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The Clay Machine-Gun
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The Clay Machine-Gun

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  2,252 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Pyotr Voyd, a leading St Petersburg poet, unexpectedly finds himself commissar to the legendary commander Chapaev and his formidable machine-gunner sidekick, Anna, in the 1919 Civil War. But what is the secret of her machine-gun? Why does Pyotr keep waking to find himself in a psychiatric hospital in 1990s Moscow? And where does Arnold Schwarzenegger fit into all this?

Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 15th 1997 by Faber & Faber (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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One of my favourite books of all time. A mind-blowing, orgiastic blend of Buddhist philosophy and Russian humour, with so much depth you could read it a hundred times and still miss something. I only wish my Russian were good enough to allow me to read it in the original and understand the many allusions to modern Russian life. Even in translation, this is a work on consummate genius, and it's astonishing that Pelevin isn't better known in the West.
In a word: horrible. In two: disastrously horrible. I have a dubious advantage to read this book in Russian - Pelevin's mother tongue (and mine too). Its original title is "Chapaev and Pustota" (Chapaev is a famous Soviet commander of Civil War-period and Pustota, the surname of protagonist, means "emptiness" or "void" in Russian). Here Chapaev is a boddhisatva (well, sort of) who preaches to Pyotr Pustota - decadent poet and a patient of asylum runned my mysterious doctor Kanashnikov. Not only ...more
David Katzman
Aug 15, 2010 David Katzman rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of the experimental, surreal, philosophy and/or Buddhism
Wow. This is one messed up book. It’s not typical messed up. It is screw-with your-head messed up. And it’s messing-with-novelistic-conventions (which I typically love) messed up.

When I started writing my first novel, Death by Zamboni, I had only one original intention in mind. To break every single convention of fiction writing that I could think of. I approached it from a comedic perspective and had fun with it. It’s also a satire, of course, of commercialism and “entertainment,” as it turned
Jan 29, 2009 El rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (203/1001)
I'm not ashamed to admit when I don't "get" a book. I'm a pretty smart cookie for the most part - I finished school, got a degree, read a bunch, like to learn things and have discussions - but when something is beyond me I don't like to pretend that it must be cool just because I didn't get it. This is one of those books that people have raved about since it came out. They say things like, "It's not an easy book, but..." and they imply that if you don't "get it" then you must not be very smart o ...more
Long live Chapaev. And Arnold Schwartzenegger.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The 1001 list says "The Clay Machine-Gun" but when I typed the title here at goodreads what came out was this. If I didn't finish reading the book, I would have been flummoxed by this change from a machine-gun to Buddha's finger (indeed, briefly, I was, except that I quickly remembered that the clay machine-gun here supposedly contained Buddha's finger which, when fired, makes things disappear).

Anyway, despite the buoyancy I enjoyed while drinking bubbly San Miguel beer (the best beer in the wor
Weird, deeply weird. Multiple storylines, interludes from other points of view, philosophy and history all rolled into one. The main character, Pyotr Voyd (the name is no accident), is in a present-day mental hospital, but he's also living a life in early-20th century Russia as an associate of Chapaev (an actual historical figure). Or is that just Pyotr's delusion? Does he need to be cured or does the rest of the world?

I'm not much for philosophy, and I admit that my knowledge of Russian history
Arkadiy Volkov
В прошлый раз я его читал в одиннадцатом, что ли, классе, а перечитать решил после этой вот статьи:
Прекрасная все-таки штука.
Ivan Bogdanov
Принципно Пелевин е повече философ отколкото писател. Всичките му книги, които съм че са пълни съсъ сериозни философски разсъждения. Но не бях подготвен за това, което ме посрещна в тази книга.
Тя по същество е един философски трактат за смисъла на съществуването. Сюжет и действие почти няма, фрагментирано е и е по-скоро допълнение към философските разсъждения.
Не се наемам да обобщя какво пише вътре, определено ще се чете още няколко пъти.
Но научих много за пустотата и най-вече за тази вътре в м
Antonina Sh
Вторая прочитанная мной книга Пелевина (не считая Жизни насекомых, прочитанной еще в "несознательные" годы, и соответственно ни черта не понятой), и кажется намечается какая-то тенденция.
Ощущение, что книга как писалась, так и читается - будто в состоянии запредельного наркотического кайфа и наркотического же просветления.
Читается быстро, легко и с восторгом, и местами действительно как-будто наступает какое-то небесное просветление - вот же она, суть, вот он смысл, все существование - как тепер
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
L'essere e il nulla

"Dì un po', Volòdin, tu ci credi alla fine del mondo?
Questa è una faccenda strettamente individuale, rispose Volòdin.
Un ceceno prende e ti spara, ed eccotela qua la fine del mondo."

"...dopo la morte ai tempi di Stalin c'era l'ateismo, e ora c'è di nuovo la religione. E secondo la religione, dopo la morte è tutto come ai tempi di Stalin. Prova a immaginare com'era allora: tutti sanno che di notte al Cremlino resta sempre quella finestra accesa, e dietro la finestra c'è Lui. Lui
Thurston Hunger
Liked "Omon Ra" quite a bit, and loved "Yellow Arrow." But this one was a little rougher going for me, I think I do not know enough about Russian history. That and I haven't had a psychotic break...yet. The actual title from Russian is "Chapaev and Pustota" where the former character evidently is a real Russian historical character and the latter is our hero, and translated here with an anglicized name of Voyd.

