Victor Pelevin: Чапаев и Пустота (UK: The Clay Machine-Gun; US: Buddha’s Little Finger)

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The latest addition to my website is Victor Pelevin‘s Чапаев и Пустота (UK: The Clay Machine-Gun; US: Buddha’s Little Finger). This is another wonderful, witty, post-modernist novel from Pelevin. Pyotr Voyd, the narrator, is not sure when he lives. He is a commissar in 1919 to Vasily Chapayev, Soviet hero and subject of the book bearing his name but he is also the somewhat disturbed inmate of a contemporary (i.e. early 1990s) asylum. He much prefers being in 1919, despite the fact that Chapeyev’s niece, Anna, does not love him, though he loves her. Nevertheless, his good relationship with Chapayev, his heroic action in battle, and his visit to a type of Valhalla wth a dead baron are better than the cold baths and the oddballs of the asylum. These oddballs include a Russian gangster, a man who has had to commit seppuku after taking a job with a Japanese company and a man called Maria who thinks he is a soap opera star. Of course, Furmanov’s book got it all wrong about Chapayev and this book, based on a manuscript found in a Mongolian monastery, corrects the record. But poor old Pyotr still does not really know whether he lives then or now or, perhaps, in Inner Mongolia.

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