Oh dear, It seems that after my Infinite Jest disaster I would be redeemed but it seems that the last book I read and enjoyed was Hallucinating Foucault. That is not to say that I did not like The Clay Machine-Gun but it definitely is not the novel to read after Infinite Jest. Also I didn’t really love the other Pelevin book I read, The Life of Insects so I guess I’m not a Pelevin fan either. Luckily I was able to finish it in two days as the translation is very good and flowing.
The novel focuses upon a soldier called Petr who stumbles into a friend’s house, which leads him into a journey of pure madness. Guest appearances include Arnold Schwarzenegger , Lenin and authors who are prominent in Russian history. There’s also a series of flashbacks which deal with Petr’s past military life and lashings of Buddhism in between.
It is a weird novel but don’t let that fool you. Pelevin is mocking Russian mentality (especially when it comes to modern art) and through is characters we some lessons about life. The philosophical and psychological digressions are quite insightful in their own peculiar way.
Like I said earlier though. I was not in the mood for something like this and would have ultimately preferred a more concrete story but now it’s been read and it’s time to move on to the next book
Just like the previous book I reviewed, The Life of Insects is also out of print and you can find a copy at abebooks.com. It was also a bit troublesome to attain as I had to wait a month to receive it then it was a bit tatty. To top it all of it’s a 190 page book and it took me a day to finish it.
As such these are tiny gripes, what really matters is if I enjoyed it or not and to tell the truth I’ve got quite a few mixed reactions and I’m still debating on whether I actually enjoyed ‘The Life of Insects’
On one hand the plot is good. There are fragmented chapters which focus on humans morphing into insects and then back again into human form. The thing is that each chapter deals with a philosophical conundrum or criticises modern-day Russia.
Now I don’t mind this at all. I like a good novel which makes me think and some chapters are brilliant, especially the cockroach narrative. The translation is good as well and brings out the issues that Pelevin is dealing with. What is clever is that the characters transformations are not obvious and it takes a couple of paragraphs to figure out what is actually happening.
One the other hand I felt that the book did not really hold together and that it was just simply a novel of ideas. I would like to say that I’m not adverse to this but I did feel that something was definitely lacking and hindering my enjoyment. Also some chapters are much better than others so there is a lot of inconsistencies.
At the moment I guess I can say that I didn’t love the novel but neither did I dislike it. On the whole there’s some good stuff flowing from this brief novel but you ave to wade through some dodgy territory to reach the better chapters.