And there is wordplay a plenty, (Vorblei becomes Fourply, Anna becomes part of a phras
Fun read, the idea that a patient suffering from delusions can be humoured until his psyche reintergrates strikes me as bizarre. However the journey through the various delusions and the characters that reside there is interesting.
Often wondered where the delusions were set, was it in a Russia that had ever existed?.
Rick Goff
Wow. Collecting my thoughts. Loved it. Ten chapters,each utterly unique, traversing a whole lot of metaphysical ground against a backdrop of various Russian contexts. I hope somebody's made a list of "Books you'll love if you loved _Buddha's Little Finger_".
Alexander Popov
Започва страхотно, в една студена снежна вечер в червена следоктомврийска Москва, с убийство, кражба на самоличност, неизбежните препратки към Достоевски, луди поети, кокаин, престрелки, тайна полиция. По-насетне повествованието прескача напред в нашето настояще, в друга по вид лудница - този път институционализирана - където, може би, виденията от миналото се зараждат в главата на хоспитализирания Пьотър Пустота. А може би е точно обратното, кой знае. Не и главният герой, и това е най-голямото ...more
Quite simply an amazing novel written by a virtuoso writer. Pelevin ranges easily into the mystical without ever straining this reader's credulity. It's as if he knows his way around. Maybe he does.
Emilis Kuke
Pradžioje (perskaitęs kokių 70 p.) niekaip nesupratau, kas per nesąmonė su Švarcnegeriu ir kam reikalingi POP kultūros simboliai. Ir iš viso dėl ko Peleviną nešioja ant rankų tiek rusai, tiek likęs pasaulis. Iš to pasimetimo netgi pradėjau lyginti su Bulgakov'u (su kuo dažniausiai internete skai2iau, kad Pelevin'as lyginimaas) ir pagalvojau, kad Bugakovas nenaudojo POP kultūros elementų. Tačiau, staiga, atėjo suvokimas, kad Bugakovas naudojo POP kultūros elementus tik praeito šimtmečio. Ir jie k ...more
Alexey Yudichev
Это не стоит слов, это надо читать. Шедевр. Фантастический язык, философия пустоты, сносящая крышу. А в этом году немцы ещё и фильм по книге сделают.

one of my all time favourites, fantastic masterpiece, hats off!
Pelevin was suggested to me by a friend and former Russian lit major as "the voice of the '90s". Knowing a bit about this period in post-Soviet history is certainly helpful in understanding the appeal of this book. A fast-paced postmodernist novel, "Buddha's Little Finger" is less of a story than a web of interwoven tales full of Russian history, contemporary social criticism, and Buddhist mysticism. Pelevin, besides having published several novels, is also a prolific author of short stories, an ...more
goede tijden met lao-tse, de boeddha en [platenspeler krast] russische geschiedenis??
honestly, i didn't particularly care for the plot or characters. but there's a larger metaphysical discussion weaving in and out of the text that i found fascinating. its sort of like reading about quantum physics-- you feel yourself being nudged towards a precipice that marks the boundary of everyday consciousness.

Andy Sykes
I must have read this book about twenty times, and each time I discover some new allegory. Highly recommended.
Fascinating, one more little step on my lifelong quest to understand the "Slavic soul."
Speaks of life's mystical undercurrents with wit and ease.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 09, 2015 Sandra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandra by: Jurijs
Shelves: reviewed

Но я что-то слишком долго говорю. По правде сказать, я был намерен молчать до самого расстрела.


Шварценеггер снял очки.
Его левый глаз был чуть сощурен и выражал очень ясную и одновременно неизмеримо сложную гамму чувств, среди которых были смешанные в строгой пропорции жизнелюбие, сила, здоровая любовь к детям, моральная поддержка американского автомобилестроения в его нелегкой схватке с Японией, признание прав сексуальных меньшинств, легкая ирония по поводу феминизма и спокойное осознание
Brittany Picardi Ruiz
As astounding as it is frustrating, “Buddha’s Little Finger” is Victor Pelevin’s shabby, messy but often visionary take on his native Russia. A surreal collection of the drugged-out dreams of three patients in a Moscow mental ward in the early 1990s, the novel relies less on narrative thrust than it does on satirical vignettes that are alternately biting and toothless.
“Buddha’s Little Finger” mostly follows the (imagined) adventures of 26-year-old Pyotr Voyd, who thinks that he is suffering flas
Ira Therebel
The protagonist of the book is Peyotr Pustota and it takes place in post Revolutionary Russia and Russia of the 90's. In post revolutionary period Pyotr is with Chapaev and Anka having nightmares about being in a mental institution, while in the 90's he is in that mental institution for his idea of being with Chapaev. The book is mainly making you ask the question "what is real?". So is Petya a mental patient or is he a revolutionist. And throughout this book the question is asked in many differ ...more
Книга онечь понравилась и когда читала ее первый раз, и теперь, хотя теперь читала несколько по-иному. Сюжет книги непрост (в основном потому что действие происходит одновременно в 1920-е и 1990-е, а также в некоем вневременном плане), но абсолютно не важен. Сюжетные линии просто иллюстрируют философские положения, которые высказывает автор. Но в принципе сюжет можно охарактеризовать как путь главного героя Петра Пустоты к просветлению "под чутким руководством" его гуру Чапаева. При этом Чапаев ...more
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aka Виктор Олегович Пелевин (Rus)

"Victor Olegovich Pelevin is a Russian fiction writer. His books usually carry the outward conventions of the science fiction genre, but are used to construct involved, multi-layered postmodernist texts, fusing together elements of pop culture and esoteric philosophies. Some critics relate his prose to the New Sincerity and New Realism literary movements." (Wikipe
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“I was surrounded on all sides by the indifferent torpidity of summer, somewhere there were dogs barking lazily, while the machine-gun barrel of the sun was strafing the earth in a continuous, never-ending burst of fire.” 4 likes
“Gazing at the faces of the horses and the people, at this boundless stream of life raised up by the power of my will and now hurtling into nowhere across the sunset-crimson steppe, I often think: where am I in this flux? GHENGIS KHAN” 1 likes
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