CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
VIKTOR PELEVIN AND DOT.COMMUNISM
Viktor Pelevin, born in 1962, turned to writing in his late twenties after studying to become an engineer in electronics. Back home, he is a superstar although he rarely grants interviews and never appears on TV. He is also unique in that he finds favour among both literary critics and the general public. An English translation of Pelevin's latest novel, which sold more than 200,000 copies when it was published in Russia last year, will soon be available.
In an interview published in the English Sunday paper The Observer (30 April 2000), Pelevin claims that his work describes the state of modern, post-Soviet Russia which he refers to as "dot.communism." The original title of Babylon means Generation P. The P stands for pizdets, "an obscene Russian term" : Generation Pizdets means "a generation that faces catastrophe." Generation P is also, of course, a Russian version of Generation X and a reference to the new President, Vladimir Putin (Generation Putin). Soon, no doubt, it will stand for Generation Pelevin.
For more information, log on to The Observer's fine literary site : Books Unlimited (http://www.booksunlimited.co.uk).
Kazushige Abe (32), former rock singer, has published his first novel, a hip metatextual cyber-manga pulp narrative which eats itself from within. Actes Sud have just published it under the title Projection privée, so you can buy it on your next trip to . . .
NEW BRITISH THEATRE IN PARIS
LES NEO-HYDROPATHES ARE COMING!
The neo-Hydropathes, France's latest literary movement, have published precious little, and yet they are already becoming a tourist attraction. Not surprising, really : they are young, sexy and gifted. Will they go on to write anything of worth, you ask me? Who cares? They have cool haircuts and hang out in a dingy, smoked-filled café on the Left Bank. What more do you want?
It all started with an intriguing graffito I first spotted circa January 1999 on the Boulevard Saint-Michel : a cleverly-stencilled bottle of red wine. How French I thought, and thought no more of it. By the summer, however, I could not help but notice that every other wall in the Latin Quarter seemed to have been daubed with the same logo.
Cut to September. A balmy Saturday morning. I had a few bevvies at Les Deux Magots while indulging in my favourite Parisian hobby : ornithology. After watching the mini-skirted talent sashay by for nigh on three hours, I decided to repair to Le Flore which is about five split nanoseconds away. My ultimate goal was to overtake a particularly interesting specimen with striking plumage who had just passed me by at Les Deux Magots, grab a sidewalk table at Le Flore and watch her pass me by again. But Fate would have it otherwise : as I jogged past the world-famous La Hune bookshop, already a little out of breath, I caught sight of the ubiquitous bottle of red plonk on the cover of a literary journal displayed in the window. Uncanny or what?
Before you could say Guy Debord, I was leafing through 97 pages of expletives, explicit X-rated smut and extreme violence. The first issue of Hurluberlu, a stapled and photocopied affair, is mainly devoted to the group's literary output. There are three poems, one by Danilo Kupus (who comes from Serbia) and two by Guillaume Destot who now contributes to 3 a.m. Magazine. Most of the rest is devoted to short stories ranging from the sublime (Octave Degary's "La nuit me nuit") to the ridiculous (Nicole Suart's "Suisse Id"), but the journal became a succès de scandale thanks to Jean-Yves Carpentier's scathing attacks on France's pompous intellectual circles and stuffy academia.
The next day I called M. Carpentier who invited me to one of the group's meetings at Le Tournon, a small café near the Senate . . . More news from the neo-Hydropathes in the summer issue of 3 a.m. Magazine. Jean-Yves Carpentier, editor of Hurluberlu, is interviewed in the ANGRY! section. Check out Guillaume Destot's short-short and poem in this issue's Byte-Sized section.
A festival of contemporary British plays took place in three Parisian theatres between February 29th and April 8th. Steven Berkoff directed a revival of his own East at the Théâtre Silvia Monfort. Kaos Theatre adapted Wilde's Earnest. Other plays included Michael Wynne's Sell Out, Mark Ravenhill's Some Explicit Polaroids and Chris O'Connell's Car. A festival of French plays will take place on the other side of the Channel in June.
