"The Sacred Book of the Werewolf" is Russian novelist/satirist Victor Pelevin's take on modern Russian consumerism, Chinese werewolves and the work of the great Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, among other things.
“The Sacred Book
of the Werewolf”
by Victor Pelevin
Viking, 335 pp., $25.95
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“The Sacred Book of the Werewolf,” the newest novel by Russian writer Victor Pelevin, is fashioned like a set of nested dolls — one genre fitting inside another.
First of all, it’s a supernatural tale of love and money, or, more accurately, love for money — told by an intriguing teenage narrator. A Hu-Li is a beautiful 15-year-old Moscow prostitute and a 2,000-year-old Chinese werefox. She’s a wily, shape-shifting temptress. By waving her tail, she can grant men their deepest, darkest desires while she calmly sits in a chair 10 feet away from their squirming, writhing bodies.
As she says early in the novel during one of her evening assignations:
“It’s hard to get used to this sight. People have muscular spasms, and at such moments the client looks as if he really is lying on an invisible body.”
An ultra-chaste psychic vampiress, A Hu-Li takes life energy, gives away fantasy and keeps her body for herself. When not practicing her hypnotic sex trade, she reads voraciously and has a great love for Russian authors, especially Vladimir Nabokov.
Then one day, A Hu-Li meets Alexander, a handsome FSB (the new KBG) officer and whammo — he knocks her off her game. A mysterious player in Russia’s booming oil business, Alexander may also be the mythic, messianic super-wolf spoken of in Nordic folklore.
Quickly, the couple fall into a supercharged erotic affair that goes way past animal transformation.
Whether he is commenting on supernatural sex, Taoist philosophy or the new Russian consumerism, Pelevin is a satirist with X-ray vision. He sees that the real triumph of global capitalism is not cheaper stuff for everybody and better stuff for a few, but the destruction of the human spirit.
Discursive, irritating, witty, sexy and puzzling, “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf” asks how can we go on in a predatory world like ours. A Hu-Li’s answer is: Transcend it.