Homo Zapiens
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Homo Zapiens

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  3,117 ratings  ·  104 reviews
The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up a huge consumer market, but how do you sell things to a generation that grew up with just one type of cola? When Tatarsky, a frustrated poet, takes a job as an advertising copywriter, he finds he has a talent for putting distinctively Russian twists on Western-style ads. But his success leads him into a surreal world of spin d...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 31st 2002 by Penguin Books (first published 1999)
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May 30, 2007 Quayar rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who work in advertizing or who want to understand Russian culture better, either one.
Victor Pelevin is like a pop culture-savvy and Russian Murakami, or like Tom Robbins but less snarky and less lyrical or something. I LOVE him. This particular novel is really interesting because it approaches the world of advertising from a unexpected perspective: in soviet Russia, the seller is the sucker! Some twists are a little hokey, but the final twist is worth the read. I am a huge fan of Russian authors like Bulgakov, Dostoevsky and co, and he definitely plays around with these classic...more
Five stars for a book that I resent? Certainly why not?

From the second that I started to read the book I couldn't quite decide if I liked it or hated it. The book comes off a bit like an elitist ass hole. One of those guys who knows he is smarter than you and decides that instead of acting like a civilized person he is going to prove it to you by, well telling you things that don't make any sense and then acting like they do. and if that is not enough he will include diatribes against things th...more
I'd like to think that I have a bit of a Russian soul. I stare down long, snowy views pinned down by the sheer weight of being, lose myself in massive novels, like to think that I fight for the proletariat, and attribute certain cleansing abilities to vodka. However, this is a Russia that is long since dead. The modern Russia is populated by thugs in tracksuits and all manner of slimy manipulators of post-Soviet malaise. This is the Russia Pelevin writes about.

"Once upon a time in Russia there r...more
Осмиването на постсоциалистическата действителност не успя да ми влезе под кожата. В началото бях очарована от острия език на автора, от чувството му за хумор, което изглеждаше неизчерпаемо и иронията - в големи, огромни дози.
Към средата сериозно ми доскуча и въпреки въвеждането на нови персонажи и завръщането в повествованието на вече споменати лица, действието сякаш зацикли и започна да ме отегчава. Всичко описано е по руски мащабно - става дума за много пари, за много елементарни, прясно забо...more
acid, witty and engulfing. a critique of modernity, consumerism and capitalism.

memorable concepts and ideas: oranus as a description of the global economy, television as an altered state of consciousness and instrument of control, money as an instrument of moral and ethical evaluation, advertising as a technique of control and propaganda, virtualization of reality.
Really, I don't understand why so many people like him.
Scavengering the post Soviet psyche.
Random pick from library when they had a "literature from neighbour countries" display. So that I would not suffer from a Russia-deficiency.

Back cover says: "The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up a huge consumer market, but how do you sell things to a generation that grew up with just one type of cola? When Tatarsky, a frustrated poet, takes a job as an advertising copywriter, he finds he has a talent for putting distinctively Russian twists on Western-style ads. But his success leads h...more
i picked up generation p at dom knigi in st. petersburg in the late 90s. i'll admit i don't think i appreciated its brilliance at the time. we were still too close to it all, the fall of the soviet union and the rise of a new russia. but at last the time was right to read Pelevin again and fully appreciate him. my edition of this book is actually called Babylon, but from what i can see it is the same as homo zapiens.

it's difficult for me to describe adequately the brilliance of this book, the wa...more
Kate Sherrod
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
In some ways this is a mundane story of a uninspired young person making his way in the world and inadvertently moving through layers of society he didn't know existed. That's the story line in a nutshell, and you've seen that many times before. But the brilliant combination of place (Moscow), time (Yelstin), industry (advertising), and perspective (cockeyed and lonely paranoia) make this a really interesting book.

The main character Tartartsky is in a world seemingly moving from determinism to...more
Clearly Victor Pelevin wrote the bulk of this book sitting on the toilet or standing in the shower. He collected all his stray thoughts and tried to make them anecdotes in the life of a cipher of a character. This book suffers from the same problems that Tom Robbins continually stumbles over, which is that he wants to convey some grand idea and then he has one character ask a couple questions to fake a dialog, while the other character expounds endlessly with the writer's voice. Whereas Robbins'...more
This is the first Pelevin novel I've read. Homo Zapiens for me had a strong first half or so. It started to get weird with the Ouija board, but the book was still interesting; I had a reason to suspend my disbelief.

But then the plot just seemed to get lost. Like Pelevin had too many ideas and couldn't whittle them down. The whole way through the second half, I thought, This is what's happenening next? And looking back, some scenes didn't seem to serve much purpose.

I stopped caring about the re...more
An impossible to book to love or hate. Or: I loved reading it as much as it was a slog. Pelevin has said that it is up to the reader to apply meaning to his work, which is good because there were definitely moments that required me to give up on following a story and just accept what was happening.

Far from perfect, this is a novel that suffers from an abundance of ideas, though, in typical fashion, Pelevin somehow manages to get them in order (sort of). I read his short stories and his novella...more
finished it in one day. gave me the strangest dream: I wandered into some derelict building - I could see the sea through one window and some huge mountains through another - and met this flying dragon-fox-angelesque creature.

then we sat down like proper yoga people and had a cup of absent. talked about something - probably commercials and pepsicola.
afterwards I went out through the door and met Tatarsky, who asked me whether I had a light. Of course I had a light. but I couldn't find it.
This was pretty good, though at times it gets dense. The Ouija board sequence is interminable for this reason, but it's also important for understanding the plot – insofar as it can be understood. It's pretty imaginative, which combines well with the Russian setting to make for a surreal, dirty kind of world which I didn't mind getting into. For marketers or advertising people with a literary bent and ironic mindset, this book is a must-read. Murakami's name gets thrown around a bit in connectio...more
Alex Railean
This book had some interesting moments.

