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sabato 26 maggio 2012

Viktor Pelevin: "BABYLON"! [about the dialectics of the transitional period from nowhere to nowhere, or to everywhere; ISHTAR] [1999]

CHAPTER 6. The Path to Your Self

Next morning Tatarsky was woken by the phone. His first reaction was annoyance - the phone had interrupted a very strange and beautiful dream, in which Tatarsky was taking an examination. The dream had started with him drawing three question tickets one after the other, and then setting off up a long spiral staircase like there used to be in one of the blocks of his first institute, where he studied electric furnaces. It was up to him to find the examiners himself, but every time he opened one of the doors, instead of an examination hall he found himself gazing into the sunset-lit field outside Moscow where he and Gireiev had gone walking on that memorable evening. This was very strange, because his search had already taken him up several floors above ground level.
When he was fully awake he suddenly remembered Grigory and his stamp album. 'I bought it,' he thought in horror, 'and I ate it. . .' He leapt out of bed, went over to the desk, pulled out the top drawer and saw the stamp with the smiling lilac face looking for that. . .' Placing the stamp in he covered it with a box of pencils.
Meanwhile the phone was still ringing: 'Pugin',  Tatarsky thought to himself and picked up the receiver.
'Hello,' said an unfamiliar voice, 'can I speak to Mr Tatarsky, please?'
'Good morning. This is Vladimir Khanin from the Privy Counsellor agency. I was left your number by Dima Pugin. Could we maybe get together some time today? Right away would be best.'
'What's happened?' Tatarsky asked, realising immediately from the verb 'left' that something bad must have happened to Pugin.
'Dima's no longer with us. I know you worked with him, and he worked with me. So indirectly we're acquainted. In any case, I have several of your works we were waiting for an answer on lying here on my desk.'
'But how did it happen?'
'When we meet,' said his new acquaintance. 'Write down the address.'
An hour and a half later Tatarsky walked into the immense building of 
the Pravda complex, the building that had once housed the editorial offices of almost all the Soviet newspapers. A pass was ready and waiting for him at the duty desk. He went up to the eighth floor and found the room with the number he needed; there was a metal plate on the door bearing the words: 'Ideological Department' - apparently a leftover from Soviet times. 'Or maybe not,' thought Tatarsky.
Khanin was alone in the room. He was a middle-aged man with a pleasant, bearded face, and he was sitting at a desk, hastily writing something down.
'Come in and sit down,' he said, without looking up. 'I won't be a moment.'
Tatarsky took two steps into the room, saw the advertising poster sellotaped to the wall and almost choked on the spot. According to the text under the photograph, it was an advertisement for a new type of holiday involving the alternate use of jointly rented apartments - Tatarsky had already heard talk that it was just another big rip-off, like everything else. But that wasn't the problem. The metre-wide photograph showed three palm trees on some paradise island, and those three palms were a point-for-point copy of the holographic image from the packet of Parliament cigarettes he'd found on the ziggurat. Even that was nothing compared with the slogan. Written in large black letters under the photograph were the words:
'I told you to sit down! There's a chair over here.' Khanin's voice roused Tatarsky from his trance. He sat down and awkwardly shook the hand that was extended towards him over the desk.
'What's the problem over there?' Khanin asked, squinting across at the poster.
'Oh, nothing/ said Tatarsky. 'Deja vu.'
'Ah! I understand/ said Khanin in a tone of voice that suggested he really had understood something. 'Right, then. First of all about Pugin ...'
Gradually recovering his composure, Tatarsky began to listen.
The robbery had obviously been an inside job and, taking everything into consideration, the thief must have known that Pugin had worked as a taxi-driver in New York. It was a horrible and rather improbable story: while Pugin was warming up the motor of his car, two guys had climbed into the back seat and given him an address: Second Avenue, corner of Twenty-Seventh Street. Under some kind of reflex hypnosis Pugin had driven off, then turned into a side street - and that was all he had managed to tell the police and the doctors. Seven bullet wounds had been found in his body - they'd fired straight through the back of his seat. Several thousand dollars Pugin was carrying with him were missing, as well as some file or other that he kept raving about until the moment of death.
'Except that the file,' Khanin said sadly, 'isn't missing. Here it is. He left it here, forgot it. Why don't you take a look? I'll just make a couple of calls in the meantime.'
