Sunday, August 31, 2008

THE SACRED BOOK OF THE WEREWOLF

THE SECRET BOOK OF THE WEREWOLF
By Victor Pelevin
Viking
333 pages

The real fun of being a reviewer is the surprises you are sent by various publishers. Of course many are duds and that is to be expected. Then again a marketing editor will send along something truly unique, unlike anything you’ve ever read before. Such was the case with this outlandish novel by Russian author, Victor Pelevin. It is not a book for the tame reader who is afraid of moving out of his or her comfort zone. There are so many different facets to this book, encapsulating them is not at all easy.

A Hu-Li is a two thousand year old shapeshifting werefox from China who disguises herself as a cute and sexy fifteen year old Moscow prostitute. She seduces men so that she can absorb their life force and thus maintain her near immortality. She does this by hypnotizing them with her ginger red tail. Now if that wasn’t wild enough, A Hu-Li is also a philosopher, a follower of the Supreme Tao, a secret teaching that will supposedly transform her into the perfect being, known as the Super Werewolf, and allow her to ascend from this plane of reality to a greater one.

When A Hu-Li meets a Russian security officer named Alexander, everything in her life changes. Upon learning he is a werewolf, she falls in love with him. It is the first time she has ever felt this way towards any other living being and it sets her on a new, emotional journey to plummet the essences of her true self and place in the cosmos. As much as all of this sounds completely bizarre, Pelevin’s gift as a writer is making A Hu-Lin and her quirky fox-nature accessible and sympathetic. Once you enter her world, he pulls you along effortlessly, creating a need in the reader to reach the end and learn if this incredible creature truly will find her Nirvana.

Two things helped make reading this book a fun and challenging experience. The first is that I love philosophy and the second is that I actually spent eight amazing days in Moscow several years ago and came away with a distinct impression of the city, the country and its people. All of which Pelevin captures so perfectly. There is a melancholy Russian mindset that is afraid of true democracy and freedom, at the same time being propelled towards it by the forces of history. It is a social tragedy being played out on the world stage to this day. How it will end, only time will tell. But I can’t help but thinking, Russian writers like Victor Pelevin are the prophets sent to show their countrymen the path to that brave new world we, in America, daily take for granted.

2 comments:

Glen said...

I've been interested in the Asian concept of were foxes for a while, but most of the books I've read on the subject are really pretty lame. Glad to see this is an actual good book.

Also interested in the were badgers of Asia, but never seen a book about them.

Ron Fortier said...

As always, thanks for stopping by Glen. Yeah, the whole fox identity of a deceitful nature was marvelous played out throughout the book. Again, this one is a thumbs up for folks who truly like to think.