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by Victor Pelevin & translated by Andrew Bromfield

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-670-89168-1
Publisher: Viking

A strangely discordant yet generally quite compelling political novel from the prize-winning (and remarkably productive) young Russian writer (The Life of Insects; A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia, both 1998, etc.). The protagonist and antihero is (the pointedly named) Pyotr Voyd, a fair-to-middling gifted poet who’s swept up into the Bolshevik Revolution of 1919, during which he's appointed `commissar` to a prominent Red Army commander (Chapaev), and becomes romantically involved (unwisely) with his superior's female machine-gunner Anna. Or so Pyotr claims—until a fantasy sequence involving the prepossessing figure of Arnold Schwarzenegger strongly suggests Voyd may be a mental patient who's only imagining those aforementioned adventures—especially when Chapaev reappears as a Buddhist-inspired fellow patient who leads the bewildered poet toward `nirvana.` Pelevin's clumsily transparent satire on corrupt Western values and the need to replace them with Wisdom from the East veers continually toward sheer rant, but his imaginative re-creation of Russia's early 20th-century literary culture (in which Pyotr Voyd shares table-talk with such historical luminaries as Aleksandr Blok and Vladimir Mayakovski) vibrates with the impish energy that distinguishes so much of his other fiction. Buddha's Little Finger is, by comparison, a messy and self-indulgent performance; still, in it's ornery bifurcated way, it's another uniquely interesting book from a spectacularly talented and brainy writer.