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The Hall of the Singing Caryatids

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  263 ratings  ·  35 reviews
After auditioning for the part as a singing geisha at a dubious bar, Lena and eleven other “lucky” girls are sent to work at a posh underground nightclub reserved exclusively for Russia’s upper-crust elite. They are to be a sideshow attraction to the rest of the club’s entertainment, and are billed as the “famous singing caryatids.” Things only get weirder from there. Secr ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published October 27th 2011 by New Directions
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Dec 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The general themes of this book are similar to the ones Pelevin covers in his other books. The absurd nature of post-Soviet Russia and the weird predatory version of Capitalism that now rules the land there and Buddhism. There are other themes too, and I'm probably being unfairly reductionist, but, whatever.

Parts of this long-short story I enjoyed, and parts I thought could have been cut or shortened. I think as a medium/long-short story this would have worked better. Is this a novella? I guess
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
victor pelevin's the hall of the singing caryatids is a slim work brimming with satire and imagination. the russian novelist and short story writer's appeal seems to be growing with english readers ever more steadily (thanks, in no small part, to wonderful translations by andrew bromfield). singing caryatids takes aim at present-day russian politics, consumer culture, and exploitative male dominance with an inventive tale that manages to incorporate an injectable serum that allows its users to r ...more
Monica Carter
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: btba, oct-2011
"The situation is rendered particularly acute," the young man continued, "by the fact that in the course of a predatory and criminal process of privatization, the wealth of our country fell into the hands of a bunch of oligarchs specially selected by agents operating in the dark wings of the international stage, on the basis of their spiritual squalor. Not that they're irredeemably bad people, no, you shouldn't think that, papa mama nuthouse eighteen. They are more like little children, incapab
If we in America have another 1960s Beatles/British invasion but this time it's an all-girl group who sing Tchaikovsky (yea, I know, sounds groovy) while standing still like a statue, let's think twice before handing them the key to the White House. No, wait, didn't that already happen (the key thing, not the girl group.) Anyway, this quirky satire (I know so little about Russian literature that I must assume it is a political satire....or maybe it's a comedy about Tchaikovsky and his gay lover/ ...more
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it
So I saw on Facebook or Twitter or somewhere that New Directions had proofs of this -- a new fucking Pelevin, ZOMG I love him so much -- that they were giving away to reviewers. So I wrote to them and was like "I write reviews for the illustrious CCLaP, here is a link to some of my work, would you be so kind as to send me a copy?" AND THEY DID. I have arrived, baby!


I'm sad I never made the time to do a review of this. But it was really really really short, and left little in the way of a last
Charles Dee Mitchell
This is the second Pelevin work I have read, and as with The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, I was aware that much of the satire of contemporary Russia was slipping by me. But as with the previous read, I enjoyed it page by page. Pelevin is a very good and very funny writer. In this novella, Lena, a young woman in Moscow who needs a job, signs on to be a naked, singing caryatid in an exclusive private men’s club, a newly formed establishment that combines the stately elegance of a high-class geisha ...more
Victor Pelevin's 'The Hall of the Singing Caryatids' lies at the unique intersection of pulp fiction, retro cheese, and dystopian sci-fi. If it were a film, it would be a sexy (sexier?) version of Austin Powers meets The Matrix and would be as much fun, confusing, and enjoyable as you could expect.

The story revolves around Lena, an aspiring model and actress who auditions and is awarded a role as an agent in the sexy spy agency Semiotic Signs. Her assignment is to entertain the exclusive client
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an intriguingly odd little book. It set out a map at the beginning and then walked right off into the forest. As it should, it left many questions for me to ponder when finished. However, I think I might have liked just one or two more answers than I got. That's just personal taste, but I was fairly befuddled for such a short work. I was definitely impressed, just not completely sure what I should make of it.
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is brisk, smart, and a disturbing ride. My brain is on fire and it is only a 2 hour read. This author is smart and onto something extraordinary. I need to read more, but was able to "get" the Schopenhauer/Wittgenstein jokes readily. Amazing text.
Feb 23, 2016 rated it liked it
It's like the female version of the Metamorphosis because people become bugs! I think.
Jen Warner
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Weird and fucked up and suuuper fun
Claudia Putnam
I should stop giving stars altogether because I'm realizing there's no coherence to my system. GR could help us all out by allowing half-stars, I feel, though they'd probably mess up their averages quite a bit.


