Overview

"An inventive comedy as black as outer space itself. Makes The Right Stuff looks like a NASA handout."—Tibor Fischer.


Victor Pelevin's novel Omon Ra has been widely praised for its poetry and its wickedness, a novel in line with the great works of Gogol and Bulgakov: "full of the ridiculous and the sublime," says The Observer [London]. Omon is chosen to be trained in the Soviet space program the fulfillment of his lifelong dream. However, he enrolls only to encounter the ...

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Omon Ra

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Overview

"An inventive comedy as black as outer space itself. Makes The Right Stuff looks like a NASA handout."—Tibor Fischer.


Victor Pelevin's novel Omon Ra has been widely praised for its poetry and its wickedness, a novel in line with the great works of Gogol and Bulgakov: "full of the ridiculous and the sublime," says The Observer [London]. Omon is chosen to be trained in the Soviet space program the fulfillment of his lifelong dream. However, he enrolls only to encounter the terrifying absurdity of Soviet protocol and its backward technology: a bicycle-powered moonwalker; the outrageous Colonel Urgachin ("a kind of Sovier Dr. Strangelove"—The New York Times); and a one-way assignment to the moon. The New Yorker proclaimed: "Omon's adventure is like a rocket firing off its various stages—each incident is more jolting and propulsively absurd than the one before."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A rising star in the Russian literary firmament (see The Yellow Arrow, below), Pelevin, winner of the 1993 Russian Booker Prize for short stories, has written a parody of life under Communism refracted through the prism of the Soviet space program. This clever parable about a young cosmonaut ordered to make the ultimate sacrifice-killing himself after secretly piloting a supposedly unmanned lunar expedition-is sprinkled with throwaway gags, absurdist humor and wickedly ironic touches, as well as with the eerie beauty of space exploration. Obsessed with space travel since early childhood, Omon Krivomazov identifies with Ra, the ancient Egyptian falcon-headed sun god, a fixation that reflects his desire to escape the gray conformity of Soviet life and his yearning for a soul. Omon learns that more than 100 of his fellow cosmonauts have already been sacrificed as guinea pigs after taking part in supposedly automated, manless launches. Pelevin portrays the Russian space program as a vast propaganda enterprise, a distraction to paper over the tawdriness and fear of everyday life. Many allusions will be lost on American readers. And, in light of the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction state of contemporary Russian society, some of the Soviet-era satire seems oddly tame. Nevertheless, as captured in Bromfield's superb translation, Pelevin is blessed with a distinctive mix of eloquence and nervous energy, inventive storytelling and subversive wit. (May)
Library Journal
Omon Krivomazov's father named his infant son after a Soviet police force in the hope that he would go far in life as a policeman and Party member. From childhood, however, Omon's sights were set on joining the ranks of the cosmonauts. On the threshold of fulfilling that youthful ideal, he discovers that he has been recruited to guide an ostensibly unmanned spacecraft to the moon with no return ticket! in order to save face for the Motherland. The reluctant hero's adventures in space culminate in a bizarre surprise ending that fittingly tops off this cynical send-up of the Soviet space program. The award-winning author's graceful prose and biting humor, laced with a touch of melancholy, recommend this brilliant satire to all literary collections. [Pelevin won the 1993 Russian Booker Award for Short Stories for Sinii Fonar "blue lantern", which has not yet been translated. The Yellow Arrow, a novella about a surreal train trip, was published in May by New Directions.Ed.]Sister M. Anna Falbo, Villa Maria Coll. Lib., Buffalo, N.Y.
Richard Bernstein
"Witty, cleaver, and poetic...Pelevin has a freshly jaundiced vision of a distorted world." -- The New York Times
George Saunders
"Omon RA tracks an aspiring cosmonaut to progress to a space system apparently designed by Escher. Pelevin is a brilliant satarist of things Soviet, but also of things human: our petty squabbles, half-assed inventions, and, above all, our corruptable dreams." -- Spin
Kirkus Reviews
A vigorous satire on the Soviet space program is combined with a thoughtful dramatization of the mixed human impulses to explore, conquer, and transcend in this memorable short novel by the author of The Yellow Arrow (see below).

Pelvin's narrator and protagonist, born Omon Krivomazov, grows up in a nondescript village, ignored by his drunken father and sustained by a rapturous "dream of the sky" that fills his being with the romance of celestial navigation. Omon—who adopts as his surname that of the Egyptian god of the sun—progresses with initially increasing enthusiasm, then gathering apprehension, through the stages of Soviet space training, the trials of Flying School, and the revelations of "Rocket Camp" with his best pal Mitiok, as the two eagerly prepare for a planned lunar flight. But what of those stories about space cadets who must have their legs amputated to fit inside their vessels' cockpits? Omon meets the dog Laika ("the first Soviet cosmonaut") and hears hilariously grim stories of the awful lengths to which humans will go to survive—like the Popadyas, father and son, who wear bulletproof vests and suit up as bears for the pleasure of hunting parties (the participation of Henry Kissinger in this subplot marks one of Pelevin's rare descents into theme-driven overstatement). In Omon, Pelevin creates a bright, observant central character who's appropriately fascinated by the way things work. Minor characters are sketchier, though the blind, wheelchair-bound Political Instructor Colonel Urchagin, who smilingly urges Omon and his comrades to make the ultimate sacrifice, will linger in the reader's memory—as will the sobering lesson imparted to Omon: ". . . becoming a heavenly body is not much different from serving a life sentence in a prison carriage that travels round and round a circular railway line without ever stopping."

This haunting tragicomedy was nominated for the 1993 Russian Booker Prize (which Pelevin won for a collection of short stories). It's the work of an exciting new talent, and one hopes his other fiction will soon be in English translation as well.

New York Newsday
“And in its final moments, about what happens when this poor boy actually finds himself rocketing toward the moon, are surely the most memorable passages I read this year.”— Dwight Garner
The New York Times
“A freshly jaundiced view of a distorted world.”
Spin
“Pelevin is a master absurdist, a brilliant satirist of all things Soviet, but also of things human: our corruptible dreams, petty squabbles, half-assed inventions and, above all, our tendency to allow the purer parts of our nature to be co-opted.”
Dwight Garner - New York Newsday
“And in its final moments, about what happens when this poor boy actually finds himself rocketing toward the moon, are surely the most memorable passages I read this year.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811221245
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 12/1/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 154
  • Sales rank: 660,614
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Victor Pelevin is one of Russia’s most successful post-Soviet writers. He won the Russian Booker prize in 1993 Born on November 22, 1962 in Moscow, he attended the Moscow Institute of Power Engineering, and the Institute of Literature. He’s now been published throughout Europe. His books include A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia, Omon Ra, The Blue Lantern, The Yellow Arrow, and The Hall of the Singing Caryatids.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Omon Ra is a fun, poignant, and ultimately powerful satire of th

    Omon Ra is a fun, poignant, and ultimately powerful satire of the Soviet state, and on a deeper level, a meditation on human longing and the will to be free. Omon's absurd journey from dreaming child to Soviet Cosmonaut will first delight you, then break your heart. Pelevin writes with a beautiful spare style, which allows him to pack a lot of story into this small book. With an economy of words he brings to life the nightmarish world of Soviet "efficiency" and national hubris; a world of willful blindness and ruthless dedication to a fading illusion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    Bios

    Here.

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