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The Clay Machine-Gun Paperback – 21 Aug 2000

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (21 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571201261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571201266
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 570,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
One of the strangest books you're ever likely to read, this manages to combine a thriller about mistaken identity with meditations on metaphysics. Pelevin achieves the near-impossible by generating extremely philosophical dialogue in a way that doesn't sound at all unnatural or forced. And there is a tension and mystery about the characters and situation that keeps you reading.
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.
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By G. Hardy VINE VOICE on 2 April 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm finding it unusually difficult to find what it is that I want to say about this book. It really is the best thing that I've read in a very long time. In fact I can't remember the last time I had to set down a book half way through a chapter, just to think about what I'd just read.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
`The Clay Machine Gun' starts with an epigraph from Genghis Khan (presumably from `The Secret History of the Mongols'): "I often think: where am I in this flux?". And as readers hopscotch around the narratives in this postmodern Buddhist novel they might end up thinking `where the flux am I?` as well.

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.
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Format: Paperback
The most exciting modern novel I have read since the great Riddley Walker. Pelevin's is the most daring mind you are likely to encounter in quite a while; someone who manages to unite the disparate strands of the computer age, mysticism, humour...oh and magic mushrooms though you may want to file them under mysticism. I won't attempt to describe the book itself as that is already covered. My thoughts of his other works
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
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Format: Paperback
Pelevin's popularity is vastly increased with this book; and it has found devotees not only in RUssia, where the in-jokes are immediately understood, but also in the West where we appreciate his fast and witty style and his black humour. Pelevin works within the great Russian tradition of black humour and social comment (for example Satlykov-Schedrin), but his work has more in common with Bulgakov - whose great novel the Master & Margarita also explored social and metaphysical/spiritual issues in a fast-paced comic style. If you know Russia, you'll know the Chapayev jokes and maybe even seen the old Chapayev and Petka films But really it is enough just to know of them to see how richly Pelevin mines this seam of absurd humour. Pelevin's career shows how Russia's incredible literary culture still produces writers unrivalled anywhere.
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