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The Sacred Book of the Werewolf: A Novel Hardcover – September 4, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Russian novelist Pelevin's chaotic latest examines contemporary Russia as viewed through the eyes of A. Hu-li, a 2,000-year-old werefox who is able to transform into a beautiful nymphet. The opening chapter is both an introduction to werefoxes as well as an account of how werefoxes, working as prostitutes, utilize their stunning looks to absorb a man's life energy. Hu-li's experiences are standard for an ancient werefox until she meets Alexander, an attractive Russian intelligence officer who happens to be a werewolf. The two share a whirlwind romance, and after some trouble, shack up in Hu-li's bomb shelter. While hiding out, Hu-li and Alexander argue about religion, death, truth and the like until they both claim to be the super-werewolf. This argument—and Hu-li's disclosure of her true age—rupture the bliss. Pelevin creates interesting enough characters, but the unexplainable plot twists and the author's preoccupation with philosophical ramblings are nearly as perilous as a silver bullet. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

Part science fiction and part Anaïs Nin erotica, with a hint of Bridget Jones’s Diary and a whole lot of allegory, The Sacred Book of the Werewolf is the tale of A Hu-Li, a 2,000-year-old Taoist werefox who plies her trade as a prostitute in modern day Moscow. By hypnotizing johns with her magical tail, A Hu-li makes men believe they are having sex with her, earns a living, and maintains her virginity. That is until she encounters and falls in love with Alexander, a high-ranking Russian intelligence officer and—not so coincidentally—a werewolf. As he has done in his earlier works (including Homo Zapiens, 2002), Pelevin uses satire as a lens through which to view life in the post-Soviet era while at the same time casting new light on Russia’s classic writing and writers—Nabokov, Gogol, and even Russian fairy tales. Outright strange at moments, the novel holds our interest with unpredictable twists and turns, leaving us stunned, puzzled, and asking for more. --Heather Paulson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1ST edition (September 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670019887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670019885
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,413,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Behnke on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Sacred Book of the Werewolf is so rich in symbolism that I hardly know where to begin. On the surface, it seems to be the story of a teenage oriental prostitute named A Hu-Li who falls in love with a werewolf in her travels through modern day Russia. But underneath that relatively thin layer is a tale more about a Russian crisis of identity, and mankind's crisis of identity as well, as both attempt to transform itself from tailless monkeys into something else--the super-werewolf. Which direction should Russia go? Shall it bow to the temptations of globalization and take on the qualities of the western world, or should it go in the opposite direction and listen to the lessons of the east which find expression in this book through the eclectic narrative of A Hu-Li herself?

Despite A Hu-Li's chosen path through life, you discover that nothing about her is quite what it seems--you're led to believe she is a prostitute, but discover she is virgin. You are led to believe she is young, but discover she is thousands of years old. You think she is human, but then discover she is a werefox, and her profession originates from her ability to use her tail--or "tale"--which causes men to believe she is the exact incarnation of their most disturbing fantasy. When they are indulging in her services, however, they are merely indulging in something originating from their own mind as A Hu-Li busies herself by lying next to them, disconnected, reading--and scoffing--at scientific literature written by the likes of Stephen Hawking.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. McCullough on December 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't think that this book reminded me of anything Nabokov wrote (as suggested in the blurbs); however this is an imaginative (maybe kooky) book that starts out as a sort of science fiction and ends up as a zen manifesto and with the discovery of the meaning (or lack there of) of life (for werefoxes, at least - the narrator simply didn't have the time to spell it out for humans).

I think I may have missed a lot of the subtlety of this book because I know very little about Russia.
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Format: Hardcover
A Hu-Li is a Chinese werefox, in appearance like a young girl, but in reality nearly two thousand years old, with a hidden magical tail she can use to project fantasies into the minds of those around her. For centuries, she has lived in Russia as a prostitute, using her tail to provide her clients with a Lolita-like fantasy while she feeds upon their sexual energy. She has, herself, never really loved or been loved - until she meets a werewolf who allows her to discover something about herself she'd never discovered on her own.

The story itself is quite fun and intriguing but that's only the half of it. A Hu-Li is seeking enlightenment, is steeped in Buddhist traditions and in literature and philosophy, and her story is as much about ideas as it is exciting. Pelevin's wittiness does not all translate (the name of the heroine, "A Hu-Li" may seem Chinese, but, apparently, in Russian sounds strikingly similar to a bit of crass Russian slang), but his playful tone throughout, his numerous casually insightful reflections on contemporary life and literature and politics and art are unmistakeable and enjoyable. The story works as an allegory of contemporary Russian consumerism, an engaging meditation on the nature of sex and gender, on the relation between the human and the animal in all of us, and a complex reflection on the nature of experience and reality. If that sounds heady and boring, it's not. It's a lot of fun, and the comparisons with Murakami (and others like Saramago and Phillip K. Dick) are quite apt. Definitely worth checking out for those who like inventive speculative fiction and fantasy.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Albert J. Arias on June 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was well worth the investment in time and money, and you should definitely read it. I disagree with many of the other reviews posted here about this book about a number of things. For the sake of being concise, I will not re-hash most of the points covered in the other reviews, but instead will focus on pointing out what sets this book apart from others, and what makes it special.

I would describe this novel as an absurdist masterpiece, and multi-level metaphoric excursion about the human condition. Pelevin's cosmic sarcasm is lacerating and unforgiving, but at the same time liberating. I would argue that this book is not actually postmodern, but may actually qualify as an actual POST-IRONIC work (I know - you don't beleive in such a thing, but let's not go there). I've read the majority of the English translated Pelevin books and this is my favorite, and I think the best one yet.

I would like to further assert that this book may actually qualify as a legitimate sacred buddhist text. Pelevin has perfected the art of resonating within the readers mind, through description of events in terms of visceral and interoceptive description as well as emotional and other meaningful content, to the point of displacing the readers consciousness into a higher spiritual level. For the prepared mind, this book is an ultimate vehicle. Other than that, it's a bit of a shaggy-dog tale. Enjoy.

One additional thing: The book's discussion of experiencing the world without language is a reference to Chan school (Zen) Buddhism and their epistemology which is a monism (non-dualistic). The idea of shapeshifting or were-creatures is a metaphor used in the book for a transpersonal psychological understanding of the world and being at one with the universe, as well as for human spiritual development in general.
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