The Life of Insects by Viktor Pelevin
Chapter 1 – Russian Forest
Sam comes from America and visits two Russian men called Arnold and Arthur. He arrives at their house and wants to investigate the area, because he’s there for business reasons. They go into the forest and transform into mosquitoes. In the book, this happens fluently and for the protagonists, it’s all normal.
They go into a house, where someone is sleeping. They sting the sleeping man and Sam drinks too much “Russian” blood and gets drunk.
Chapter 2 – The Initiation
A little boy goes to the beach with his father. They are scarab beetles. The father gives him dung all the time and the son wonders why. The father also speaks philosophically to his son, but the boy doesn’t understand at first.
Chapter 3 – Live for Living’s Sake
A young ant goes into the movies and watches a very romantic movie. She imagines her life to be similar to this movie. When she’s done watching the movie she looks for a place, where she can bury her home. She finds a place and buries and buries all the time until she nearly dies. Afterwards, she sleeps quite long. At night, she goes to the market place, which is near the beach from the previous chapter. She looks for some things to eat and has a row with another insect, who wants to steal her stuff.
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Chapter 4 – The Moth’s Striving to Light
This chapter is about two moths. They are called Dima and Mitja. Dima is a very philosophical moth and Mitja tries to understand him. Mitja is somewhat desperate, because there are no true light sources, where one would want to go to. When he flies along the beach promenade, he also hears the ant fighting with the other insect from the previous chapter. He meets his friend Dima and they have a socially critical and philosophical conversation. Dima asks Mitja: Whose light reflects the sun? For Mitja, this is too deep and he doesn’t know the answer, but Dima tells him the one, who knows the answer, has the world’s light in his hands. They hear two female voices, which say something like “American boy…”. This is a connection to Sam, Arnold and Arthur.
Chapter 5 – The Third Rome
The three mosquitoes see Mitja and Dima fly. In the previous chapter, the moths talked about an open air café, in which the three mosquitoes are in. Sam meets a little young fly called Natasha. He talks with her for some time, but they are interrupted by Arthur, who is high or drunk. He opened Sam’s suitcase and consumed something, which was too much for the Russian mosquito. He frightens Natasha and she leaves with Sam.
In a cab, she tells him all the stories, which she has heard about Paris and how desperate she is to leave Russia and her mother. She wants to go out in the world and experience new things. She hopes that Sam can get her out.
Chapter 6 – A Life for a Tsar
The ant is visited by another ant, who is a general. He invites her to the theatre and they go there together. All the other visitors and friends of the general tell her that she’s going to have a bright future. She believes all this and compares her life to the movie again, which she saw in a previous chapter. But her life turns out to be exactly the opposite. The general suddenly dies and she’s left alone with his leftovers. Desperate, she goes back home.
Chapter 7 – In memoriam Marcus Aurelius
Mitja, the moth, realizes that he is in a conflict with himself. There are two egos in Mitja. There’s a “true ego” and a “moment-ego”. The sunlight question changes. There’s a bat, who wants to eat Mitja. The bat screams and the tone is reflected on Mitja. Mitja saves himself in a crack if a hill. Now, Mitja is invisible for the bat, because the tone isn’t reflected on Mitja anymore. But the bat is still outside, flying around. Mitja imitates the sound of a flying cat. The bat is frightened and leaves. Mitja has another philosophical thought (the heavenly simile).
Chapter 8 – Death of an Insect
Arthur and Arnold visit an old friend called Archibald. He’s already an old man, who basically stays at home all day and doesn’t do much. He’s also a mosquito, but he doesn’t fly anymore, because he has become so monotonous. The two young Russian mosquitoes try to convince him to come outside and have fun. After lots of talking, he’s finally convinced and they go on a boat.
On the boat, Archibald realizes that he has been wasting his whole life and hates himself a lot for this. In a sudden flow of energy he takes off and flies very fast towards the beach and stings a human. He sucks so much blood that he dies in the end.
Chapter 9 – The Dark Knight
Two guys are in a room, building a joint. They talk about the cracking noise, which a joint makes when it is lit. One of them tells the other that there are fleas in it and they are burnt. Those fleas are responsible for the noise.
They go outside and walk. They talk about arts in the post-modernity and other things. They see the police coming and hide in a pipe, where there are containers and other things in it. Suddenly, those containers fall to the one end of the pipe, where they are. It also becomes hotter and hotter. At the end, they are burnt to death like fleas.
Chapter 10 – Some flew over the Enemy’s Nest
Sam and Natasha are sitting at a bus stop and smoke a joint. They also hear a cracking noise and there are connections to the previous chapter. Natasha feels very sorry for Archibald, because he stung her. Sam tells her that she doesn’t have to feel like this, because it’s not her fault. Here again, one sees that there is no real difference between the human and the insect world in the book. They go to Natasha’s home, where her mother says something confusingly. Natasha tells her that she keeps repeating those words nearly all the time, but she also sleeps a lot.
Chapter 11 – The Well
There are two insects talking about the highest good of them – their isolation. Mitja has a weird dream, which is hinted later in the same chapter. Mitja dreamt that he fell into a never-ending well and he came to realize several psychological and philosophical things. Later, he sees the pond and thinks a bit about his dream.
Chapter 12 – Paradise
There’s a worm, who always buries. He encounters some working colleagues and grows a moustache.
He decides to go to America and buries and buries all the time. At some point, he arrives in America. He thought life would be more interesting or different in America, but it was basically the same as it was in Russia. He decides to go upwards and when he gets to the surface, he transforms and flies towards the violet heaven. He realizes how pointless life is.
Chapter 13 – The three Feelings of a Mother
The ant keeps comparing her life to the French movie. She finds a newspaper and reads an article on the three feelings of a mother. The first one is a tender feeling while she’s laying the eggs. The second one is a feeling of affliction and concern for the future of her new-borns. The article doesn’t tell the third feeling, because the pages are missing. She realizes that she’s pregnant. But the ant doesn’t have all these feelings and she comes to realize that she didn’t even really know her man.
A baby ant emerges from an egg. She’s named Natasha, who is the same Natasha from the other chapters. The story of the mother ant happens before Sam’s, Arnold’s and Arthur’s story.
The young female ant Natasha has a musical talent and the mother dreams of a brighter future for her girl than she has now. This goes all well, but later, when Natasha grows up, she becomes rebellious and wants to go her own way
Chapter 14 – The Second World
This chapter is quite surreal. Mitja realizes that someone else is living for him. It’s his mortal ego. He then has a fight with a shadowy being. He’s afraid of him and somehow, he can’t hit him really. It seems that everything what Mitja does, does the opponent too. When he sees his face, it’s Mitja himself, but he looks very tired and depressed. He isn’t afraid of him anymore and becomes compassionated with him. At the end, he throws him down a cliff, which is a symbol.
The end of the book is that Mitja walks against a heavy, black mirror with a wooden framework, which is the beginning of chapter four.
Hermann Hesse – Siddharta
Hermann Hesse – Demian
Hermann Hesse – Narcissus and Goldmund
Hermann Hesse – Glass Bead Game
Molière – The Imaginary Invalid
Vsevolod Garshin – A red flower
E.T.A Hoffmann – The Sandman
Joseph von Eichendorff – Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts
Joseph von Eichendorff – Schloss Dürande
Georg Büchner – Woyzeck
© 2013 Slaven Cvijetic