Symbolical exchange and oil

The great Victor Pelevin, in A Macedonian Critique of French Thought (it’s a pity Slavoj Zizek is Slovenian), tells a phantasmagorical tale of a certain Kika, a graduate of Sorbonne’s philosophy department and the son of a Russian Tatar oligarch, who, due firstly to Baudrillard, uncovered the mystery of the universe. For now, two bits for fun.

According to his logic, even bits and pieces of what one has heard are enough to demonstrate a complete uselessness of the “great French philosophers.” There is no need to turn to their original texts, especially since, as Kika puts it, “a blunt mind will drown like a steam iron in an ocean of sh-t, and a sharp one, like a damask blade.”

Here is, for example, how he compares the two philosophers, Baudrillard and Derrida:

As for Jean Baudrillard, one can replace in his writings all affirmative sentences with negative ones without doing any damage to their meaning. Besides, one can replace all nouns with their antonyms — again, with no consequences. More than that: one can do this at the same time, in any order, or even several times in a row — and the reader will not feel a noticeable difference. But Jacques Derrida, as a true intellectual will agree, plunges more deeply and stays plunged for a longer time. While in Baudrillard one can still substitute the meaning with the opposite, in Derrida — in most cases — it is impossible to change the meaning of a sentence, by whatever manipulations.

It is striking that Kika is always irritated especially by Jean Baudrillard, whom he often calls “Baudrillacre” — by analogy with the term “simulacre” (which Kika monstrously abuses in “Macedonian Critique,” though making a reservation: “The reader understands that the word “simulacre” as I use it is but a simulacre of Baudrillard’s term “simulacre.”)


  1. This one’s easy to read (the protagonist interpreting the title Symbolic Exchange and Death in a way that would have amused the Chesterton of my previous post) but Pelevin’s best, such as “Omon Ra,” a short novel, and “The Blue Lantern,” a collection of short stories, can’t be as good in translation: Pelevin’s Russian is too dependent on Soviet and post-Soviet (and other) idioms, both cultural and linguistic.

  2. Poor Keanu Reeves was forced by the Wachowski Brothers (now, apparently, the Wachowski Siblings) to try to read Baudrillard so his performance as Neo in The Matrix trilogy would be philosophically correct. Never say our Hollywood stars don’t make sacrifices for their art.

  3. If Keanu Reeves ever needs to find answers to questions like, “What am I? What is Being?” (I hope he does), I wonder if he’ll turn to Baudrillard again.

  4. Thank you very much for your review! Do you know where can I get “A Macedonian Critique” in English?

    • You’re most welcome. That short story is part of the 2003 collection entitled DPP(NN)/The Dialectics of the Transitional
      Period from Nowhere to Nowhere
      . I’m not sure it’s been translated into English.

      • То есть выше Вы приводите фрагмент собственного перевода?

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