If you were intrigued by our piece on Tim Eggers in the first issue of 3 a.m. Magazine , you can follow it up by reading an interview with the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius on The Evening Standard's web site (http://www.thisislondon.com). On May 14, Eggers also appeared in The Observer ahead of the UK launch of his novel by Picador on June 30. Among other things, he told Stephanie Merritt that he was 47 ("But I've been telling everyone 30")! When she asked him why his novel had captured the imagination of America, he replied : "Since it became popular, I've done a lot of thinking about it, and I'm pretty sure the success was due to one factor that no one has kept in mind, though it now seems obvious: my great clothes. I mean, I have really great clothes. And in America, thank God, that counts for something." As for what he hoped AHWOSG might achieve : "Cure tuberculosis and bring democracy to East Africa." Check it out at : http://www.booksunlimited.co.uk
Tim Eggers' novel is available from : http://www.amazon.com
Check out Douglas Coupland 's very own website : http://www.coupland.com
CHASING THE RED DRAGON: IRVINE WELSH RAREBIT
The Sunday Times' Hay Festival 2000 took place between May 26 and June 4. The famous literary festival, now in its thirteenth year, featured big names like Andrew Motion , the poet laureate, Frank Kermode , Gore Vidal , Booker prize-winner Ian McEwan and Martin Amis along with newcomers like Zadie Smith (see the Buzzwords section in the first issue of 3 a.m. Magazine ).
For festival news visit the official website at http://www.hayfestival.co.uk
JOHN KING: MORE BLOKELIT
Wales has been rather trendy of late what with Catatonia and The Stereophonics storming the UK charts. But there's more to this small country than sheep farming, Dylan Thomas, Tom Jones, Spike Milligan, The Manic Street Preachers, sheep farming, male voice choirs, rugby, leeks, sheep farming, red dragons, the eponymous rarebit and sheep farming. Wales is now literary flavour of the month just like Scotland a few years ago. In fact, Wales is the new Scotland if Niall Griffiths' first novel, Grits (London : Jonathan Cape, 2000) is anything to go by. Grits is being eagerly-touted in publishing circles as Wales's answer to Trainspotting, and not without reason. A cursory glance confirms that Irvine Welsh's early-nineties magnum opus is the obvious point of reference : an episodic structure coupled with copious (over)doses of full-throated obscenities and chemical abuse couched in local patois. Peel your eyes, grit your teeth and enjoy.
A short story by Mr Griffiths ("The Best death Ever") is included in New Writing 9 (London : Vintage, 2000) which also includes (among many, many others) a story by Toby Litt (see Buzzwords in the first issue of 3 a.m. Magazine ).
Both Grits and New Writing 9 are available from :
AMIS & SON
John King is heralded as the English Irvine Welsh. A very interesting review of his bloke, booze and birds trilogy (written by Jayne Margetts) appears in the increasingly fascinating, Brighton-based Spike Magazine (http://www.spikemagazine.com).
King's latest novel, Human Punk (Jonathan Cape, 2000), came out in Britain at the end of April. Moving from the Summer of Hate (1977) to 1988 and the present, it tells the tale of one Joe Martin who is haunted by the death of his best mate. Fact freaks will be pleased to learn that the title is lifted from a song by The Ruts.
Human Punk and King's trilogy - The Football Factory (London : Vintage, 1997), Headhunters (Vintage, 1998) and England Away (Vintage, 1999) - are available from :
IN THE BEGINNING. . .
The literary sensation right now in England is the publication of Martin Amis's memoirs, Experience (Jonathan Cape, 2000) hot on the heels of his late father's letters edited by Zachary Leader.
The Letters of Kingsley Amis (HarperCollins, 2000) and Experience are both available from : http://www.amazon.co.uk
THE EPITOME OF BRIT COOL
Alasdair Gray has been announcing the imminent publication of The Book of Prefaces (Bloomsbury, 2000) for years. In 1993, seven years before its publication, it was already being valued at £20 in booksellers' catalogues! Gray's magnum opus is now available from : http://www.amazon.co.uk
Harland Miller, whose Slow Down Arthur, Stick to Thirty (Fourth Estate, 2000) is out now, has been described as "the epitome of Brit Cool." The advance for his first novel was £150,000 and the film rights have been bought by Andrew MacDonald's company. Miller is famous for looking like Bowie, hanging out with the Britart rat pack and being one of Jarvis Cocker's mates. Rumour has it that Pulp's singer would like to direct the film version of Slow Down.
Harland Miller's novel is available from : http://www.amazon.co.uk
TOP OF PAGE