British Fiction Focus

Gollancz Can’t Get Enough S.N.U.F.F.

Last week, Gollancz quite rightly delighted in announcing its acquisition of a pair of postmodern novels by “the leading Russian novelist of the new generation.” Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Little Booker Prize-winner Victor Pelevin: one of the precious few authors “who writes seriously about what is happening in contemporary Russia,” albeit through a speculative fiction filter.

It’s needful to note that his work has heretofore been translated—into fifteen languages, including English. Omon Ra, The Life of Insects, The Clay Machine-Gun, Babylon and The Sacred Book of the Werewolf and two collections of short stories by said have been published in the UK by Faber & Faber to great acclaim, not least from The Independent, who fell for the “unruly, suggestive energy” of Pelvin’s prose.

I’ll be honest: I’ve never read the fella. But now that Gollancz have got him—for not one but two new books—I’m going to.

The first to come—and soon, too: it’s due in June—is a little something called S.N.U.F.F.:

S.N.U.F.F. is a stunning post-apocalyptic take on war and the media—first published in 2011—exploring the conflict between the nation of Ukraine and the city ‘Big Byz’ above, its causes [and] their interdependent relationship. Contrasting poverty and luxury, low and high technology, barbarity and civilisation, Victor Pelevin questions the nature of war, and its interplay with media, entertainment and humanity.

Next up, a novel known as Empire V. Gollancz hasn’t set a date for it yet, but the sooner the better, I expect, given how awfully topical this teaser seems:

Empire V is a postmodern, timely, satirical story about a young man who involuntary joins an arcane cult… touching on themes of the corruption of politics, banking and power in a fictional setting, it’s a striking and often pointed read.

As Gillian Redfearn put it in the press release Gollancz put out following its five-figure acquisition of this provocative pair, “Pelevin is a high-profile addition to our selective programme of publishing in translation. He’s a master of speculative fiction, blending sharp observations with engaging stories in a literary style. We’re delighted to be sharing his work with the English-language readership.”

And I’ll be doubly chuffed to sink my teeth into it just as soon as S.N.U.F.F. is published. Here’s to expanding horizons!

So tell me: has anyone here read any Victor Pelevin? Am I right to be excited?

And am I wrong to be swayed by the speculation—recapped on Wikipedia here—that Victor Pelevin might not even be a person? Trust me: it’s fascinating stuff. If his fiction is half as engrossing as the (arguable) fact of him, I’m going to have a metric ton of fun with these two books, I can tell…


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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