Tatarsky picked up the loose-leaf binder. He remembered Pugin's mustachioed face, just as pasty and colourless as this cardboard, and his black-button eyes, like plastic studs. The folder evidently contained Pugin's own works - how many times had he hinted that he was more than just a passive observer when it came to judging what other people produced? 'He probably started back in New York,' Tatarsky thought to himself. While Khanin was discussing some rates or other on the phone, Tatarsky came across two genuine masterpieces. The first was for Calvin Klein:
An elegant, rather effeminate Hamlet (general sty lisation -- unisex) in black tights and a light blue tunic worn next to the skin, wanders slowly around a graveyard. Beside one of the graves he halts, bends down and picks up a pink skull out of the grass. Close-up: Hamlet knitting his brows slightly as he gazes at the skull. View from the rear:
close-up of taut buttocks with the letters 'CK'. New camera angle: skull, hand, letters 'CK' on the blue tunic. Next frame: Hamlet tosses the skull into the air and kicks it. The skull soars upwards, then arcs back down and falls straight through the bronze wreath held by a bronze angel on one of the graves, just as though it were a basketball hoop. Slogan:
The second slogan Tatarsky liked was intended for the Gap chain of shops in Moscow. The proposal was for a poster showing Anton Chekhov, first in a striped suit, and then in a striped jacket but with no trousers: the gap between his bare, skinny legs was emphasised in strong contrast, so that it resembled a Gothic hourglass. Then the outline of the gap between Chekhov's legs was repeated, but without Chekhov; now it really had become an hourglass, with almost all the sand already fallen through into the bottom half. The text was:
A few pages further on, Tatarsky came across his own text for Parliament. Suddenly it was clear to him that Pugin hadn't invented any of the other pieces either. By this stage his imagination had already built up the image of a masked giant of advertising thought, capable of punning fluently on Shakespeare or Russian history at will. But like some heavy metal from the bottom of the periodic table, this virtual Pugin existed in Tatarsky's consciousness for no more than a few seconds before he disintegrated.
Khanin said goodbye and hung up the phone. Tatarsky looked up and was amazed to see a bottle of tequila, two glasses and a saucer of lemon slices standing on the desk -Khanin had deftly set everything up while he was talking.
'One for the departed?' he suggested.
Tatarsky nodded. They clinked glasses and drank. Tatarsky squeezed a 
slice of lemon between his gums and began nervously composing a phrase to suit the occasion, but the telephone rang again.
'What's that? What's that?' Khanin said into the receiver. 'I don't know. This is a very serious matter. You go straight round to the Institute of Apiculture ... Yes, yes, to the tower.'
He hung up and looked intently at Tatarsky.
'And now,' he said, removing the tequila from the table, 'let's get to grips with your latest works, if you have no objection. I presume you've understood that Dima was bringing them to me?'
Tatarsky nodded.
'Right, then. As far as Parliament is concerned I must admit, it's good. But once you've latched on to a theme like that, why do you hold back? Relax ! Let yourself go all the way! Put a Yeltsin on all four tanks with a glass in his hand.'
'That's an idea,' Tatarsky agreed, inspired, sensing he was sitting opposite a man of real understanding. 'But then we'd have to take out the parliament building, give each Yeltsin a rose and make it an advertisement for that whisky ... What's it called - the one with the roses on the label...'
'Four Roses bourbon?' Khanin said, and chuckled. 'Why not? We could. Make a note of it somewhere for yourself.'
He pulled several sheets of paper held together by a paper-clip towards himself, and Tatarsky immediately recognised the project that had cost him so much effort for Tampako, a company that produced juices but for some reason intended to sell shares - he'd given it to Pugin two weeks before. It wasn't a scenario but a concept, that is, a product of a somewhat paradoxical genre in which the author explains, as it were, to very rich people how they should earn their living and asks them to give him a little bit of money for doing it. The pages of the familiar text were covered with dense red scribblings.
'Aha,' said Khanin, glancing over the markings, 'here I see you've got problems. In the first place, they took serious offence at pieces of advice.'
'Which one?'
'I'll read it to you,' said Khanin, leafing through the is it now ... it was underlined in red ... but almost all of underlined . . . aha, here it is - triple underlining. Listen: one of your pages, 'where this part is:
And so there exist two methods for advertising shares: the approach that shapes the investor s image of the issuing firm, and the approach that shapes the investor's image of the investor. In the language of the professional these approaches are called 'where to invest' and 'who to invest with'. . .
