Big In ... Moscow July/August 2013

Russia's Hottest Satirical Novelist Takes On the Anti-Putin Opposition

How the country is reacting to Victor Pelevin's latest novel, Batman Apollo
More

Rarely seen in public, and sporting dark glasses when he does appear, the novelist Victor Pelevin could be described as Russia’s answer to Thomas Pynchon, crossed with Kurt Vonnegut. In best sellers like Generation P and S.N.U.F.F., he has lampooned everyone from Kremlin officials to Moscow’s oligarchs to American presidents.

In his most recent offering, Batman Apollo, a satirical vampire saga released in March, it’s Russia’s opposition leaders who are painted as fools, much to the chagrin of anti-Putin activists. (The plot features real-life opposition figures Aleksei Navalny and Ksenia Sobchak, and the art pranksters Pussy Riot, whom Pelevin jokes were originally named Sabertoothed Cunts.)

“Expect [Batman Apollo] with horror. Imagine how it will reflect all of us out there,” Navalny tweeted before the book was published. One writer complained in the opposition paper Novaya Gazeta that the protest movement comes off as “small and vile,” while a piece in the business daily Kommersant zeroed in on Pelevin’s portrayal of opposition leaders as not just half-witted but—more damning—“glamorous.”

To which list of traits one might add touchy. Finding themselves on the pointy end of Pelevin’s spear, various opposition sympathizers retaliated with insults of their own. Pelevin’s parody, they said, was cheap and full of “stupid puns.” “He understands that he is at least a year late with his satire, but he still tries to be witty,” Ilya Faibisovich, a prominent opposition journalist, sniffed in Snob magazine. “It seems at the very end that Victor Pelevin is extremely envious of the girls [in Pussy Riot], who, unlike himself, have already become world celebrities.”

Jump to comments
Presented by

Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In