Homo Zapiens

Homo Zapiens

5.0 1
by Victor Pelevin
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up a huge consumer market, but how do you sell things to a generation that grew up with just one type of cola? When Tatarsky, a frustrated poet, takes a job as an advertising copywriter, he finds he has a talent for putting distinctively Russian twists on Western-style ads. But his success leads him into a surreal world of… See more details below

Overview

The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up a huge consumer market, but how do you sell things to a generation that grew up with just one type of cola? When Tatarsky, a frustrated poet, takes a job as an advertising copywriter, he finds he has a talent for putting distinctively Russian twists on Western-style ads. But his success leads him into a surreal world of spin doctors, gangsters, drug trips, and the spirit of Che Guevera, who, by way of a Ouija board, communicates theories of consumer theology. A bestseller in Russia, Homo Zapiens displays the biting absurdist satire that has gained Victor Pelevin superstar status among today's Russian youth, disapproval from the conservative Moscow literary world, and critical acclaim worldwide.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Pelevin] conjures up the spirit of Dostoyevsky, as he dramatizes with a slashing wit and a ferocious moralism the battle for the Russian soul." —The Washington Post

"Pelevin's hardboiled wonderland of a Moscow sits well next to Murakami's Tokyo, Cortázar's Paris, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil." —Los Angeles Times

"...[A] bold, confidently written satire with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments." —Time Out New York

Time Out New York
...a bold, confidently written satire with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments.
In the former Soviet Union portrayed in Pelevin's novel, public figures don't exist except as digitized figures owned by media moguls. The narrator is a young poet named Tartarsky who ingests psychedelics, reads American books about advertising and combines the two aids to become a successful copywriter, cynically using literature to gild ads for Western products. Eventually, Tartarsky leaves the ad world to pursue a career writing for news television, crafting scenarios that go beyond Wag the Dog. Like an early absurdist novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Pelevin's satire has intellectual invention—forays into Babylonian history, a sophisticated discussion of virtual reality—and savagely witty parodies of American ad campaigns.
—Tom LeClair
Publishers Weekly
Pelevin, the bard of the post-Soviet era, returns here with another absurdist novel detailing the crazed Russian collision with capitalism. This isn't new ground for him; as in his previous books (Buddha's Little Finger; Omon Ra; and others), Pelevin delights in creating dizzying sometimes just confusing narratives evoking the peculiar realities of first the Soviet Union and now Russia. This time, the subject is Tatarsky, a former literature student peddling cigarettes from a tiny Moscow kiosk. A chance encounter leads to Tatarsky's employment as a copywriter for promotional videos for nouveau riche gangsters. (One key skill described is how to get paid before the client is murdered.) Soon he's spending all his time creating Russian funhouse-mirror versions of American ads and reading vapid American texts extolling the virtues of "comparative positioning." Tatarsky becomes so absorbed by the ad world that even bathroom graffiti strikes him as advertising copy ("Traced on the tiles in a red felt-tip pen were the jolly, rounded letters of a brief slogan: `Trapped? Masturbate!'"). As his reputation as a "creative" grows, he's drawn into ever-shadier enterprises in which the appearance of success is much more important than success itself. Pelevin depicts Russia as an overstuffed value meal of brand names and quick scams (every car is a Mercedes, every vodka a Smirnoff). No Chekhovian introspection here, nor much plot; perhaps there's no time for such things in the new Russia. Bromfield's translation ably captures the book's energetic tone, though his Briticisms ("tosser," "advert") may strike some American readers as out of place. (Feb. 18) Forecast: Wildly creative but somewhat undisciplined, Pelevin's work has yet to find its center, but he has such talent that a masterpiece at some point in the future isn't out of the question. If that possibility isn't enough to attract readers, perhaps the book's jacket art featuring a teddy bear and a knock-off Barbie in a compromising position will help. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"Comrades! Let us drown the Russian bourgeoisie in a flood of images," proclaims Pelevin's protagonist Tatarsky, who like Russia itself has been utterly transformed by the shift to capitalism. Tatarsky is part of the generation that came of age as the old order collapsed, and he is as unmoored as his counterparts; he's stopped writing poems because "after the collapse of Soviet power they had simply lost their meaning" and works at one of the fly-by-night kiosks that dot the landscape. Then an old friend introduces him to the world of advertising, and Tatarsky discovers his true calling. Pelevin savagely skewers consumerist society, but he does it in such an underhanded way that you're not always aware of the acid. He has the perfect ear for those who don't quite have a perfect ear for the sloganeering they are imitating, and he gives us an unsentimental, photo-perfect image of the brave new Russia. If this work isn't as exuberant and wildly inventive as Buddha's Little Finger, it's partly that Pelevin is such a good writer he can't help being a little bit trammeled by the language of advertising. This sobering satire belongs in all literary and world literature collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/01.] Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The world of advertising gets a richly comic comeuppance in this latest (1999) novel by the hip absurdist (Buddha's Little Finger, 2000, etc.).

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142001813
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/17/2002
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
731,528
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[Pelevin] conjures up the spirit of Dostoyevsky, as he dramatizes with a slashing wit and a ferocious moralism the battle for the Russian soul." —The Washington Post

"Pelevin's hardboiled wonderland of a Moscow sits well next to Murakami's Tokyo, Cortázar's Paris, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil." —Los Angeles Times

"...[A] bold, confidently written satire with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments." —Time Out New York

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >