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The Life of Insects

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  2,587 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
A darkly humorous novel set in a crumbling Black Sea resort, featuring a cast of characters who exist simultaneously as human beings (racketeers, mystics, drug addicts and prostitutes) and as insects. By the author of THE BLUE LANTERN and OMON RA.
Unknown Binding, 176 pages
Published April 19th 1999 (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

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May 14, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Future Nobel, maybe?

As I am reading two other novels by Victor Pelevin at the same time right now, I am trying to put my thoughts on "The Life Of Insects" into order. Whoever is familiar with his writing would probably now tell me that it is a very unwise choice to read several of the stories simultaneously, as one alone is complex enough. And I agree. But just like the characters in Pelevin's books, my reading self acts on impulses and is prone to literary accidents, so here I am, in the confus
Feb 23, 2016 Cosimo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il secondo mondo

“Ti stai attaccando alle parole. Posso dirlo anche in un altro modo: quando cerco di prendere una decisione, dentro di me mi imbatto sempre in qualcuno che ha preso la decisione opposta, ed è proprio questo qualcuno che poi fa tutto”.

Il romanzo di Pelevin racconta le vicende grottesche e e surreali di diversi personaggi incarnati in insetti umani: mosche e formiche, lucciole, falene e scarafaggi sono protagonisti di storie esilaranti e allegoriche in un mondo di passione e crudel
Mar 24, 2009 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this felt like listening to someone tell a joke in a language you only kind of understand. The book is supposed to be a satire, and the things being satirized didn't really mean anything to me, and most of these stories just did not make sense on a superficial, non-symbolic level. That said, the premise is really cool, and I love the way that Pelevin handles the simultaneous humanness and insectness of the characters - they never transition from one to the other, but exist as both, and t ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 27, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2008-2012)
Move over, Franz Kafka. You only have Gregor Samsa turning into a giant Austrian bug. Victor Pelevin has so many insects turning into Russian politicians, soldiers, etc. You both use the insectness of human beings or humanness of the insects as a readable interesting satire or metaphor but since Pelevin has more in his arsenal, he, for me, is your rightful heir in the satire arena of world literature.

This book is mesmerizing in its prose. It will keep you on your toes because you have to figure
Lorenzo Berardi
Despite its title, this book doesn't speak about entomology. Not in its common terms, at least.

Six years have passed since I've read "The life of insects". In the meanwhile Viktor Pelevin, who was considered one of the best contemporary novelists of the so called "new Russian generation" has been forgotten by many reviewers. Unfortunately for him there has been a new wave of angry, young and often attractive teenagelike Russian novelists to talk about. Pelevin who's in his fourties looks like a
Mar 22, 2010 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian, philosophy
This book took me on an absorbing journey filled with confusion and surrealism. Pelevin constantly keeps his readers on guard by having characters undergo metamorphosis (literally) between the human and insect state in the middle of sentences. Communism, society, and post-USSR Russia are satirized through such characters as a moth who questions his own existence, a dung beetle who adheres to what he has been taught all his life even when his beliefs do not answer his son's questions, an attracti ...more
Harry Kane
May 18, 2012 Harry Kane rated it it was amazing
In Pelevin's native Russia, there are two specific cricisms aimed at him by the formidable Russian literary establishment. Apart from people whining that he destroys culture, but these we give a wide berth. Anyhow, criticism one is that he doesn't really write novels, but thinly disguised social satires which peddle absurdist Zen values. The second criticism, is that he always retells the same Zen story in every book.
Indeed, that is exactly what Mr. Pelevin does, and exactly why I love his stuf
"The Life of Insects" is not for the Disney-minded, though it delves quite frequently in the silly and absurd, and uses animals -- well, insects -- to represent people. The book is written as a comical "Metamorphosis," at times witty, silly, morbid and profound. Humanity is viewed as insects through some dismal, cosmic microscope. We are the insects always trying to find the light, but finding only darkness, pushing along a ball of dung (our corporeal body) and never rising above our materialist ...more
I need to read this book again in about 30 years... It's so craftily constructed, with separate narrative strands so intricately interwoven, that you feel you have encountered the ensnaring web of a master. So much comes together at the end that you're left wondering if you really were smart enough to successfully maneuver in and out and around the silk-like threads of Pelevin's web... Or if you are merely a dazzled moth, suspended in flight, vulnerable and unknowing, a Pelevin success.

