A&E: Panou’s Paper Panel

S.N.U.F.F: Special Newsreel Universal Future Film. Short clips of entertainment posed and dismissed as news are the focus of Victor Pelevin’s underground classic, aptly titled “S.N.U.F.F.”

Pelevin grew up in Soviet Russia, first published in 1989, before the USSR’s collapse. Pelevin became well-known among Russian youths, as he explored the rift in Russian society left by the Soviet world’s collapse and conjoining with the West. This genre is known as Post-Soviet, characterized by the lack of objectivity, a feeling of void and the absurdity of styles.

I won’t lie, I hadn’t heard of Pelevin before I had put any thought into it. Yet when I read “S.N.U.F.F” and enjoyed his wicked satire and ridiculous plot lines, I felt like I had always known who he was.

In “S.N.U.F.F,” the main character is Damilola Karpov, living in a world where the two imperial powers, Urkaine and Big Byz, have taken control of everything. The staunch fascists of Big Byz look down on the Urks of Urkaine as shabby and uncouth. Coincidentally, the narrative starts just in time for the annual war between Urkaine and Big Byz.

That’s where Damilola comes in. Damilola works for CINEWS, a media corporation responsible for fueling the annual great war. Karpov is a combat camera pilot, in a world where screens and film are weaponized into flying machines of war, designed to create little clips and snippets of S.N.U.F.Fs that incite complete and total warfare.

Obviously, this book is a satire of the saturation of modern media. Pelevin digs deep into Russian society, but the American applications are worrying.

One of the most brilliant comparisons that Pelevin employs is in one of Damilola’s soliloquies: all the clips he has to record must include the logo of the Urkainian army’s fashion designers – a corporation with ties in CINEWS’s stock holdings. I feel that says more than enough about the book.

I still can’t express my feelings on this novel. In many areas, Pelevin simply talks in circles to me, while there were places with genuinely interesting plot points and events. Yet at the same time, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone without patience and time on their hands.

At the bottom line, this book is Pelevin’s warning to all: be weary not of a camera but the photographer behind it.