Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Modern Russian Books: Victor Pelevin and Russian Postmodernism

Victor Pelelin is probably the most influential  modern Russian writer. In his post-modernist stories Pelevin eclectically combines elements of esoterics, theology, philosophy, pop culture, psychology and politics. His writing is multilayered, rich in symbolism and references to the world culture and history. A feast for intellectuals. At the same time, Pelevin writes in long narrative, sparse dialogue, his language is adorned with slang and neologisms.

Pelevin’s incredible insight and vision of the sociopolitical state of Russia created a fertile soil of rumours of his connection to the Kremlin.

Pelevon’s breakthrough novel was Omon Ra where the author portrayed a terryfing backstage of the Soviet space program. ra

Russian critic Lev Danilkin asked Pelevin during the interview, ‘In Omon Ra the cosmonauts before their death discuss a Pink Floyd record, one of them never had a chance to listen to. What would such characters talk about nowadays if they ended up in similar circumstances?’

Pelevin replied, ‘They would have discussed how they were flying to the Moon for thirty thousand bucks, while their American colleagues ascended into the same dark abyss for three hundred thousand. In other words, the topic of their conversation would have been the inconceivable multi-dimension nature of the outer space.’

The new in-depth review of Omon Ra is available here.

Buddha’s Little Finger (also known as Chapayev and Void; Clay Machine Gun) is Pelevin’s most celebrated work nominated for Dublin Literary award. Conceptually the story occurs, according to Pelevin, in the void, emptiness, but plot-wise it is set in Russia in the modern times and straight after the Great October revolution of 1917//Civil War (1918-1919). It explores the connection between Russian civil war hero Chapaev and a decadent poet Pustota, and contains themes of reality, human identity and the fate of Russia. The critics named the book as the first zen-buddhism novel.

Pelevin’s fascination with the Orient makes him closer to other postmodernists coming from that region. In his interview to Yulia Shigareva Pelevin says, ‘I like (Haruki) Murakami, he’s a real master. There is a Japanese saying describing him fairly, “Great mastery looks unskilled.”‘

In Life of Insects Pelevin allegorically compares human and insect lives showing common human types in the Russian society of the 1990s. In Generation P (also known as Babylon; Homo Zapiens) Pelevin continues exploring modern Russia and he metiulously dissects the transition period the country went through in this novel, also in DPP and The Sacred Book of the Werewolf.

Pelevin also penned a spiritual novel t about the wanderings of the martial arts master Count Tolstoy and his interaction with the creature Ariel, and the postapocalyptic scifi novel S.N.U.F.F.

Pelevin’s novels have been translated into several languages, including English. If you are looking for mind-broadening, thought-provoking stories, if you are interested to learn about the recent transformation of the Soviet Russia into the Russian Federation, Pelevin is your author.



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