The Clay Machine-Gun Paperback – 21 Aug 2000
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About the Author
Born in 1962 in Moscow, Victor Pelevin has swiftly been recognised as the leading Russian novelist of the new generation. Before studying at Moscow's Gorky Institute of Literature, he worked in a number of jobs, including as an engineer on a project to protect MiG fighter planes from insect interference in tropical conditions. One of the few novelists today who writes seriously about what is happening in contemporary Russia, he has, according to the New York Times, 'the kind of mordant, astringent turn of mind that in the pre-glasnost era landed writers in psychiatric hospitals or exile'.$$$His work has been translated into fifteen languages and his novels Omon Ra, The Life of Insects, The Clay Machine-Gun and Babylon, and two collections of short stories, The Blue Lantern (winner of the Russian 'Little Booker' Prize) and A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia, have been published in English to great acclaim.$$$Victor Pelevin was selected by the New Yorker as one of the best European writers under the age of thirty-five.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story? Well, it begins in 1920s Russia with a murder and a chain of events that the central character is unable to stop. The plot then switches to present-day Russia and an asylum, and between the two you start to wonder what exactly is real and what imagined.
Not as good as the amazing Life Of Insects, but better than the disappointing Babylon.
The closest experience I've had to reading this was when I read Philip K. Dick's VALIS for the first time. It's not particularly easy to read, but the flow of the narrative is close to perfect.
I think that there are a lot of levels this can be read on. I think that I probably missed a lot of them too. It's intensely deep and dripping with all sorts of symbolism and imagery.
The more I read fiction from eastern europe and russia, the more impressed I become. It's just so completely different from the style of authors further west. Once again I find myself impressed almost beyond words.
Even though I finished this a few days ago, I'm already looking forward to when I pick it up to read it again. And that hasn't happened to me in a long time too. I'm off now to order up the rest of Mr. Pelevin's books.
TCMG ingeniously scopes the lives (or incarnations) of the same `skandha' (ie what a non-Buddhist would mistakenly call a `soul'). The two dominant narratives feature Pyotr Void, who is uncertain whether he is being treated in a lunatic asylum and dreaming of being a Red cavalry officer in the Russian Revolution; or whether he is, in fact, a Red cavalry officer and dreaming of being a lunatic.
If Wilde was right, and all art is quite useless, then TCMG is barely art. Firstly it's a book fused with satire, most of which is aimed at Russia's latterday drug and gangster culture. This includes a bravura passage starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that - in a parallel exercise to the book's Buddhist premise - conflates Arnie's many film roles.
Secondly it's a book primed with a purpose: which means that the `plot' is more like a map than a journey. The ceramic carbine of the title, for instance, isn't mentioned until page 129 and finally appears as abruptly as any `Deus ex Machina' in an 18th C. opera.
The characterisation is minimal; everyone talks with the same voice and the conversations are mostly patterned on Platonic dialogues where people who need to understand something are peevishly quizzed by the person who knows the answer. Now perhaps in a Buddhist novel (where identity is an illusion) people SHOULD all have the same voice; but it makes for flat drama.Read more ›
Life of Insects...excellent, Kafka goes Zen
Babylon...lacks emotional depth, ultimately somewhat disappointing though enough fireworks and humour to keep the pages turning
Blue Lantern...great book of short stories, his best collection
Omon Ra...least impressive work but contains the brilliant long short story The Yellow Arrow
Werewolf Problem in Central Russia...excellent title story though not as good a collection as Blue Lantern
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very unusual read, my attention was held throughout and I finished the book in good time - a read I didn't want to put down. Read morePublished on 20 July 2014 by Mr. J. J. M. Omara
It began well. A dizzying, surreal account of a schizophrenic personality, fluidly transposing between two alien states (or two incarnations, if you prefer). Read morePublished on 28 Dec. 2013 by Woolco
This is an amazing book.
Set out in two different Worlds and times, both happening inside one man's mind (Peter Void). Read more
does more than suspend reality - it reveals it as multidimensional.
wonderfully clever,funny,and profound.
The meaning of the universe, the concept of reality, the truth of one's existence - these are the thoughts overflowing the mind of the characters in Pelevin's The Clay Machine-Gun. Read morePublished on 30 Oct. 2002 by Julia Z
What other book combines Bhuddist philosophy with a sense of adventure, existentialism, revolutionary Russia, sex and drugs with Arnold Shwarzenneger and nirvana..... Read morePublished on 4 Jun. 2001 by email@example.com
At last, a novel that rivals Phil K Dick's exploration of the, "What is Reality, If anything at all." theme. Read morePublished on 23 April 2001