The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, Page 1Victor Pelevin
Table of Contents
also by Victor Pelevin
THE HELMET OF HORROR: THE MYTH OF THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR
4 BY PELEVIN
BUDDHA’S LITTLE FINGER
A WEREWOLF PROBLEM IN CENTRAL LONDON
THE LIFE OF INSECTS
THE BLUE LANTERN
THE YELLOW ARROW
Copyright © Victor Pelevin, 2005
Translation copyright © Andrew Bromfield, 2008
All rights reserved
Originally published in Russian by Eksmo, Moscow.
English translation first published in Great Britain by Faber and Faber Limited.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events,
or locales is entirely coincidental.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
[Sviashchennaia kniga oborotnia. English]
The sacred book of the werewolf / Victor Pelevin ; translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Summary: A novel about a fifteen-year-old prostitute who is actually a 2,000-year-old werefox who seduces men with
her tail and drains them of their sexual power. She falls in love with an FSB officer who is actually a werewolf.
eISBN : 978-1-440-60932-9
I. Bromfield, Andrew. II. Title.
891.73’44 — dc22
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
Commentary by Experts
The present text, which is also known under the title of ‘A Hu-Li’ is in fact a clumsy literary forgery, produced by an unknown author during the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Most specialists are agreed that this manuscript is of no interest in its own right, but only for the manner in which it was launched into the world. The text file entitled ‘A Hu-Li’ was supposedly found on the hard disk of a laptop computer discovered in ‘dramatic circumstances’ in one of Moscow’s parks. From the militia report describing the discovery it is quite clear that the whole incident was deliberately staged. Indeed, to our mind the report provides useful insight into the virtuoso techniques employed in modern PR.
The report is authentic, incorporating all the requisite stamps and signatures, although the precise time at which it was composed is no longer known - the upper section of the title page was cut off when the report was bound into a file before being despatched to the archives at the end of the calendar year, as required by standing instructions. It appears from the report that the interest of members of the militia was attracted by strange natural phenomena in the Bitsevsky Park in the Southern Administrative District of Moscow. Members of the public observed a bluish glow above the treetops, ball lightning and a large number of five-coloured rainbows. Several of the rainbows were also spherical in form (according to the testimony of eye-witnesses, the colours in them seemed to shine through each other).
The epicentre of this strange anomaly was an extensive waste lot at the edge of the park, where the ramp for bicycle jumping is located. The half-melted frame of a ‘Cannondale Jekyll 100’ bicycle was discovered close to the ramp, together with the remains of its tyres. The grass around the ramp was burned to a distance of ten metres, with the burnt area taking the form of a regular five-pointed star, beyond which the grass remained unaffected. Certain articles of female clothing were discovered beside the bicycle frame: jeans, a pair of trainers, a pair of panties with the word ‘Sunday’ on them (evidently from a weekly set) and a T-shirt with the letters ‘ckuf’ on the chest.
Judging from the photographs in the report, the third letter of this word appears to resemble the Cyrillic letter ‘И’ rather than the Latin ‘U’. We may therefore assume that what we are presented with here is not an anagram of the English word ‘fuck’, as M. Leibman asserts in his monograph, but a representation of the Russian word ‘сKиф’, i.e. Scythian. This surmise is confirmed by the phrase ‘yes, we are asiatics’ on the back of the T-shirt - a clear allusion to Alexander Blok’s poem ‘Scythians’, which, to all appearances M. Leibman seems not to have read.
Also found with the articles of clothing was a rucksack containing a laptop computer, as already mentioned in the report. None of these items had been damaged, and no signs of exposure to fire were discovered on any of them, which indicates that they were planted on the site of the incident after the five-pointed star was burned into the grass. No criminal investigation was initiated as a result of this event.
The subsequent fate of the text that was (supposedly) discovered on the hard disk of the laptop is well known. It initially circulated among occult fringe groups, and was later published as a book. The original title of the text, sounding exactly like the Russian phrase for ‘so fucking what?’, was considered obscene even by our modern-day literary hucksters, and so it was published under the changed title of The Sacred Book of the Werewolf.
This text is not, of course, deserving of any serious literary or critical analysis. Nonetheless, we would like to note that it presents such a dense interweaving of borrowings, imitations, rehashings and allusions (not to mention the poor style and the author’s quite exceptional puerility), that its authenticity or genuineness do not pose any question for serious literary specialists: it is interesting purely as a symptom of the profound spiritual decline through which our society is currently passing. And for serious people who have made their way in the world the pseudo-oriental pop-metaphysics that the author is unable to resist flaunting before other dismal failures like himself cannot possibly evoke anything more than an intense feeling of compassion.
