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

3.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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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 US ed. edition (September 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670019887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670019885
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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: Paperback Verified Purchase
(I read the book in Russian, if that makes any difference)

"Post-modern" is a term that appears next to Pelevin's name in many reviews. Post-Soviet is another. Both words are goofy and pretentious. The first is so banal and cerebral that all friction with reality that could give this stupid term meaning has worn off completely. Post-modern is a dirty shoe filled with dried sweat of hipster pseudo intellectuals that I'm not trigger happy to put on.

Post-Soviet is also a trite label but I think this one has more utility. I don't think Pelevin ever sits before a blank piece of paper wondering how to write a "post-Soviet Russian novel." If he did so he would write books that most of us wouldn't want to read.

And yet this fella does live in --and his fiction does describe-- post-Soviet Russia.

So what is post-Soviet Russia?

Imagine a little girl who is promised a birthday party. Her portly grandma whispers in her ear about the fantastic party she will have and how her melancholy and malnourished life will get better after this party. The excited girl runs home from school anticipating this wondrous, life-changing event and when she gets home she finds her alcoholic father chasing his vodka with the remnants of her birthday cake. He feels guilty, this guilt morphs into anger and he slaps her on the face, begins to tearfully apologize and finally falls into a drunken stupor on the floor before her small feet.

Picture the sense of emptiness, disillusionment, despair and cynicism that defines her little heart at this imagined moment and you will get an idea of the bitter, alienated core of post-Soviet Russia.
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Even if you don't ordinarily read science-fiction or novels with werewolves, you will still enjoy The Sacred Book of the Werewolf since Victor Pelevin grounds his novel in a fund of everyday reality and tells his tale in easy-to-follow linear narrative. True, the narrator is a 2000 year old female werefox in the body of a sleek, shapely gorgeous sixteen year old girl, but, still, there is enough human-like traits to identify with her desires and aspirations and conflicts. We follow our sly werefox , A Hu-Li by name, through a number of sexual encounters, frolicking adventures and emotionally charged relationships in Moscow 2005. What really adds a zesty flavor to this tale is the cross-species, supernatural qualities of several characters and how they transform and then interact with mere humans, or, in some cases, with other were-creatures, as per the below examples.

A Hu-Li also has a fox's tail, which she describes as follows : "When a fox's tail increases in length, the ginger hairs on it grow thinker and longer. It's like a fountain when the pressure is increased several times over (I wouldn't draw any parallels with the male erection). The tail plays a special part in our lives, and not only because of its remarkable beauty. I didn't call it an antenna by chance. The tail is the organ that we use to spin our web of illusion." And what a web of illusion! Enough to scramble the minds of any man she meets, any man, that is, who is fully human.

There are other magical, intuitive gifts that come along with being a werefox. A Hu-Li tells us about one such gift: "But thanks to our tail, we foxes find ourselves in a kind of sympathetic resonance with people's consciousness amplified when people take drugs.
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