Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pelevin's Homo Zapiens

Victor Pelevin, one of modern Russia's most imaginative and brilliant satirists, has written an excellent novel on the advertising industry in Russia following the collapse of communism. Homo Zapiens first appeared in 1999, and was translated into English by Andrew Bromfield in 2000. The story follows the adventures of one Babylen Tatarsky, a Russian who works at a kiosk in Moscow one day fate leads him to discover a career in the advertising industry. Following this discovery, Tatarsky becomes immersed in the surreal world of advertising, injecting capitalist spirit and Western ideology into the void left by the breakdown of Soviet communism. Tatarsky becomes a very successful copywriter filling this role of "translator" for brands and concepts from English into Russian. He often steps into the role of author, going beyond the work of a mere translator, inventing slogans and scenarios that promote the products of capitalism with bizarrely Russian concepts and copy. The reader of Homo Zapiens will find himself surprised and delighted with the fusion of Western products and Eastern ideology, which often takes a genuinely comic turn.

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