'No, they actually liked that bit... aha, here it is:
In our opinion, before the campaign begins it would make good sense to think about changing the name of the firm. The reason for this is that Russian TV carries a lot of advertising for Tampax sanitary products. This concept is so firmly positioned in the consumers' consciousness that displacing and replacing it would involve immense expenditure. The associative link Tampako-Tampax is exceptionally inappropriate/or a firm that produces soft drinks. In our opinion, it is enough to change the penultimate vowel in the firm's name: 'Tampuko' or 'Tampeko'. This completely eliminates the negative association ...'
Khanin looked up. 'You've learned a lot of good words, can't fault you there,' he said. 'But why don't you understand you just don't go making suggestions like that? Here they've poured their life's blood into this Tampako of theirs. For them it means ... To keep it short, these people have totally identified themselves with their product, and you start telling them things like this. You might as well tell a mother: your son's a real freak, of course, but we'll give his face a couple of licks of paint and everything'll be just fine.'
'But the name really is appalling.'
'Just who are you trying to please, them or yourself?'
Khanin was right; and Tatarsky felt doubly stupid when he remembered 
how he had explained the very same idea to the guys in Draft Podium at the very beginning of his career.
'What about the concept in general?' he asked. 'There's a lot of other stuff in it.'
Khanin turned over another page. 'How can I put it? Here's another bit they've underlined, at the end, where you go on about shares again... I'll read it:
Thus the answer to the question 'where to invest is 'in America', and the answer to the question 'who to invest with' is 'with everyone who didn'/ invest in the various pyramid schemes, but waited until it was possible to invest in America'. This is the psychological crystallisation following the first stage of the campaign - note that the advertising should not promise to place the investors 'funds in America, but it should arouse the feeling thatit'will'happen...
'So why the hell did you underline that? Really smart that, is it? OK, what comes next...
The effect is achieved by the extensive use in the image sequence of stars and stripes, dollars and eagles. It is proposed that the main symbol of the campaign should be a sequoia tree, with hundred-dollar bills instead of leaves, which would evoke a subconscious association with the money tree in the story ofPinocchio ...'
'So what's wrong with that?' asked Tatarsky.
'The sequoia is a conifer.'
Tatarsky said nothing for a few seconds while he explored a hole he had 
suddenly discovered in his tooth with the tip of his tongue ... Then he said: 'Never mind that. We can roll up the hundred-dollar bills into tubes. You know, it could be even better because it could result in a positive psychological crystallisation in the minds of a signi-'
'Do you know what "schemalz" means?' Khanin interrupted.
'Me neither. They've written here in the margin that they don't want

this "schemalz" - that's you - to be let anywhere near their orders again. They don't want you.'
'Fair enough,' said Tatarsky. 'So they don't want me. And what if a month from now they change their name? And in two months they start doing what I suggested? Then what?'
'Then nothing,' said Khanin. 'You know that.'
'Yes, I know,' said Tatarsky with a sigh. 'And what about the other orders? There was one for West cigarettes in there.'
'Another wash-out,' said Khanin. 'You always used to do well with cigarettes, but now ...'
He turned over a few more pages. 'What can I say ... Image sequence ... where is it now? ...there it is:
Two naked men shot from behind, one tall and one short, arms round each other's hips, hitch-hiking on the highway. The short one has a pack of West in his hand, the tall one has his arm raised to stop a car - a light-blue Cadillac that's coming down the road. The hand of the short man holding the pack of cigarettes is set in the same line as the uplifted arm of the tall man, thereby creating another layer of meaning -'choreographic': the camera seems to have frown a single moment in a passionately emotional dance, filled with the anticipation of approaching freedom. Slogan: Go West.
'That's from a song by those Sex-Shop Dogs, the one they made from our anthem, right? That part is OK. But then you have this long paragraph about the heterosexual part of the target group. What did you write that for?'
'No, well, I... I just thought if the customer raised the point he would know we'd covered it...'
'The customer raised a point all right, but not that one. The customer's an old-time hood from Rostov who's been paid two million dollars in cigarettes by some Orthodox metropolitan. In the margin beside the word "heterosexual" he's written - the bandit, that is, not the metropolitan: "Wots he on abowt, queers?"And he turned the concept down. Pity - it's a masterpiece. Now if it had been the other way round - if the bandit was paying back the metropolitan - it would all have gone down a treat. But what can you do? This business of ours is a lottery.'
Tatarsky said nothing. Khanin rolled a cigarette between his fingers to soften it and lit up.
'A lottery,' he repeated with emphasis. 'Just recently you haven't been doing too well in the draw, and I know why.'
'Tell me.'
