Monday 9 January 2012

The Helmet of Horror

(December 2011)

This is a retelling of the Minotaur myth, something I (British) previously had a bit of a stab at myself. I chose to go down the ‘bitch about an airport’ route, Pelevin (Russian) has aimed slightly higher and opted for the ‘eight*-way solipsistic dialectic on ontology, memory, and perception’ path instead. You pays your money and you takes your choice, I suppose.

It starts off in relatively familiar Prisoner’s Dilemma territory, which Hannu Rajaniemi (Finnish) also explored in a slightly more traditional format. Must be something about the long winter nights which leads to meditation on theoretical incarceration. They must just fly by.

They probably do, as well. HoH is structured as a chatroom log, and Pelevin is liberal with the sardonic humour and gags, so it’s a pretty quick read. And it needs to be quick, as it’s not really easy. It’s one of those books where you’re pretty sure you know what it’s about, but you also know that you’re missing a ton of stuff as well, so you do end up re-reading passages a fair few times.

Despite the repeats, it gets a little tiring being aware that everything has a deeper meaning that you know you’re not getting. Pelevin treads a fine line between genuine philosophical exploration and overblown intellectual masturbation, and unfortunately overbalances a little too often. Using the word ‘simulacrum’ sarcastically still doesn’t hide the fact that it's being used.

And much like wanking, HoH is quick and enjoyable, even if it’s ultimately a little unfulfilling and an essentially solitary experience.

It all comes around in the end (ahem).



  1. "philosophical exploration and overblown intellectual masturbation,"

    I realized at College this difference is totally a matter of opinion. One man's milky spooge is another mans blueprint on life and the meaning behind and around it. If your lucky you get profs who don't take it upon themselves to show you which is which (they can act like little Gods sometimes).

  2. "One man's milky spooge is another mans blueprint on life"

    This is quite literally true. And that's why wanking's a sin, kids!

    On a vaguely related note, any ideas what the Japanese called it before the arrival of christianity? I refuse to believe the Portuguese were responsible for the introduction of both firearms and masturbation.