We should like to assure Muscovites and visitors to the capital that cleanliness and public order in Bitsevsky Park are always maintained well up to the mark and the militia of Moscow stand guard over the peace and security of citizens walking there by day and night.
Finally, and above all, my dear friends, may there always be room in your lives for a song of joy!
Major, head of the ‘Bitsa Centre’ Department of the FSB
Maya Marmeladoff, Igor Shitman,
PhD in philological science
Presenter of the TV programme ‘Karaoke Homeland’
Who is your hero, Dolores Haze,
Still one of those blue-caped starmen?
The client I had been directed to by the barman Serge had been waiting in the Alexander Bar of the hotel National since seven-thirty in the evening. It was already seven-forty and the taxi was still crawling along, shifting from one traffic jam to another. I had a dreary, depressed feeling
so deep in my soul that I was almost ready to believe I had one.
‘I want to be forever young,’ Alphaville sang yet again on the radio.
I wish I had your problems, I thought. And immediately remembered my own.
I don’t really think about them that often. All I know is that they reside somewhere out there in the black void and I can come back to them again at any moment. Just to convince myself one more time that they have no solution. And thinking about that for a moment leads to interesting conclusions.
Let’s just suppose I solve them. What then? They’ll simply disappear - that is, they’ll drift away for ever into the same non-existence where they reside for most of the time anyway. And the only practical consequence will be that my mind will stop dragging them back out of that black void. Doesn’t that mean my insoluble problems only exist because I think about them, and I recreate them anew at the very moment when I remember them? The funniest of my problems is my name. It’s a problem I only have in Russia. But since I live here at the moment, I have to admit that it’s a very real problem.
My name is A Hu-Li. When this is spelt in Russian letters - ‘А Xули’ - it becomes a Russian obscenity.
In the old days, with the pre-Revolutionary Russian alphabet, I was able to avoid this, at least in the written form of my name, by writing it as ‘А Xyлі’. On a seal given to me in nineteen-thirteen by a certain wealthy patron of the arts from St. Petersburg who knew the secret, it is condensed into two symbols:
It’s an interesting story. The first seal that he ordered for me was carved on a ruby, and all five letters were incorporated into a single symbol.
He gave me that ruby when we were sailing on his yacht in the Gulf of Finland and I threw it straight into the water the moment I looked at it. He turned pale and asked me why I hated him. He didn’t, of course, really think that I hated him. But it was just a time when theatrical, soulful gestures were the fashion. Indeed, as it happens, they were responsible for the First World War and the Russian Revolution.
I explained that it was possible to lay all the letters on top of each other and fit them on a small gemstone, which wouldn’t be too expensive, but then you couldn’t tell which letter came first. A day later the second version was ready, carved on an oblong opal - ‘with a teasing mysterious “AH”’, as the patron noted elegantly in the poem appended to the gift.
That was the kind of people there used to be in Russia. Although, in fact, I suspect that he didn’t write the poem himself, but commissioned it from his friend - the gay poet Mikhail Kuzmin - since after the Revolution I was visited by a gang of cocaine-intoxicated queers from the Cheka, looking for some diamonds or other. Then they moved a load of plumbers and laundrywomen into my flat on Italianskaya Street and took away the final prop of my self-respect, the old Russian letter ‘i’ that rendered my name printable. So I never did like the communists from the very beginning, even at a time when many brilliant minds believed in them.
My name is actually very beautiful and has nothing to do with its apparent Russian meaning. In Chinese ‘A Hu-Li’ means ‘the fox named A’. By analogy with Russian names, you could say that ‘A’ is my first name and ‘Hu-Li’ is my surname. What can I say to justify it? I was given the name at a time when the obscene phrase didn’t exist in the Russian language, because the Russian language itself didn’t even exist yet.
Who could ever have imagined in those times that some day my noble surname would become an obscene word? Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that names are the only things that exist in the world. Maybe that’s true, but the problem is that as time passes by, names do not remain the same - even if they don’t change.
We foxes are fortunate creatures, because we have short memories. We only remember the last ten or twenty years clearly, and everything from before that slumbers in the dark void that I’ve already mentioned. But it doesn’t completely disappear. For us the past is like a dark room from which we can extract any memory we wish by making a special and rather painful effort of will. This makes us interesting to talk to. We have a lot to say about almost any subject; and apart from that, we know all the major languages of the world - we’ve had enough time to learn them. But we don’t go picking at the scab of memory without any need, and our everyday stream of thought is virtually the same as people have. The same applies to our operational personality, which renders a fox virtually indistinguishable from a tailless monkey (our ancient term for humans).
