01 November 2005

Commissioned postmodernism

"When I hear the word discourse, I grab my simulacrum" - Victor Pelevin's facetiousness never fails, including his new Helmet of Horror. Having been released this past week, the book features eight characters, with names like Monstradamus, trapped in separate labyrinth rooms (not unlike Saw II, which also shares its release date!). They know not what they are and await Theseus the Liberator, while Minotaur, crowned with the Helmet of Horror, a source of illusions and false impressions, lurks in the shadows.

The most engaging aspect of the book is not Pelevin's expected mastery of dialogue or his equally expected application of just about every authorial trick a good self-[mocking]-respecting postmodernist shares, but the fact that it pertains to an ongoing series published by UK's Canongate. The series focuses on reestablishing famous age-old myths by modern literary classics - from Umberto Eco (!) to Margaret Atwood. Atwood's Penelopiad customarily offers agency to Odyssey's quintessential faithful wife Penelope. She must've grown rather bored in those twenty years after all!

Despite the obvious danger of turning this act of Retelling into an instant cliche, Canongate's clever marketing technique is at least worth looking into. Or not.

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