Today is not his birthday but I’d like to take this header to bring awareness to the spectacular Russian novelist Victor Pelevin. Born in 1962 in Moscow, he began his writing career in 1989 right at the last gasps of the dying USSR. His philosophical, surrealist novels and stories explore the contemporary political and social situation of Russia through a mixture of Bhuddism and science fiction tropes. I’d like to quote one of my favorite passages, from his debut novel Omon Ra. The scene is a cosmonaut being launched into space.
When I woke up the Earth was nowhere in sight. Through the lenses I could distinguish only a smattering of stars, faraway and unattainable, made fuzzy by the optics. I imagined the existence of a giant fireball, hanging in icy darkness without being attached to anything, many billions of miles away from the nearest stars, tiny brilliant points about which the only thing we know is that they exist, and even that is not certain, because the star could die, but its light would still continue to spread in all directions – which means that in fact we know absolutely nothing about the stars, except that their life is harrowing and pointless, since all their progress through space is predetermined for all time and subject to the laws of mechanics and gravity, not leaving any hope for a chance encounter. But we humans, I was thinking, we seem to meet, laugh, slap each other on the backs and go our separate ways, but at the same time in some independent dimension where our conscience dreads to peek we instead are hanging motionless, surrounded by emptiness, with no top or bottom, yesterday or tomorrow, with no hope to ever grow closer to someone else or to express our will and change our destiny in even the smallest of ways; we judge about the events happening to others by observing the deceitful glow that reaches us, and all our life we are marching towards what we think is a light, when the source of that light might have long ceased to exist. And this also, I was thinking, all my life I subjugated to the dream of soaring above the throngs of workers and peasants, members of the military and creative intelligentsia, and now, hanging in the glistening black void on the invisible threads of fate, I could see that being a celestial body was something akin to receiving a life sentence in a jail railroad car moving perpetually around the city freight loop.