Many people cannot understand how this is possible. Let me try to explain. In every culture it is usual to link particular aspects of a person’s appearance with specific character traits. A beautiful princess is kind and compassionate; a wicked witch is ugly, and she has a huge wart on her nose. And there are more subtle connections that are not so easy to formulate - the art of portrait painting is constructed around them. These connections change over time, which is why the great beauties of one age are a puzzle for another. Anyway, to put it simply, a fox’s personality is the human type with which the present age associates her appearance.
Every fifty years or thereabouts, we select a new simulacrum of the soul to match our unchanging features, and that is what we present to people. Therefore, from the human point of view, at any given moment our inner reality corresponds completely to our external appearance. It’s a different question altogether that it’s not identical with the genuine reality, but who’s going to understand that? Most people don’t have any genuine reality at all, all they have are these external and internal realities, two sides of the same coin that the tailless monkey sincerely believes has actually been credited to his account.
I know it sounds strange, but that’s exactly how it is: in order to make ourselves acceptable to our contemporaries, we adopt a new personality to match our face, exactly like altering a dress to suit a different fashion. The previous personalities are consigned to the lumber room, and soon it becomes a strain for us to remember what we used to be like before. And our lives consist of jolly trivia, amusing fleeting moments. I think this is a kind of evolutionary mechanism designed to make mimicry and camouflage easier for us. After all, the best kind of mimicry is when not only your face becomes like others’ faces, but your stream of thought becomes like theirs too.
To look at I could be anything from fourteen to seventeen years old - closer to fourteen. My physical appearance arouses feelings in people, especially men, that are boring to describe, and there’s no need - nowadays everybody’s read Lolita, even the Lolitas. Those feelings are what provide my living. I suppose you could say I earn my living as a swindler: in actual fact I am anything but a juvenile. For the sake of convenience I define my age as two thousand years - the period that I can recall more or less coherently. This could possibly be regarded as coyness - I am actually significantly older than that. The origins of my life go very, very far back into the depths of time, and recalling them is as difficult as lighting up the night sky with a small torch. We foxes were not born in the same way as people. We are descended from a heavenly stone and are distantly related to the king of apes, Sun Wukong himself, the hero of Journey to the West (although I can’t really claim this is all actually true - I have no memories left of that legendary time). In those days we were different. I mean internally, not externally. We don’t change externally as we grow older - apart, that is, from the appearance of a new silver hair in our tails every 108 years.
I have not made such a significant mark in history as others of my kind. But even so, I am mentioned in one of the greatest works of world literature, and you can even read about me if you like. To do that, you have to go to the bookshop and buy the book Anecdotes of Spirits and Immortals, written by Gan Bao, and find the story of how the governor of Sih during the late Han period searched for the commander of his guards, who had fled. The governor was told that his officer had been led away by an evil spirit, and a detachment of soldiers was sent to look for him. To this day, reading what comes after that never fails to excite me (I carry the p
age with me as a talisman):
. . . the governor and several dozen soldiers on foot and on horse-back, having taken the hunting dogs with them, began prowling about outside the walls of the city, tracking down the fugitive. And indeed, Tsao was discovered in an empty burial crypt. But the were-creature had heard the voices of the people and dogs and hidden. The men sent by Sian brought Tsao back. In appearance he had become entirely like the foxes, almost nothing human remained in him. He could only mutter: ‘A-Tsy!’ (‘A-Tsy’ is a name for a fox.) About ten days later he gradually began to recover his reason and then he told his story:
‘When the fox came the first time, a woman who was most beautiful appeared in the far corner of the house, among the hen-roosts. Having named herself as A-Tsy, she began enticing me to herself. And so it happened several times, while I, without intending to, followed her summons. There and then she became my wife and that very evening we found ourselves in her home . . . I do not recall meeting the dogs, but I have never felt so glad.’
‘This is an evil spirit from the mountains,’ the Taoist soothsayer said.
‘In “Notes on the Glorious Mountains” it says: “In deep antiquity the fox was a dissolute woman and her name was A-TSY. Later she was transformed into a fox.”
‘This is why were-creatures of this kind most often give their name as A-Tsy.’
I remember that man. His head was like a yellow egg, and his eyes looked like two pieces of paper glued on to the egg. His version of the story of our affair is not entirely accurate, and the narrator is mistaken when he says I was called A-Tsy. The head of the guards called me by my first name, ‘A’, and ‘Tsy’ came from the sound that he began making involuntarily when his vital energy fell into decline: while we talked he sucked in air very noisily, as if he were trying to pull his dangling lower jaw back into place. And what’s more, it’s not true that I was once a dissolute woman and was then transformed into a fox - things like that simply don’t happen, as far as I’m aware. But even so, I get the same thrill from re-reading this passage of ancient Chinese prose as an old actress does from looking at the very earliest photograph that she has kept.