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The Russian title is Generation P. The P stands for Pepsi as, apparently, drinking Pepsi was a sort of rebellion in the latter stages of the Soviet Union.
Indeed, as Pelevin says, that generation chose Pepsi as their parents chose Brezhnev. Zapiens comes from television zapping, though, as explained in Chapter 7, it is a bit more complicated than that. Babylen is a member of the Pepsi generation. He fancies himself as a poet. However, when the Soviet Union falls, he tries to pretend that nothing happened, nothing changed.
But things started changing. For example, the clothing that has been normal in the Soviet Union now looked ridiculous. However, externally it had not changed too much, except perhaps that there were more paupers on the streets, but everything in his surroundings — the houses, the trees, the benches on the streets — had somehow suddenly grown old and decrepit. Indeed, it was like being in Germany in if the Nazis, despite their defeat, had remained in power as that is what seemed to have happened in Russia.
Getting a job is not easy but he manages to find a job in a trading kiosk, with a rather threatening boss. One day, a former fellow student sees him in the kiosk and takes him away. Morkovin, the former fellow student, explains to Babylen about the new economics.
Now is the time to get in on the ground floor before things really take off. All sorts of people are borrowing money, which they often fritter away but, before they do, they need to sell or, at least, be seen to be selling the product they borrowed the money for. For that they need advertising. And for advertising they need the specialist companies who use literate people like Babylen to write the scripts. Copywriting is the key.
Babylen is hired and is set to write a script for a company, along with other copywriters. He writes a totally bizarre scenario: The Tower of Babel rose and fell, the Nile flooded, Rome burned, ferocious Huns galloped in no particular direction across the steppes — and in the background the hands of an immense, transparent clock spun round. The executive submits the other scenarios.
All are rejected by the client. The client loves it. After reading Positioning: A Battle for your Mind , which becomes his bible, Babylen realises the basic economic law of post-socialist society: initial accumulation of capital is also final. At this point, Babylen goes on to greater success, continually hired by different people. One of his employers realises that the future is going to involve developing concepts for US companies wishing to market in Russia, as they will have to adopt a peculiarly Russian strategy and not a US one.
As this has not yet happened Babylen is given the task of developing pre-emptive advertising campaigns, such as Parliament cigarettes and Sprite, each one more outrageous. He makes predictions: In the very near future we must expect most of the essential branches of industry to come to a total standstill, the collapse of the financial system and serious social upheavals, which will all inevitably end in the establishment of a military dictatorship.
Of course, as this is Pelevin, it is not going to be so simple. He sidetracks into the history and myths of Babylon sic , the history of parliamentarianism in Russia the only thing the word was good for was advertising Parliament, cigarettes , drugs, and more drugs, the secret of advertising linking any product to money , Homo Zapiens, black public relations and, inevitably, that all the oligarchs, Members of Parliament and even George W Bush are all merely animated figures and not real.
Born in in Moscow, Victor Pelevin has swiftly been recognised as the leading Russian novelist of the new generation. Before studying at Moscow's Gorky Institute of Literature, he worked in a number of jobs, including as an engineer on a project to protect MiG fighter planes from insect interference in tropical conditions. One of the few novelists today who writes seriously about what is happening in contemporary Russia, he has, according to the New York Times , 'the kind of mordant, astringent turn of mind that in the pre-glasnost era landed writers in psychiatric hospitals or exile'. Victor Pe.
The Modern Novel
In Babylon he gives us a deliciously comic vision of vanity, greed and advertising, Moscow style. The collapse od the Societ Union has opened up a vast market, ripe for exploitation. Everybody wants a but of the action. But how do you sell things to a generation who grew up with just one brand of cola? Enter Tatarsky, a lowly shop assistant, who discovers a hidden talent for devising homegrown alternatives to Western ads. Soon Russian television is ablaze with new slogans: 'Do it yourself, Motherfucker!