New Directions Paperbook 851, USA, 1998
Translated by Andrew Bromfield 1994
Omon Ra was written by Russian author Victor Pelevin and tells the surreal history of “the heroes of the Soviet Cosmos“. Given to me by my good friend Jemima for my birthday it was clear from the very outset that she has a very good understanding of exactly the kind of literature which would grasp my attention. Russian, surreal, unclear and allegorical: Omon Ra is many things which I look for in a great book.
In addition to being comical, the book opens with the family history and childhood development of the young protagonist, fittingly called Omon. We are immediately invited into his family with a poignant discussion on the significance of his name. This intimacy remains with us for the rest of the story. Omon comes to life in ways which are not possible for the other characters. Often more archetypical than three dimensional, they are however only ever the more interesting because of it.
What happens is for each reader to figure out for themselves, however I had a strong sense of the duality of life and a greater appreciation for the possibility of parallel worlds living alongside each other in alternate realities. Pelevin draws significantly from the traditions of surreal renditions of the Soviet period, and as Omon plunges deeper and deeper into the fallacies set out in front of him the true monstrosity of this world is revealed. Pathos is the only word which feels at all fitting for an account of my sentiments at the conclusion of Omon’s story. Filled with uncertainty and a distinct sense of disappointment the ending is certainly an allegory of Soviet Russia.