Either t
Jan 16, 2016 Sashinka rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
I really enjoyed these short stories that are all intertwined in their own ways. As much as social commentary on Russia as a novel, this is an intriguing book that deserves more time. It's also very strange... essentially it's about a number of different insects, each of whom have their own characters and journeys to make. More than that would be a spoiler but I definitely recommend it.
Greg Heaton
Sep 03, 2012 Greg Heaton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-greatest
Mind blown. Beautiful, luminous, heartfelt. Transcendent. (And I don't use that word lightly)

Chekhov meets Gogol meets Ovid.

The Seryozha chapter might be the single greatest short story I've ever read.

Read it.
The Life of Insects is by Russian writer Victor Pelevin, and was first published in Russian in 1994, with the English translation following in 1996. I was attracted to the story by Pelevin's approach to combining human and insect traits at will; one moment a character is swimming in someone's food as a small insect, and the next they are plucked out and seated at the table as a full grown human.

I wanted to see how he would accomplish this, and if I liked the results. I was surprised at how much
Oksana Naumchuck
Mar 27, 2017 Oksana Naumchuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Не знаю чим, але зачепило.
Сподобалися філософствування і метаморфози, схожість комах до людей, а людей до комах.
Наше життя таке ж не передбачуване, як і їхнє. Ніколи не знаєш, чи не наступить на тебе наступної миті чийсь черевик.
Emre Ergin
Jul 11, 2012 Emre Ergin rated it really liked it
Özellikle Mitya ve Dima'nın başrolü olduğu bölümler taklit edilemez bir ustalıkta yazılmıştı.

Kitabın en büyük özelliği her bölümde okuyucuyu kandırabilmesi. "Ha bu bölüm bir insana dairmiş." "Ha bu bölüm bir böceğe dairmiş." dediğiniz her seferinde yanılıyorsunuz. Bunun dışında bölümler kendi içinde çok orjinal öyküler. Kitabın en büyük sorunu da bu. Ne bağımsız öykülerden oluşan bir seçki olacak kadar kopuk, ne de adına roman denmesine yetecek kadar bütünlüklü. Her iki yöne doğru yapılabilecek
J.M. Hushour
Jan 02, 2015 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about bug people or people bugs, depending on how you want to look at it. A small cast of characters meander through their holiday by the Black Sea, flitting back and forth between human and bug. It is this muddy distinction that charges the novel with its pecualiar beauty, for the characters, whether its the trio of businessmen/mosquitoes, the ant queen dealing with motherhood, or the philosophizing dung beetles, are wonderfully rendered. The ambiguity of their identity, or rathe ...more
Darran Mclaughlin
Pretty good novel, but not as good as I was hoping. I was expecting the Russian equivalent of Houellebecqe, Coupland and Palahniuk, (i.e. a hip young writer with his finger on the pulse about contemporary life) but this didn't reach those heights. Reviews from the Indy on Sunday and the Observer describe this as a cyberpunk novel, which it isn't at all but allows them to throw in a cool contemporary buzz word. It's much more similar to Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino and the work of Gogol. Worth a ...more
Dec 08, 2008 Keepcoolbutcare rated it it was amazing
i like bugs
Feb 18, 2015 Lina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who are you? An ant, a fly or a cockroach?
Ieva Gr
Nov 20, 2016 Ieva Gr rated it really liked it
I think it’s very well written – the stories that seem to be separate short novels at first turn out to be all interconnected. And the human-insect parallel is a very nicely grotesque idea. It really puts your imagination to work, when you read about completely human-like scenes and acts and find them decorated with bits and pieces from insect life.

P. S. Who knew, that the night moths I am so repelled by are actually the misanthropic and melancholic types, I usually tend to get along with very
Clark Hays
Nov 02, 2016 Clark Hays rated it it was amazing
A disturbing, disorienting read

This is an amazing and devious little book that’s either so macro it’s micro, or vice versa. A series of loosely connected chapters follows a variety of characters around a sea side resort town that’s falling slowly into disrepair. The catch is that the characters are either anthropomorphic insects or, conversely and perversely, insectomorphic humans.

Either way, reading it was a disorienting as the two worlds blend into one that is dark and filled with a singular a
Jul 26, 2011 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just like the previous book I reviewed, The Life of Insects is also out of print and you can find a copy at It was also a bit troublesome to attain as I had to wait a month to receive it then it was a bit tatty. To top it all of it’s a 190 page book and it took me a day to finish it.

