Werewolves and the price of Urals crude

Update (10/5/08): Check out pictures of production underway in Russia on a movie version of “Generation P.”

I first read Victor Pelevin for a modern Russian literature class my senior year of college.  I wrote a paper on his “Homo Zapians” (”Generation P,” for the Russian version), calling the book “a post-modern pastiche of Western consumerism interacting with remnants of the ‘Soviet mentality.’” (Excuse the verbosity–I was stretching my comp-lit synapses after having just finishing my 200-page “Gazprom and the Russian State” thesis.)

Pelevin describes a “phantasmagoric and surreal exposition on the intersection of post-Soviet and Western culture within late 1990s Russia” where the protagonist evolves from a translator to an advertising copywriter and eventually, drawing upon Pelevin’s connection to eastern mysticism, to the figurative husband of the Sumerian goddess Ishtar.

I concentrated on fitting this narrative into “a new iteration of the traditional ‘Russian question,’ which postulates on the location and natural tendencies of the Russian people and their nation.”

Saddled between two continents, Russia is continuously torn between Asian and European influences. Just as a distinctly Russian identity was crystallizing in the form of the Soviet man, the Western ideals of capitalism and commercialism came crashing in, reigniting the debate—if, indeed, it was ever truly silent.

One of the keys to understanding the boundary along this changing world is through embracing the individual evolution within oneself. To explore these transitions, Pelevin utilizes transformative processes on characters to elicit altered states. This metamorphosis is necessary as a “means of survival in a breathtakingly rapid and arbitrary succession of phantom realities.”

Pelevin’s new book, “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf,” is reviewed today in the New York Times by Liesl Schillinger.  While I haven’t yet read the book, it appears to re-visit this theme of transformation, with the heroine being a werefox/prostitute and the hero a werewolf/FSB agent.

What caught my attention from the review, and why I’m posting about it in this energy-themed blog, is a description of a meeting between FSB werewolves on the Siberian tundra:

He likes to rally with other F.S.B. werewolves in the frozen north, howling at a cow skull on a stake in hopes of necromantically summoning oil from the substrate into Mother Russia’s waiting pipelines. Watching this scene, seeing the cow’s skull, A Hu-Li [the heroine] is reminded of a grim Russian fairy tale about a slaughtered cow who takes pity on an orphan and sends the girl gold from the grave. Touched, A Hu-Li adds her own soulful lament to the cacophony: “We were all howling, with our faces turned to the moon, howling and weeping for ourselves and for our impossible country, for our pitiful life, stupid death and sacred $100 a barrel.” In response to her emotion (she thinks), oil comes burbling up the stake. Shurik laughs at her sentimentality. “It’s my job to get the oil flowing,” he scoffs. “And for that, the skull has to cry.”

Anyway, a bit of a break from the usual themes. I recently finished reading “Watchmen,” (also off-topic) and am also currently reading Steve Levine’s “The Oil and the Glory” — which is very much on topic.  I recommend both.


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