You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Boris Strugatsky, 79, science fiction novelist

BORIS STRUGATSKY

Associated Press /file 2008

BORIS STRUGATSKY

MOSCOW — Boris N. Strugatsky, a prolific writer who used the genre of science fiction to voice criticisms of Soviet life that would have been unthinkable in other literary forms, died Nov. 19 in St. Petersburg. He was 79.

The cause was heart failure, according to Mr. Strugatsky’s biographer, Boris L. Vishnevsky.

Continue reading below

Employed as an astronomer at a state observatory, Mr. Strugatsky began collaborating on science fiction with his older brother, Arkady, in 1956. Together they produced rich and often bleak allegorical landscapes that ranged from a dysfunctional institute for the research of magic in ‘‘Mondays Begin on Saturday’’ to a postapocalyptic ‘‘zone’’ littered with deadly extraterrestrial objects in ‘‘Roadside Picnic,’’ later adapted for Andrei Tarkovsky’s revered 1979 film ‘‘Stalker.’’

That some of those worlds resembled the Soviet Union was not lost on Mr. Strugatsky’s readers.

Though they were committed communists, the Strugatsky brothers used their novels to express growing disillusionment with the Soviet Union after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and the end of a relative thaw in Soviet society.

In 1969, when the brothers finished the novel ‘‘Prisoners of Power’’ (also known as ‘‘Inhabited Island”), set in a galactic utopia recognizable to many as the Soviet Union, government censors told them to replace the Russian names with foreign ones, and they complied.

But Boris Strugatsky was celebrated less for his social criticism than for confronting his characters with philosophical quandaries that had no apparent answer. In one of the brothers’ most famous novels, ‘‘Hard to Be a God,’’ a time-traveling hero trapped in a despotic, violent medieval kingdom must decide whether to topple the monarch or let events run their course.

‘For my generation, these books were our upbringing. They taught us who we should aspire to be.’

Quote Icon

‘‘Sooner or later, every character faces a choice, a moral dilemma,’’ Vishnevsky, the author’s biographer, said in an interview.

‘‘For my generation, these books were our upbringing. They taught us who we should aspire to be.’’

Boris Natanovich Strugatsky was born in 1933, in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. He leaves his wife, Adelaida, and a son, Andrei.

After his brother’s death in 1991, Mr. Strugatsky wrote just two books, under the pen name S. Vititsky. He earned a reputation as a critic of the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin, and exchanged letters with the jailed oil tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, who had been a financial backer of opposition parties and an ardent foe of Putin’s.

In a radio interview last year, Mr. Strugatsky spoke of his fear that Russia’s ruling elite would ‘‘tire of playing at democracy.’’

‘‘I, unfortunately, am a pessimist,’’ he said in the interview, broadcast on the radio station Echo Moskvy. ‘‘I don’t believe in anything good that involves a large mass of people. When the people are many, they are, as a rule, bad.’’

Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.