November 01, 2004

Genius Temporis

You cannot understand Russian literature of the past 15 years without reading Victor Pelevin. The popular author has spawned many pale imitators, but none have even been able to bask in his reflected glory; they have slowly melted away, unwanted. Pelevin is unique in Russia. And no one else is needed.

An intellectual writer focusing on the dark and the bizarre, Pelevin, along with mystery writers Boris Akunin and Darya Dontsova, is among the troika of Russia’s best selling authors. His books fly off the shelves by the million; even the sketchiest rumor of a new Pelevin novel mushrooms into a Russia-wide sensation.

A hermit who for years has refused interviews and ignored high-society gatherings (including those held in his honor), Pelevin is one of the Russian cultural elite’s most recognizable figures. This despite the fact that the public has seen no more than a dozen photographs of him (of which only two show him sans dark glasses), and that he has given fewer interviews than could be counted on the fingers of one hand (he categorically refuses to appear on television).

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