Book Review : The Sacred Book of the Werewolf – supernatural weirdness

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor PelevinAndrew Bromfield (Translator)

4 star read

Why I read:  Recommended to me by a friend as something weird I might enjoy.

Book blurb: “Paranormal meets transcendental in this provocative and hilarious novel.

Victor Pelevin has established a reputation as one of the most brilliant writers at work today; his comic inventiveness has won him comparisons to Kafka, Calvino, and Gogol, and Time has described him as a “psychedelic Nabokov for the cyberage.” Pelevin’s new novel, his first in six years, is both a supernatural love story and a satirical portrait of modern Russia. It concerns the adventures of a hardworking fifteen-year-old Moscow prostitute named A. Huli, who in reality is a two thousand-year-old were-fox who seduces men in order to absorb their life force; she does this by means of her tail, a hypnotic organ that puts men into a trance in which they dream they are having sex with her. A. Huli eventually comes to the attention of and falls in love with a high-ranking Russian intelligence officer named Alexander, who is also a werewolf (unbeknownst to our heroine). And that is only the beginning of the fun. A huge success in Russia, this is a stunning and ingenious work of the imagination, arguably Pelevin’s sharpest and most engrossing novel to date.”

 My review

Set in a gritty Russia where everyone seems out to make money. A fox prostitute,  A Hu-Li, uses her tail to induce illusion.  Sexual visions in her clients allow her to assimilate human sexual energy released during the act of love.  Maintaining her enchantment and youthful appearance of a tall, slender young woman.  A Hu-Li meets a were-wolf and falls in love.  Whilst also searching out a meaning for her existence.

The book is told from A Hu-Li’s perspective.  Her pursuit of the mysteries of life were entertaining and sometimes inspiring as she dabbles with Buddhist theories towards the end of the novel.  Throughout she comments on the state of Russia and the world offering her insights.    Conveniently werefoxes mostly forget what they know so her comments were not clouded with a millennia of knowledge.   Hu-Li also seemed to me to be a mans idea of what a woman is and thinks… again this is kind of explained by the fact that werefoxes are really gender neutral but just look like sexy young girls.

This is a weird book that was recommended to me by a friend. It certainly was strange enough to keep me entertained.  There’s a real mix of blatantly stupid and  intelligent thoughts throughout the book.  Sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes enlightened but always I wanted to know what would happen next.  Though I had to put the book down a few times and return to it later when my brain felt it had had enough.   Its has elements of dark fairy-tales and a kind of magical mysticism but set in a realistically abrasive reality.  There are many wordplays and puns which appear to have translated well from the original Russian.   Original and complex ideas are littered through the pages but the novel just felt a bit pretentious and tedious.   Overall it didn’t quite gel for me.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: weird tales, foxes, werewolves, magical animals, dark gritty commentary and religious undertones.

***

 Paperback, 333 pages

Published June 1st 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published 2004)

Original Title Священная книга оборотня
ISBN 0571227988

Edition Language: English

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