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Russian novelist Victor Pelevin is rapidly establishing himself as one of the most brilliant young writers at work today. His comic inventiveness and mind-bending talent prompted Time magazine to proclaim him a "psychedelic Nabokov for the cyber-age." In his third novel, Buddha's Little Finger, Pelevin has created an intellectually dazzling tale about identity and Russian history, as well as a spectacular elaboration of Buddhist philosophy. Moving between events of the Russian Civil War of 1919 and the thoughts ...
Russian novelist Victor Pelevin is rapidly establishing himself as one of the most brilliant young writers at work today. His comic inventiveness and mind-bending talent prompted Time magazine to proclaim him a "psychedelic Nabokov for the cyber-age." In his third novel, Buddha's Little Finger, Pelevin has created an intellectually dazzling tale about identity and Russian history, as well as a spectacular elaboration of Buddhist philosophy. Moving between events of the Russian Civil War of 1919 and the thoughts of a man incarcerated in a contemporary Moscow psychiatric hospital, Buddha's Little Finger is a work of demonic absurdism by a writer who continues to delight and astonish.
Reprinted from Buddha's Little Finger by Victor Pelevin by permission of Viking, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Victor Pelevin. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Posted July 19, 2013
Posted June 23, 2003
A strange and delightful trip through some fantastic terrain, both outside and inside. The beginning bogged down a little for me, but after that I couldn't put it down. I've read it twice and think it is a book that needs to be taken in again and again. But let me add- if you aren't interested in Buddhism, Zen and the 'realness' of exsistence don't even take this trip.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 28, 2001
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the victorious Reds still had to face the Whites in a Civil War. Dmitry Fermanov's 1923 novel, Chapaev celebrated one of that conflict's greatest generals. In Buddha's Little Finger, Victor Pelevin, whose loathing for his national heritage couldn't be more intense, takes hilarious aim at both Chapaev and Fermanov, making them both riotous figures of fun. Buddha's Little Finger highlights the unreality of Russia today and traces its similarities to Russia during the days of the Revolution by weaving back and forth between the 1990s and 1918-19. In the 1990s, the first-person narrator of Buddha's Little Finger is Pyotr Voyd, a patient in a mental hospital. In 1918-19, this same person is Petya, Chapaev's sidekick. Each of these narrators, in a drug-induced hypnotic trance, talks about critical moments in his inner life. Buddha's Little Finger is a story of a spiritual quest that encompasses several short stories inserted into the whole of the novel. These stories share a thematic connection to the novel-as-a-whole, but little else, revolving around parodies of Russian history, critiques of modern Russia, investigations of Japanese culture and intense philosophical debates among the characters. Pelevin treats us to dreams, visions and absurdity a la Gogol and Kafka as well as to moments of genuine lyrical beauty. At the heart of this book, however lies the ago-old question, 'Who am I?' For Pelevin, the answer lies in a fictional construct. He tells us, through his characters, that what for years has seemed so real and immutable has really been nothing more than an illusion; a reality as flimsy and diaphanous as a dream. Pyotr Voyd's (the choice of the name was deliberate) mental illness is a literary device symbolic of the illogical disjunctions in Russia's history, but, in the context of the novel, the illness has been caused by those very same historical changes; an ironic twist on the doctrine of dialectical materialism. Buddha's Little Finger is a novel haunted by nothingness. Indeed, Pelevin seems to pay homage to nothingness; the Russian title of this book means 'Chapaev and Emptiness.' Chapaev, however, stands for 'something,' but the something he stand for is little more than a cardboard myth. Voyd, the anti-hero, represents the 'nothingness,' that followed years of heroic struggle in the Soviet Union and that lives on in the Russia of today. Buddha's Little Finger is definitely not a quiet, meditative treatise on Buddhism; it is a lively, absurd, disjointed postmodern novel that expresses life's problems without offering any patent answers. Instead, Pelevin give us the typically postmodern shrug, the ironic wink, the standard lip service paid to pat political remedies. At one point, Pelevin describes the answer as an 'incredible trip, the likes of which you couldn't get out here from a fix or a grand in greens. And no stopping--get it? Morning, noon and night.' At times, Buddha's Little Finger does borrow heavily from Buddhist thought, toying with its symbols and seeming contradictions, as in 'As soon as I know...I am no longer free. But I am absolutely free when I do not know.' At times like these, the novel takes us back to the pre-revolutionary novelist Andre Biely, the symbolist poet Alexander Blok, the mystical visions of Sergei Soloviev. Buddha's Little Finger is a masterfully told tale, on par with Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. Like The Master and Margarita, Buddha's Little Finger draws the reader in piece by piece so that the effect is more poetic than novelistic. In the end we are left with a series of philosophical images and puzzles that satisfy far more than any 'quick fix' plot contrivances ever could.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 18, 2010
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