Considering the difference between a werefox and a werewolf
posted by caroline picard
The Sacred Book of The Werewolf
and Kangaroo too
I finished a fantastic book of late–The Sacred Book of The Werewolf by Victor Pelevin, who, on the back is described as a “psychedelic Nabakov for the cyberage.” While I’ve since discovered other books by him, I was new to his work. The book is told through the eyes of an ancient werefox, A. Huli, a woman born in China thousands of years ago. She looks like a pre-pubescent Asiatic girl with orange hair. Otherwise normal, save for the small tail between her legs. With this tail she is able to impose hallucinatory visions on those around her–particularly individuals. She uses this skill as her primary tool for income. Working as a prostitute in Russia, she meets with clients in hotel bars, follows them upstairs and then, upon unveiling her “tail” they experience an illusion of sex as the werefox watches, monitoring their experience. From that premise, adventures abound–culminating in a particularly interesting myth/manifestation of the “super werewolf”–what in her world view is an internal, rather “zen” experience of nothingness, but in her boyfriend’s (a werewolf proper, and member of the secret police) point of view resembles more Nietzsche’s superman.
Using this premise of prostitution, Pelevin maps out world economics, comparing the life of A. Huli’s sisters who work in similar fields in other countries (England and Thailand). The differences between those economies is discussed, and Russia sits between the two, a less expensive, less colonized market than England, which is nevertheless more bitter and complex than Thailand. In this portrait of the sex-trade, the underage sex worker is granted superpowers which give her control of her working situation. By shifting focus from the potential victimization of prostitutes to their empowerment, Pelevin instead focuses on a narcissistic and intoxicating self-objectification (where the John’s self is the vehicle for the fantasy).
Further, Pelevin is hyper conscious of his relationship to history. Using the vast age of his protagonist, he is able to reference figures like Tolstoy with first person anecdotes, just as he mentions Nabakov with a comment on the literary significance of a figure like Lolita. If it weren’t for the somewhat kitschy first person narrative, this book would likely collapse under the weight of its philosophical ambition. Nevertheless because our narrator is both generous and blithe, she offers us an easy platform on which to stand.
I am also incredibly interested in connecting, or comparing Kangaroo, by Yuz Aleshkovsky, because there are some similar themes, namely the relationship between the private (and philosophical subject) “I” with the social society as it relates to Russia’s secret police. Kangaroo is more or less all about interrogating that “I” (both in a meta-fiction level and the present narrative), teasing out the fantasy (via hallucination and fear) “I,” in one instance transforming the “I” into a sexual kangaroo which is then incriminated, and arriving at last at a sort of super-philosophical self which steps out of time. While I don’t understand the significance of these parallels, I do find them striking.
On that note, I’d like to excerpt a passage from The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, in which the werefox A.Huli describes the difference between werefoxes and werewolves.
Since the existence of things consists in their perceptibility, any transformation can occur by two routes–either through the perception of transformation or the transformation of perception.
In honor of the great Irishman, I would like to call this rule Berkeley’s Law. It is absolutely essential knowledge for all seekers of truth, gangsters and extortionists, marketing specialists and paedophiles who wish to remain at liberty. And so, in their practice, foxes and wolves exploit different aspects of Berkley’s Law.
We, the foxes use transformation of perception. We influence our clients’ perception and make them see what we want them to see. The illusion we induce becomes absolutely real for them…But we foxes continue to see the initial reality just as, according to Berkeley, God sees it. That is why we are accuesd of distorting the Image of God.
This, of course, is a hypocritical accusation, based on a double standard. The transformation of perception is the basis not only of foxe’ witchcraft, but also of many marketing techniques. For instance, Ford takes the cheap F-150 pick-up truck, gives it a lovely new front grille, restyles the bodywork and calls the resultant product the ‘Lincoln Navigator.’ And no one y Ford is distorting the Image of God. I won’t say anything about politics, everything’s clear already in that area. But somehow it’s only we foxes who provoke indignation.
Unlike us, werewolves use perception of transformation. They create an illusion, not for other, but for themselves. And they believe in it so strongly that the illusion ceases to be an illusion. There’s a passage in the Bible on that subject–‘if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible for you.” The werewolves have this mustard seed. Their transformation is a kind of alchemical chain reaction.
First werewolf makes himself believe that his tail is growing. And the emerging tail, which in wolves is the same kind of hypnotic organ as it is in foxes, exerts a hypnotic influence on the wolf’s own consciousness, convincing him that he really in undergoing a transformation and so on until he is completely transformed into a beast. Technologists call this positive feedback.
…While foxes directed energy at other people, wolves trained it on themselves, inducing a transformation, not in others’ perception, but in their own, and only afterwards, as a consequence, in that of others.
Can we call such a transformation real? I have never completely understood the meaning of this epithet, especially since every historical age fills it with its own meaning.
You can read more about Pelevin’s book by going here to the NY Times Book Review.