The Clay Machine-Gun by Victor Pelevin

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The Clay Machine-Gun is a novel rich in hilarious paradox. Pelevin himself has described it as ‘the first novel in world literature which takes place in an absolute void’. Controversially denied the Russian Booker Prize – the Jury President branded it as a kind of ‘computer virus designed to destroy the cultural memory’ – the book became a huge cult success in Russia.

The Clay Machine-Gun is a nightmarish fantasy about identity, crime and Russian history. The action cuts deliriously between present-day Moscow and 1919, the era of the Civil War, in which the narrator finds himself serving as a commissar in the division of the legendary commander Vasily Chapaev, and his formidable machine-gunner sidekick, Anna. Hailed as the greatest Russian novel of the post-Soviet era, The Clay Machine-Gun confirmed Victor Pelevin’s status as one of the brightest stars in the Russian literary firmament.