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Omon Ra Paperback – 18 Mar 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (18 Mar. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571177980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571177981
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

A freshly jaundiced view of a distorted world.

A freshly jaundiced view of a distorted world. "

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

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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Format: Paperback
The story is a supposedly fictional account of a young cosmonaut whose sworn oath that he would if necessary die for his country unfortunately must be fulfilled far sooner than he ever imagined it would when he is forced to train as a "suicide cosmonaut" in the Soviet space program. It transpires that, despite the fact that the USA has already visited the moon, the Soviet Union, at that time renowned for its use of automation, is in reality totally incapable of the simplest automation tasks and have instead been using the "suicide cosmonauts" to carry out the supposed automated tasks at the expense of their lives. For instance, in Soviet rockets, each separate stage needs to be fired by one poor cosmonaut who obviously dies in the process. Omon Ra (the main character) is to become the driver of a lunokhod (actually, cyclist...) vehicle when on the moon; his task is to pedal the vehicle far enough to deploy a radio beacon, then he must shoot himself. When the time comes he refuses to do so, with surprising consequences.

There is also a suggestion that the story, far from being completely fictional, is an allegorical account of the life and subsequent death of one Pavel Ivanovich Belyayev, a supposedly unknown Soviet cosmonaut who supposedly died of peritonitis in 1970. The suggestion was apparently confirmed by the author in conversation with another author. The story of Belyayev is a strange one; whilst he was apparently originally supposed to fly Vostok 8 into the Van Allen radiation belts, this was cancelled. Strangely, though, despite the fact that he apparently did nothing special, Pavel Ivanovich Belyayev was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union (March 23, 1965), the Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Star, numerous medals and foreign orders.
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Format: Paperback
Victor Pelevin's "Omon Ra", written in 1994, tracks the career path of Omon Krivomazov from his childhood as a stargazing child who wants nothing more than to fly in space, through his acceptance into the Soviet space program, his training as a cosmonaut where he is selected to be a standard-bearer of Soviet science and exploration. Omon Ra (as he comes to be called) is chosen to be the first Cosmonaut to be sent to the moon. But the devil is in the details and Omon quickly finds that life and his travel plans are not quite what he may have expected when he joined the space program.

A lot of the pleasure from Omon Ra was from the twists and turns of the plot and the various revelations along the way and it would do harm to reveal more than the bare bones of Omon Ra's journey to the moon. Suffice it to say - the bare outline mentioned about does no justice to a book that is brilliantly subversive, funny, and thoughtful.

I think the most memorable aspect of Omon Ra for me is Pelevin's style. I know that many people, when they think of Russian and Soviet literature think of dark foreboding where despair is the norm and where ones existence is set out in great detail in dense tortured prose whose many threads require all one's concentration to untangle. Pelevin is having none of that and in fact his writing style is fluid, easy to follow and most of all, humorous. To that extent he is more similar to Vladimir Voinovich than to any other Russian/Soviet writer I can think off.

Pelevin's satire and his prose style is what make him, like Voinovich, so subversive. His story does not bang the reader over the head with a hammer (or sickle) to rail against the empty promises and fake myth-building upon which his nation is built.
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Format: Paperback
This was a novel I encountered in my search for fiction and sci-fi from russia and eastern europe, to vary my usual diet of british and american offerings in the same genre. I'm glad that I did.
Omon Ra is entertainment from start to finish, following the main character Omon from early childhood right through to his adventure into the unknown. It's hard to say much about this without revealing huge pieces of the plot (and I just hate reviews which do that), but there's a lot more packed in these pages than just the basic story premise.
It's one of those books that can be read on more than one level. It explores friendship, patriotism, the influence of authority and the burning desire to explore the unknown (and the known). It's bleak and depressing at times, and at others it's emotional and very touching.
This was the first of Pelevin's novels that I've read, and it's a certainty to say that it will not be the last.
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Format: Paperback
Victor Pelevin is a stunning writer. His satires of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia are so witty, so surreal, and so exact. This is his best perhaps: a funny and tragic take on the Russian space programme, following a group of Soviet youths preparing for a moon landing. His fascination with drugs and psychosis and the plain wierd might bring to mind Will Self, but unlike that mediocre writer, Pelevin has a genuine sense of compassion. Perhaps his greatest talent is that, no matter how far-fetched and extreme he gets, he never loses touch with the humanity of his characters. He makes us care about them. He can also be a heartbreaking writer, and never more so than in this book. Read it!
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