Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vamp or Not? The Sacred Book of the Werewolf

The Blurb: “A Hu-Li is beautiful, slender and curiously foxlike. She lives in Moscow and works as a classy prostitute in the city’s premier hotels. But when a client goes inexplicably and fatally berserk at the sight of her in his luxury suite, A Hu-Li has to leave in a hurry. She decides to explore new avenues and place an ad on the internet – and that’s when her troubles really start.

Vamp or Not? The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin is a novel of Russian origin, excellently translated by Andrew Bromfield. To go into the story seems almost unfair on the book: it is a supernatural romance, on one level at least, it has overtones of Nabokov (A Hu-Li might be of ancient age but looks mid-teen) and Kundera (with its heady mix of base sex with existentialist exploration). It seeks to look for spiritual truth and yet manages to be a searing satire of the political fall into neo-liberalism.

A Hu-Li is a fox-spirit, an eternal (or at least long lived) being from Chinese mythology and it is her nature that brings this into the realm of ‘Vamp or Not?’ When mentioning this to a friend, Leila, she pointed out that there are certain similarities between the fox-spirit and the Western succubus and indeed trickster. Fox-spirit in this certainly embodies trickster (she is told she smells of “Deception. But not a wily kind of deception, more as if you’re having a joke”) but it is the succubian aspects that brings this onto the vamp radar.

There are essential similarities between the succubus and the vampire – especially the psychic vampire. The big difference is that the succubus may feed on energy during the sexual act but she is also a demon – in a Western Christian mythic sense. A Hu-Li is not a demon in that sense but she does feed on life energy and uses the sexual act in which to do so – kind of. I say kind of, as she uses her tail to induce a hypnotic state for the man, where he thinks he is having sex (she might read a book during this) and she feeds off the resultant life energy that builds during the act. She also allows the feeding to move through its cyclic state and some of her life energy to pass back – for the sake of karma. A resultant death tends to be an accident and is more likely to occur if the man ‘slips off the tail’ – or somehow escapes his hypnotic state and sees the truth. In the story this occurs, near the beginning, and the death is a suicide.

Even though there is a feeding off life energy, I am not convinced that we can equate her to the vampire. She cannot create another of her own kind – they are descended from a heavenly stone – and says herself “Is this vampirism? I’m not sure it is. We simply pick up what the irrational human being carelessly discards.”

There is a werewolf in this, with whom she falls in love (though werewolf in the title of the book is used as an overall name for all were-creatures). Through this there is a nice twist on the silver myth. It is were-creatures that put out the 'truth' regarding the devastating effect of silver bullets. In reality the silver would prevent the wound from festering and, given the cost, less bullets would likely be fired meaning a lower chance of a fatal shot.

This is an astounding piece of literature. Not vamp but worth reading. Thanks to Ian who lent the book to me.


Sepulture said...

do you know the other novel by him "empire V"? this one is about vampires

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No I don't, but I will kepp my eye out for it now you mention it.