My favourite element: the thought-processes of the protagonist when he was generating his slogans. That involves world-play, puns and an understanding of Soviet and !Soviet cultures - good stuff!

Still, I have to admit that the primary reason for reading this book was "să pot răspunde la întrebări CUC" (-;
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stylish with flashes of brilliant (if dark) humour, well-captured by the translator. The theme of shallow consumer society and its cynical manipulation is universal. However, I suspect I missed some of the more specific cultural references and satirical barbs.

Faceți cunoștință cu Vavilen. Este copywriter, a studiat literatura și se vrea poet. În Rusia modernă, lucrurile sunt razna și realitățile nu-s chiar evidente. Psihoză colectivă? Poate asta vrea să spună Generația P. Sincer, habar n-am. :) Stau și mă gândesc cum să scriu despre cartea asta. E o nebunie, credeți-mă, un amalgam fascinant și bizar, pe care nu prea știi de unde să-l apuci, care de la un punct încolo dă deoparte sensul, narațiunea și o ia pe câmpi complet.

E genul ăla de carte care la...more
Evo, sad kad sam knjigu pročitao po praktički treći put odlučio sam joj dati zvjezdicu više. Roman je jako pametno napisan, sviđa mi se autorova pronicljivost u ovoj kritici ruskoga društva. Osim toga, humor je suptilan, a ponekad i intertekstualan, zbog čega neruskome čitateljstvu i nije odmah shvatljiv na prvu, ali, jednom kad se potraže reference, dobiva se uvid u autorov fini cinizam. Radnja je onako, ništa posebno zanimljiva, ali nije niti statična pa nema neke dosade. Glavna je premisa rom...more
A little bit less lucid (from a decidedly compicated author) but still top notch. Pelevin is the truest new voice of the Russians.
Много силно и много руско!
Generation P на Виктор Пелевин ми беше препоръчана от руснак, с който си говорех жестомимично. Той не знае език, на който аз говоря, аз не знам руски. Но, както се оказва в повечето случаи, когато говорим за книги, всичко е ясно. Той ми показа книгата, посочи името на автора, а след това вдигна палец одобрително. Преди да успея да реагирам, започна да говори много разпалено за Пепси, Не-Кола и Никола (или аз поне само това разбирах), метна един многозначителен поглед към телевизора и ясно и отче...more
Darran Mclaughlin
A really good novel. I had read the Lives of Insects before by Pelevin and I wasn't all that impressed but Babylon is much better. In a way it has things in common with the last book I read, A Bend in the River by VS Naipul, because both books depict what it is like when a country goes through a complete transformation, the Congo from a colony to an independent state and Russia from the heart of the Soviet Union to an unstable, hyper-capitalist, winner takes all frontier state. In both transitio...more
Oy, maybe the most cynical Soviet (or post-) novel I've ever read. Which is saying something. Our hero is an unemployed poet who ends up writing ad copy in post-Communist Moscow. It is suggested here that all world politics is literally the creation of admen, for reasons and purposes you don't want to know. Capitalism is analyzed sociologically and phenomenologically by a Buddhist Che Guevara through a ouija board. Horrendously cynical ad copy is imagined; is the worst the copywriter who deeply...more
Story (6/10):

Most novels of great style, written quality, and characterization, are easy to follow. They present a clear, engaging path and may even surprise now and then, if they're particularly well done, but the elements fall into place as if they were meant to do so. The reader follows the protagonist on a linear path, cheers when he succeeds, and mourns when he falls. That is what makes great literature.

Homo Zapiens does not follow this formula. The reader wanders down an unconventional, so...more
This book is well worth the time it takes to get through it. It is another book I already anticipate reading again (this was my second time reading it) because the concepts (the "oral-", "anal-", and "displacing wow factors" - as well as the idea that the flow of money and material goods are just a necessary process, men and women being cells which inaugurate this process, in a larger organism termed "oranus") take some time to digest. To say nothing of Che Guevara's extended rant, which is deli...more

Каждый раз Татарский спрашивал себя, зачем он и другие платят такие деньги, чтобы вновь подвергнуть себя унизительной и негигиеничной процедуре, в которой нет ни одной реальной секунды удовольствия, а только мгновенно возникающий и постепенно рассасывающийся отходняк. Единственное объяснение, которое приходило ему в голову, было следующим: люди нюхали не кокаин, а деньги, и свернутая стодолларовая купюра, которой требовал неписаный ритуал, была даже важнее самого порошка. Если бы кокаин прода...more
Chris Michael
My feelings on Homo Zapiens are pretty conflicted, to say the least. On one hand, I want to lavish it with praise, as it is brimming with great philosophical ideas and beautifully constructed fantastic imagery. The scenes with drug usage, often blended with a heavy dose of mythology, are particularly fascinating and well written. The way the theme of myth encapsulates the plot is very interesting, if not always convincing. The descriptions of the commercials different characters write are also v...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...more
More about Victor Pelevin...
Omon Ra The Sacred Book of the Werewolf The Life of Insects Buddha's Little Finger The Yellow Arrow

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“In order for him to believe sincerely in eternity, others had to share in this belief, because a belief that no one else shares is called schizophrenia.” 28 likes
“How can non-existence get sick of itself?

Everytime you wake up, you appear again out of nowhere. And so does everything else. Death just means the replacement of the usual morning waking with something else, something quite impossible even to think about. We don't even have the instrument to do it, because our mind & our world are the same thing.”
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