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For example, in his novel Omon Ra, Soviet life appears as a series of technological and ideological traps that

constrain the protagonist; the central concern of the novel is the question of the survival of the indi-vidual’s
subjectivity under these hostile circumstances.1 By contrast, his recent works present the gradual
disappearance of one’s individu-ality and agency. Pelevin’s short story “Akiko,” published in the col-lection
The Dialectics of the Transitional Period from Nowhere to Nowhere (Dialektika perekhodnogo perioda iz niotkuda v nikuda
2003), illustrates this evolution of Pelevin’s fiction well.
The story is suggestive of larger trends in contemporary Rus-sian literature, as it participates in what Sofya
Khagi calls “contemporary Russian techno-consumer dystopia” presented in the works of many
contemporary Russian writers (560). Different from earlier works where Soviet experience served as a
foundation of the dystopian vision, the consumerism becomes the foundation of a new post-Socialist
dystopia. For Pelevin, it is consumerism or “glamour” (glamur) that, combined with the power of discourse
(discurs), enables complete disappearance of the post-modern subject.2 This tendency is especially important in
light of the “intense subjectiv-ism” of Pelevin’s work, where the “mind creates reality” (Khagi 566).
Recent dystopian novels, such as Vladimir Sorokin’s Trilogiia (Trilogy, 2006), Ol'ga Slavnikova’s 2017 (2006),
and Pelevin’s Ampir V (Empire V, 2006), establish a connection between consumerism, tech-nology, social
elites, and totalitarian ideology. In these novels, perva-sive consumerism and modern technology result in
contemporary society becoming totalitarian. Keith Booker describes dystopian fic-tion as “an ideal
postmodernist mode,” arguing that dystopian literature is “a parodic ‘anti-genre,’” since by its very nature
dystopian literature


is intended as a parody of Utopian literature. Similarly, parody is a cen-tral technique of postmodernist art. He
then distinguishes “postmodernist dystopian fiction” that “often takes a parodic ap-proach not only to
Utopian literature but to dystopian literature as well” (117). While Booker applies his definition to the fiction
of the 1980s and the 1990s, the works of Sorokin, Slavnikova, and Pelevin also present features of dystopia
that are simultaneously parodically undermined and can be consequently classified as postmodernist dys-
topias.3 Here, I agree with Mark Lipovetsky, who, in his book Parologii (Paralogs, 2008), argues that
postmodernism does not disappear at the beginning of the twenty first century. Instead, it undergoes a
transfor-mation, becoming more responsive to popular culture and social con-cerns.4
With its investigation of the interaction between virtual space and totalitarian regime, “Akiko” continues and
contributes to the cen-tral preoccupations of Russian postmodernism: its emphasis on con-structed reality
and its close connection to the totalitarian systems. While the notion of simulated or constructed reality first
developed in the West, there it is primarily connected to consumerism. In contrast to this Western
development, Russian postmodernist writers and the-orists emphasize the central role of the state, which
becomes the prin-cipal simulator of reality. Soviet history, culminating in the dramatic collapse of the Soviet
Union, demonstrates the constructed nature of any discourse. Even though, in the period of developed
socialism, Soviet elites already experienced Soviet reality as constructed—as demonstrated by the
conceptualist art, the collapse of the Soviet Un-ion was still a dramatic and traumatic experience. The
disappearance of the Soviet Union was followed by disappointment in the ideals of Western democracy,
which also appeared as an illusion. As a result, both post-Soviet scholars and writers constantly return to the
notion of reality as an artificial construct.5
Though the protagonist of Pelevin’s story believes that he can freely enjoy the pleasures of consumption, his
consumerist activities trap him in the systems of economic and political domination. Consumption is then
controlled by totalitarian systems that appear even more totaliz-ing than that of the Soviet past. Pelevin’s
“Akiko” takes the dystopian theme to its logical conclusion. The story appears even more pessi-mistic than
other Russian postmodernist dystopian fiction due to the absolute disappearance of the protagonist’s
subjectivity: consumption leads to the loss of agency; and the virtual space turns into a perf