Pelevin and… ah, yes… well… I’m not quite sure where to begin.
Victor Pelevin is a rather intriguing young fellow (although he’s now well into his fifties, but let’s not nitpick). He rarely gives interviews, and when he does, they tend to be vague and evasive, reminiscent of a blend between Haruki Murakami and Andy Warhol.
An oddity: I’ve heard that lawyers, in particular, appreciate this author and his writing style. Well… perhaps…
But, I can’t escape the impression that he’s the kind of writer you either love or hate.
Frankly, my opinion of Pelevin fluctuated as I read “Empire V”. I went from indifference to mild aversion, only to realize by the end that I’d become quite fond of both the author and his novel.
Before we delve deep into “Empire V”, a word of caution: don’t just plunge into this book casually! This novel (and apparently other Pelevin’s works) requires attentive immersion, or you might miss essential nuances, rendering the story potentially tedious.
I will also attempt to interpret, from my perspective, what the author might be conveying in this narrative.
Now, the story begins with a 19-year-old named Roman, who hasn’t had the most fortunate childhood, being bitten by a vampire! You’d think this sets the stage for either the shortest novel ever or an action-packed thriller featuring a new Dracula reincarnation. Yet, it turns out everything we thought we knew about vampires is completely off the mark…
With the bite, Roman becomes a vampire himself (logically). From that point, his life transforms profoundly (“Logically!” the readers echo in chorus). However, this change isn’t just about his newfound race. Roman (now divinely renamed Rama II), gains a different (truer?) perspective on the world…
The narrative, let’s just say, is unique. From the moment Rama becomes a vampire (essentially from the beginning of the book), the novel morphs into a guidebook for young vampires about how the world genuinely operates and the role of vampires within it. The fledgling vampire Rama meets various intriguing and distinct vampire-mentors, each offering their insightful (or should I say, truthful) worldviews, teaching him about discourse, allure, the arts of love, and combat.
Through interactions with vampires and the Haldays (more on them later), Rama gradually shifts his view on the world and its mechanics, gradually letting go of naive human beliefs and adopting the vampire perspective. In this journey, an entity termed “the language/the tongue” embeds itself into Rama, offering insights into various vampire lore. He realizes that vampires have long ceased being the classic bloodsuckers as mortals perceive them. They are, in essence, the final link in evolution, having created humans, seeing themselves as deities. They’ve recognized that illusion, manipulation, power, and wealth allow them dominance over humans. The Haldays, their loyal servants, aid them in this. I perceived the Haldays as influential individuals taught specific skills by vampires to amass wealth. They can’t keep secrets from their vampire masters, who have a nifty ability to learn everything about a person, including their most intimate experiences, through a subtle and painless bite. The Haldays, in essence, help vampires control the masses through politics and marketing.
Throughout his gradual initiation into the vampire world, Rama engages in profound philosophical discussions, not just with his mentors but also with the cunning Haldays and other ancient vampires. They touch on topics such as the purpose of human and vampire existence, money, God, how the world genuinely operates, and even the implications of biting a female vampire (especially a young Hera) – it can indeed stir strong emotions within the readers.
Pelevin’s vampires aren’t those dark, sadistic bloodsuckers, bitter at the world and eager to sow chaos. Instead, they are, in fact, quite rational beings who have always controlled men. They’ve realized that the mechanism of glamour and discourse is nothing more than a subtle manipulation of people who are nowadays alienated from one another and rather obsessed with money.
For me, the vampires serve as a metaphor for the most powerful elite, whom most people probably don’t even know about. They are the ones who control the world from the shadows, never appearing in public (nor do they need to). They manage money and thus the world. Who might they be? Perhaps some secret societies and certain families that have existed for centuries, about whom we’ve only heard a few words? Or maybe even more secretive organizations and families of whose existence we’re entirely unaware?
And their loyal servants, the Haldeys? Aren’t they the world’s most powerful and wealthiest individuals, people from the media, music, and political spheres, dictating what we should wear, eat, drink, read, and listen to? Aren’t they subtly brainwashing us, striving to mold and control us? Convincing us that the only deity that exists is Money and that we should sacrifice all our life energy to it, worshiping only it? And as long as we don’t have (a lot of) money, we remain sad, alienated, lonely, and miserable?
As I warned you at the beginning, this novel isn’t for everyone. It’s filled with philosophical dialogues about the functioning of the world, and one should delve deeper into the book, or else you might mistakenly perceive it all as just empty chatter…
Moreover, you’ll come across many references to popular culture, politics, business…
Yet, there are also many insightful thoughts and painful truths in this book.
All in all, after weighing my impressions, Victor Pelevin, through philosophical dialogues (and psychedelic scenes), has described our painful reality in a truly intriguing manner. I genuinely enjoyed “Empire V”, and I definitely plan to read the sequel about Rama’s adventures in the novel “Batman Apollo” soon. Who knows what new life truths and psychedelic events we’ll encounter there?
By the way, if you know even a smidgen of Russian, I believe you’ll grasp the wordplay in the novel’s title. 😉
There’s one small detail that struck me as especially intriguing, concerning events towards the novel’s end. It’s that you should always be careful about who you choose to befriend. Such choices might often lead you to heaven’s gates… or hell’s. Read the book; you’ll see. 😉
“The only perspective for a smart guy in this country is to work as a clown for gays. Those who don’t want to work as a clown for gays will end up working as a gay for clowns“. I believe this quote from the novel perfectly encapsulates the predicament of the modern man.
Not one, but three questions/reflections for you!
- Who do you think the vampires and Haldeys are?
- “Empire V”… do you notice the wordplay in the title of this work?
- The quote about gays and clowns… how would you interpret it?