'Well, now,' said Khanin, 'it's a very subtle point. understand what people will like, and then you hand it to of a lie. But what people want is for you to hand them the form of the truth.'
That was not at all what Tatarsky had been expecting.
First you try to them in the form same thing in the
'What's that? What do you mean by "in the form of the truth"?' 'You don't believe in what you do. Your heart isn't in it/ 'No, it isn't,' said Tatarsky. 'Of course it isn't. What do you expect? Do you want me to give my heart to Tampako? There's not a single whore on Pushkin Square would do that.' 'OK, OK, just drop the pose,' said Khanin, frowning. 'No, no,' said Tatarsky, calming down, 'don't get me wrong. We're all in the same frame nowadays; you just have to position yourself correctly, right?' 'Right.'
'So why do I say not a single whore would do it? Not because I'm disgusted. It's just that a whore always collects her money every time - whether she pleased the client or not -but I have to ... You know what I mean. And the client only makes his mind up afterwards ... There's no way any whore would work on those terms.'
'A whore might not,' Khanin interrupted, 'but we will, if we want to survive in this business. And we'll go even further than that.'
'I don't know,' said Tatarsky. 'I'm not absolutely convinced.'
'Oh, yes we will. Babe,' said Khanin, and looked straight into Tatarsky's eyes.
Tatarsky tensed. 'How do you know my name's not Vova, but Babe?'
'Pugin told me. And as far as positioning is concerned . . . Let's just say you've positioned yourself and I get where you're coming from. Will you come and work for me full-time?'
Tatarsky took another look at the poster with the three palm trees and the promise of never-ending metamorphoses.
'What as?'he asked.
'A creative.'
'Is that a writer?' Tatarsky asked. Translated into ordinary Russian?' Khanin smiled gently.
'We don't need any fucking writers here,' he said. 'A creative, Babe, a 
Out on the street, Tatarsky wandered slowly in the direction of the centre.
He wasn't feeling particularly overjoyed at finding himself employed so unexpectedly. One thing was really bothering him: he was sure he'd never told Pugin the story of his real name; he'd always just called himself Vladimir or Vova. Of course, there was just an infinitesimal chance that he'd blurted it out when they were drinking and then forgotten about it - they had got very drunk together a couple of times. Any other possible explanations drew so heavily on genetically transmitted fear of the KGB that Tatarsky dismissed them out of hand. Anyway, it wasn't important.
'This game has no name,' he whispered, and clenched his fists in the pockets of his jacket.
The uncompleted Soviet ziggurat rose up in his memory in such minute detail that he felt the forgotten tingling sensation of the fly-agaric run through his fingers several times. The mystic force had gone a bit over the top this time in presenting so many signs at once to his startled soul: first the poster with the palms and the familiar line of text, then the words 'tower' and 'lottery' that Khanin had used several times in a few minutes as though by chance, him more than anything else. 'Perhaps I misheard,' pronunciation ... But then I asked how he knew my name was Babe, and he said he knew from Pugin. No, I should never get drunk like that, never.'
After about forty minutes of slow, pensive walking he found himself beside the statue of Mayakovsky. He stopped and studied it closely for a little while. The bronze jacket in which Soviet power had invariably dressed the poet was back in fashion now - Tatarsky remembered that only recently he'd seen exactly the same style in a Kenzo advertisement.
After walking round the statue and admiring the firm, reliable backside of the Party's loudmouth, Tatarsky finally realised that depression had invaded his soul. There were two ways he could get rid of it - down a hundred grammes of vodka, or spend about a hundred dollars on buying something immediately (some time ago Tatarsky had realised with astonishment that the two actions evoked a similar state of light euphoria lasting for an hour to an hour and a half).
He didn't fancy the vodka in view of the newly surfaced memories of his drinking bouts with Pugin. Tatarsky glanced around. There were plenty of shops, but they were all very specialised. He had no real use for blinds, for instance. He began peering at the signboards on the far side of Tverskaya Street and suddenly started in amazement. This was too much: at an acute angle to him on the wall of a building on the Garden Ring he could make out a white signboard bearing the clearly distinguishable word 'ISHTAR'.
A couple of minutes later, slightly out of breath, he was already approaching the entrance. It was a tiny fly-by-night shop, newly converted from a sandwich bar, but already bearing the imprint of decline and imminent extinction: a poster in the window promised a fifty-per-cent sale.
