their actions, their motives and their epistemological categories. This interaction offers the possibility of change, turning the monster into a harbinger of utopia. This image of the monster as the herald of positive change is subverted in Arkady and Boris’ Strugatsky The Ugly Swans, in which the reconsideration of ideological categories becomes impossible. In this novel, an unnamed town is plagued by lepers who are said to be the cause of the never-ending rain which constantly batters the town. The adults fear the lepers and their strange influence over the children. The lepers live in a camp known as the leprosarium, which adults are not allowed to enter. Here, a reversed dichotomy of imprisonment is created: it is not the lepers who are imprisoned in the camp, but rather the adults who are caged in their world. As the lepers usher in a new world, they exclude the adults, the ugly swans, who are unable to reconsider their superficial, materialistic and war mongering habits. This chapter will investigate how The Ugly Swans breaks away from the paradigm of the monster as opening up possibilities. The lepers serve to criticise the superficiality of humanity, as they disengage and withdraw from any interactions with it: they thus foreclose any possibility for humans to achieve utopian aims, suggesting their inability to evolve and to reconsider their categories, therefore turning them into abject creatures.

  • Date:

    01 July 2015

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    PR English literature

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Bouet, E. (2015). Beautiful Lepers, Monstrous Human: The Impossibility of Utopia in the Strugatskys’ The Ugly Swans


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