As such these are tiny gripes, what really matters is if I enjoyed it or not and to tell the truth I’ve got quite a few mixed reactions and I’m still debating on whether I actually enjoyed ‘The Life of
Jul 26, 2011 Matti rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Minulle suositeltiin tätä kirjaa Daniil Harms -fanitukseni perusteella. Olihan tämäkin kirja hieman avantgardistinen sisällöltään, mutta ei mielestäni vertaudu silti Harmsiin. Jo senkin takia että olkoonkin että tarinan päähenkilöt ovat hyönteisiä ja tekevät omituisia asioita, mutta he toimivat silti täysin oman hyönteislogiikkansa mukaan eivätkä olleet arvaamattomia, irrationaalisia eivätkä tehneet odottamattomia sanavalintoja.
Jotenkin kyllästyin myös kirjan lakkaamatta tarjoilemaan eksistenti
Erma Odrach
Jun 09, 2009 Erma Odrach rated it really liked it
The Life of Insects is a satire of post-Perestroika Russia. It is an absurdist novel with a Kafkaesque premis. Two Russians and one American businessman visit a run-down resort on the Black Sea, where they try to find ways to make quick money. The characters metamorphose from human to insect and in some sentences find themselves in a human-insect state. It is through their eyes that we witness post-Communist Russia --Natasha, a fly prostitute sets out to seduce her 'johns', a mother ant pushes t ...more
Sep 29, 2008 Rose rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Russian history buffs, entymologists
Recommended to Rose by: 1001 Books
This book is interesting. I'm told that it has a lot of allegory and symbolism in it, but since I don't know a lot about post-perestroika Russia, I just had to take it for what I saw, which was a lot of stories about people turning into insects and back again.

It wasn't really engrossing like I want in a novel, so after a while, I lost interest. But there were also some very touching vignettes. Particularly interesting to me was the story of the father dung beetle and son dung beetle. I feel like
Jan 17, 2016 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-bymrbyd
This was certainly a strange book but also strangely entertaining. It begins with 3 businessmen, 2 Russians and 1 American, meeting and discussing some market research the American intends to conduct. When they prepare to leave we discover that they are actually mosquitoes. That pretty much sets the tone of the book. As various situations unfold we discover that although they certainly sound like things that happen to people all the time, they are happening to a variety of insects. This is a qui ...more
I should start off saying I detest Kafka, so there wasn't a ton of hope that Victor Pelevin's novel "The Life of Insects" was going to get a high rating for me. Pelevin takes Kafka's ideas from "The Metamorphosis" and elevates them to another level.

In the book, people are bugs. There are quite a few clever bits woven throughout the stories, which I liked. You would probably get more out of the book if you know more about modern day Russia... I felt like there were a bunch of inside jokes that I
Jun 06, 2014 Ruli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Qué difícil reseñar un libro como éste. Cuando me preguntan si es un buen libro jamás he podido contestar. Definitivamente Pelevin tiene la receta adecuada para narrar la historia de un insecto y un humano al mismo tiempo. Es mediante esta metemorfosis que logra mostrar los vicios, el egoísmo, pero al mismo tiempo la búsqueda de la vida por el hombre. El problema radica en el simbolismo y las referencias a una sociedad postsoviética de la cual no fui ni seré parte. En algunas la evidencia es sen ...more
Apr 22, 2013 Maryann rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001
I am left wondering if something was lost in translation with this book, something that my American brain just doesn't quite grasp. I do believe that I am missing a lot of the Russian cultural and historic references, for sure. But this is... weird. Are the characters always insects, or are they in human form sometimes, too? This was a strange, philosophical journey seen through bug eyes.

Food: Popcorn without enough butter and salt. Easy to consume, but not really something I enjoy.
A satire of contemporary Russian life that follows two men and their American guest who at times seem to be human with traits of insects, and at others appear as insects with human characteristics. For about the first fifty pages, the book read more like a short story collection as each chapter would begin a narrative with a new character. Gradually, they grew entwined to reveal multiple levels of Russian life and society.

Find it here:
Eugene Mamin
Aug 02, 2015 Eugene Mamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Книга-аллегория, лейтмотивом проходит тема вечной суеты, мелочности и мещанства; истинности жизненных ценностей как таковых. Видимо, поэтому выбраны герои-насекомые: комары, букашки и муравьи вызывают у многих презрение уже только своим жалким видом и заботами.

Несмотря на хитропсплетённую композицию, мало того Пелевина, который заставляет читателя чувствовать себя такой же букашкой и недотёпой. Мало странных миров, мало ярких персонажей, которые зажигают огонь своими сумасбродными, меткими и про
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"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." (Wikipedia)

See also http://en.wikipedia.
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