Pelevin's short stories are surreal and absurdist - but so was the Soviet period of Russian history, which Pelevin writes about. The nonsensical nature of the stories may be off-putting to readers, as the situation, plot and resolution are all ... weird. For example, in "Vera Pavlovna's Ninth Dream" a femal bathroom cleaner philosophizes on the meaning of existence, stumbling into the metaphysical position of solipsism, potentially losing her mind (or, perhaps, changing her reality.) In "The Prince of Gosplan," working for the Soviet economic planning agency becomes a literal computer game, the object to control the characters to "level up" and advance.
While each story is unique in its own right, they all share common themes: the characters all go through the motions of living while in reality they are asleep (as in the short story "Sleep"), each character following the central organization of Soviet life, no one complaining or raising a fuss, each person "living the lie" (to borrow from Havel.) Another theme that ties the stories together are the "inside jokes" that only Russians (or those familiar with the Soviet system) would be likely to catch: references and allusions to the "New Soviet Man", "socialist realism" and "What is to be Done" are likely to fly over the heads of most readers, but which I found worthy of a belly-laugh. The frustration with the Soviet system and the meaninlessness and bleakness of existence is also common to all the stories - whether it be a description of life in prison or a heavy-equipment operator seeking to bull-doze his way out of the system, Pelevin emphasizes if not the triumph of the human will to be an individual, then its struggle to do so. This is especially apparent in the title short story, "A Warewrolf Problem in Central Russia" (which was, incidentally, also my favorite of the collection.)
While the stories are perhaps a bit "avant garde" in their surrealism and the Soviet-age references and jokes may be missed, this is an excellent collection of contemporary Russian fiction, and a marvelous read. Kudos as well to Andrew Bromfield, the translator, whose work with Boris Akunin's mysteries drew me to these stories. Highly recommended.
A Werewolf Problem In Central Russia & Other Stories Hardcover – 5 November 1998
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- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0811213943
- ISBN-13 : 978-0811213943
- Product Dimensions : 14.61 x 2.54 x 20.96 cm
- Publisher : New Directions Publishing (5 November 1998)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
5 out of 5
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brilliant, although off-center and absurdistReviewed in the United States on 12 May 2014
BrillianceReviewed in the United States on 31 May 2016
A great collection of stories. This is a good starting point for those looking to get into Pelevin. Genius.
Werewolf? There wolf!Reviewed in the United States on 8 November 2015
I love this writer. Had the book in the past and lent it away.. Used the werewolf story with my students for Halloween. Thanks Amazon