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Set during the advent of perestroika, a surreal, satirical novella by a critically acclaimed young Russian writer traces the fate of the passengers on The Yellow Arrow, a long-distance Russian train headed for a ruined bridge, a train without an end or a beginning—and it makes no stops. Andrei, the mystic passenger, less and less lulled by the never-ending sound of the wheels, has begun to look for a way to get off. But life in the carriages goes on as always. This important ...
Set during the advent of perestroika, a surreal, satirical novella by a critically acclaimed young Russian writer traces the fate of the passengers on The Yellow Arrow, a long-distance Russian train headed for a ruined bridge, a train without an end or a beginning—and it makes no stops. Andrei, the mystic passenger, less and less lulled by the never-ending sound of the wheels, has begun to look for a way to get off. But life in the carriages goes on as always. This important young Russian author's first American translation garnered rave reviews.
The main character, Andrei, is a passenger aboard the Yellow Arrow, who begins to despair over the trains ultimate destination and looks for a way out as the chapters count down. Indifferent to their fate, the other passengers carry on as usual — trading in nickel melted down fro the carriage doors, attending the Upper Bunk avant-garde theatre, and leafing through Pasternak’s Early Trains. Pelevin's art lies in the ease with which he shifts from precisely imagined science fiction to lyrical meditations on past and future. And, because he is a natural storyteller with a wonderfully absurd imagination. The Yellow Arrow is full of the ridiculous and the sublime. It is a reflective story, chilling and gripping.
Protagonist Andrei is riding on a train called the Yellow Arrow, whose destination, he learns, is a ruined bridge. Passengers die, their funerals are held on board the train, and their bodies are thrown "out there" beyond the passing embankments. "World culture takes a long time to reach us," Andrei's fellow travellers complain, enduring their closeted state as best they can by practicing an indigenous "folk art" (the train does a thriving business in handpainted beer cans) and also the religion of "bedeism" (the belief that they're being pulled along by a "B.D. 3" locomotive). One thinks, inevitably, of a cramped and repressed population unable to break free of its imprisoning environment—but Pelevin's wry fable earns a convincingly wider resonance. Andrei guesses that the train may be named as it is because its lateral motion visually resembles the vertical descent of falling stars ("yellow arrows") in the foreordained transit from incandescence to extinction. He shares the common yearning to journey "out there" past his compartment's windows, while knowing he can do so only when his own portion of the train's journey is concluded. Imagine Hermann Hesse with a robust sense of humor, and you'll have an idea of the complex emotional texture Pelevin manages to create for his story's climactic moment—a climax that daringly evokes, and does not suffer from comparison with, Tolstoy's great short novel The Death of Ivan Ilyich.
A brilliant parable that treats a dauntingly abstract conception with vivid specificity and clear-eyed humanity.
Posted May 2, 2006
This book works so well on any level. It is a book that can be applyed to any life in any culture. A GREAT book that will entertain you and have you thinking about life from a new, different, and exciting view point. A+.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 20, 2005