A little too much of the random weirdness of Sorokin's Ice Trilogy thrown in, it feels like to me. But it's short and fairly painless to read and so blackly hilarious in places, it's well worth anyone's time, particularly if you know anything about Russia and Russian lit and Russian/So
Mason Jones
Nov 08, 2012 rated it liked it
I was very happy to accidentally come across this book on the front shelves at St Mark's Books in NYC during a summer trip there -- it's a slim volume, more of a novella than a novel, but I'll take any Pelevin I can find. I've read all of his other books that have been translated, and they're always enjoyable. He's a bit like the Russian equivalent of Haruki Murakami, one of my other favorites. This novella is as odd as any of his works, enough so that a summary seems simply bizarre: our protago ...more
Kyle Muntz
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
A sort of alright, short book from Pelevin--it's got the slightly more structured storytelling and SF elements of his newer work, but ultimately feels a lot more like the early short work I read of his in The Blue Lantern. There's a very interesting premise here, with a few interesting stops along the way, but ultimately it felt very underdeveloped and leaned too far towards satire for my tastes. Pelevin has been moving more towards what I'm interested in ever since Sacred Book of the Werewolf, ...more
Michael sinkofcabbages
I liked this author a lot and saw/ read a lot of reviews of this book. Its a really short read and kind of strange in a good way. Its disturbing but not shallow. I think a person would have to have a good amount of background exposure to russian life and lit. to really get under the surface of the dry/ sparse language. One of those books that i think most people would burn through and say it wasnt anything. But for the intimate it will be like reading a sparse/ brief obituary. A punch in the sto ...more
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Daisy by: Skylight Books
Shelves: russia
This is by no means a cozy read. This is odd, sharp, disconcerting with its neuro-linguistic programming and Crypto-Speak, oligarchs, call girls, praying mantises, and music. I know it's saying something about modern Russian culture, even in light of its Soviet past. I might not be smart enough to figure out exactly what it's saying. I didn't not enjoy this. But it's not a pleasant read. Very interesting though, don't get me wrong. I'm glad I read it. (And I read it on the subway to jury duty an ...more
Rebecca Schwarz
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this more than I did. I loved Oman Ra and definitely want to read more modern Russians. There are some lovely surreal moments here. The characters were quirky and interesting. But, overall, the meta elements were laid on a little too thick (e.g. endlessly quoted nonsensical faux text), and, as other reviewers said, the translation seemed clunky. The surreal and mundane elements weren't merged adequately with the fantastic. This might be why the ending felt unfinished and, ...more
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was a weird little novel. Somewhere between sci-fi fantasy and political intrigue. It's probably a good thing that it's a really small book. Between the pontificating owner of the secret nightclub that Lena works in, the incomprehensible ideologist and the drug-induced visions of giant preying mantises, it was hard to read after a few pages. If it had been longer it would have been entirely unreadable. Not one of my faves, obviously
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I find this book increasingly hilarious and luminous as I think about it--and that's despite the feeling of being buried beneath the crushing weight of my own ignorance. That's probably pretty appropriate (given that we know both everything and nothing).

What am I left with: the grotesqueness of beauty and the beauty of grotesqueness.
What else: accretion and erosion as a material frame of materials.

A. M.
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, fiction
Pleasantly absurdist postmodern science fiction that vacillates between satire, farce and the sublime. Its short length invites rereading, where familiarity may allow a bit more time to be spent on the various threads of thought Pelevin casually weaves in and out of the story.
Gia Jgarkava
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pelevin can do better, but comparing to some of his latest novels, this one is just great - one still can hear "classical" Pelevin here.
Chad Post
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
A lot of fun packed into 105 pages . . .
Andrew Kaufman
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Brilliant, although I have no reason why.
Signor Mambrino
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. Delicious book.
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Just your typical book about telepathic communion with mantises...
Winnie Yao
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
The ending is a bit confusing, but the descriptions and some of the imagery conjure up some psychedelic dream...a nice, shorter novel if one wanted to try out Pelevin's style.
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, russian
Delightfully absurd. Humorous.
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Crazy stuff. Fun to read.
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary
Plenty of people-insects and philosophy here, too. He's so weird.
I think this was actually my least favorite of Pelevin's so far.
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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.