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Omon Ra – Victor Pelevin

 
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Posted May 7, 2016 by

Omon Ra – Victor Pelevin – 1992

omon ra2

Posted by guillermo maynezon 22/5/2013, 10:40:53

Did anybody else read “Omon Ra”? I enjoyed it a lot. I think it goes well beyond a satire of the Soviet Union, to create a powerful metaphor of the repression that all bureaucratic systems impinge on human freedom and dreams. Omon is an idealistic character who dreams of traveling to the outer space and going to the Moon. But the stupidity of the system and its abject incarnators turn that dream into a nightmare. Omon seems to ring a bell with everything that we wish for but nevertheless is thwarted by short-sightedness and the pursuit of imbecile rules.

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Posted by Steven on 23/5/2013, 9:01:09, in reply to “Re: Omon Ra”

I did read Omon Ra at the beginning of the month.

I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think that it goes beyond being a satire of the USSR, or even of political oppression in general, and addresses both the loss of childhood innocence and the nature of reality as we perceive it. Imagine Plato’s allegory of the cave, only that cave is inside another cave, which is inside another cave, ad infinitum–sort of like those nested Russian dolls (which were actually an idea borrowed from the Chinese) that every tourist is obliged to buy.

Omon keeps coming back to his memories of riding his bicycle as a child. When confronted with the uncertainties of adult life, I think we all look back to those moments of our childhood when everything seemed secure and permanent and the future looked bright.

The space program serves a similar purpose for the people as a whole:

“…yes, it was true, perhaps the burrows in which our lives were spent really were dark and dirty, and perhaps we ourselves were well suited to these burrows, but in the blue sky above our heads, up among the thinly scattered stars, there were special, artificial points of gleaming light, creeping unhurriedly through the constellations, points created here in the land of Soviets, among the vomit, empty bottles, and stench of tobacco smoke, points built here out of steel, semiconductors and electricity, and now flying through space. And every one of us… had our own little embassy up there in the cold pure blueness.”

Perhaps one of the things modern society lacks, accounting for our sense of malaise, is that sense of a bright and pure objective somewhere beyond. For generations of Americans, at least, the Frontier was always there, representing an escape to something clean and new. Then there was the “miracle of modern science” which was going to end poverty, war and disease. Then, briefly, the space program. Now we have nothing to pin our hopes and dreams on, and we can only tell our children and grandchildren that they’ll be lucky if they had it as good as we did. So we take refuge in the illusion provided by entertainment just as Omon’s USSR took refuge in the illusion of a moon mission.

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Posted by Steven on 4/5/2013, 19:09:21

I finished Omon Ra today. It’s a very short book–just 154 pages. Completed in 1992, it is a black comedy and vicious satire of Soviet life and the Soviet space program as an example of state propaganda. But it is also about the nature of reality and illusion. We see successive layers of deceit, illusion and hypocrisy revealed like nested Russian dolls, one after another.

I admit to being a bit defensive about Pelevin’s poking fun at the Russian space program because the most memorable travel experience I’ve ever had was a tour of the Yuri Gagarin Training Facility, “Star City,” outside of Moscow four years ago. It was a very rare opportunity, as the site is not normally open to tourists. Our tour guide was Fyordor Yurichkin, a cosmonaut who had already flown both the space shuttle and Soyuz craft and spent six months aboard the ISS. Since my visit he’s flown another mission and has now spent more than a year in space. He took us inside the actual simulator used to train all cosmonauts and astronauts for ISS missions.

I wonder what Pelevin thinks about the way things have turned out, after poking fun at Russia’s space program when now Russia has a near monopoly on manned space flight, with China being the only other country capable of putting a person into orbit.

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