Inside, in the cramped space doubled by the mirrors on the walls, there were several long rails with various types of jeans and a long shelf of shoes, mostly trainers. Tatarsky cast a weary glance over the splendour of leather and rubber. Ten years ago a new pair of trainers brought in from abroad by a distant relative used to mark the starting point of a new period in your life - the design on the sole was a simulacrum of the pattern on the palm of your hand, from which you could forecast the future for a year ahead. The happiness that could be extracted from such an acquisition was boundless. Nowadays, to earn the right to the same amount you had to buy at least a jeep, maybe even a house. Tatarsky didn't have that kind of money, and he didn't expect to have it at any time in the foreseeable future. True, he could buy a whole truckload of trainers, but they didn't gladden his heart in the same way any more. Tatarsky wrinkled up his forehead as he struggled to remember what this phenomenon was called in the professional jargon; and when he remembered, he took out his notebook and opened it at the letter 'R'. "The inflation of happiness,' he jotted down hastily: 'having to pay more money for the same amount. Use in advertising real estate: Ladies and gentlemen! These walls offer you sure-fire protection against cognitive dissonance'. You need never even know what it is.'
'What are you looking for?' the salesgirl asked. She definitely did not like the idea of this customer writing things down in a notebook - that sort of thing ended in unannounced visits from inspectors of one kind or another.
'I'd like some shoes,' Tatarsky replied with a polite smile. 'Something light, for summer.'
'Ordinary shoes? Trainers? Gym shoes?'
'Gym shoes' said Tatarsky. 'It's years since I've seen any gym shoes.' The girl led him over to the shelf. "There you are/ she said. 'Platform 
Tatarsky picked up a thick-soled white gym shoe. 'What make is it?' he asked.
'No name,' said the girl. 'From England.'
'What d'you mean?' he asked in astonishment.
The girl turned the back of the gym shoe to face him, and there on the 
heel he saw a rubber badge with the words: 'NO NAME'.
'Do you have a forty-three?' Tatarsky asked.
He left the shop wearing his new gym shoes, his old shoes in a plastic 
bag. He was absolutely sure now that there was some meaning to the route he was following today and he was afraid of making a mistake by taking a wrong turning. He hesitated for a moment and then set off down Sadovaya Street.
About fifty metres further on he came across a tobacco kiosk, but when he stepped up to buy some cigarettes, Tatarsky was amazed to see a wide range of condoms looking more like the display in a chemist's shop. Standing out clearly among the Malaysian Kama-Sutra condoms with their bob-bled shafts was a strange semi-transparent device of blue rubber covered with a multitude of thick knobs, looking very much like the head of the main demon from the film Hell-raiser. The label underneath it said 're-usable'.
But Tatarsky's attention was caught by a neat black, yellow and red rectangle with a German eagle in a double black circle that looked like an official seal and the inscription 'Sico'. It looked so much like a small banner that Tatarsky bought two packs on the spot. On the back of the pack it said: 'In buying Sico condoms, you put your trust in traditional German quality control.'
'Clever/ thought Tatarsky. 'Very clever.'
He pondered the theme for several seconds, trying to invent a slogan. Eventually the phrase he was looking for lit up in his head.
'Sico. A Porsche in the world of condoms/ he whispered, and wrote down his invention. Then he put his notebook away and looked around. He was standing on the comer of Sadovo-Triumfalnaya Street and some other street that branched off to the right. There on the wall in front of his face was a poster with the words: "The Path to Your Self and a yellow arrow pointing round the corner. Tatarsky's heart skipped a beat, and then the vague realisation dawned that The Path to Your Self was a shop.
'Of course, what else?' Tatarsky muttered to himself.
He only found the shop after weaving his way for ages through nearby yards and passages - near the end of his journey he remembered that Gireiev had mentioned this shop to him, but he'd used the abbreviated form of its name, PYS. There were no large signboards anywhere to be seen, nothing but a small board with the handwritten word 'Open' in the doorway of an ordinary-looking two-storey building. Tatarsky realised, of course, that things hadn't been arranged like this through lack of foresight, but in order to induce a feeling of esoteric anticipation. Nonetheless, the method worked on him as well - as he climbed the stairs leading into the shop, he was aware of a sensation of subtle reverence.
Once inside the door he knew that instinct had led him to the right place. Hanging above the counter was a black tee shirt with a portrait of Che Guevara and the inscription: 'Rage Against the Machine'. On the piece of cardboard under the tee shirt it said: 'Bestseller of the month!' There was nothing surprising about that - Tatarsky knew very well (he had even written about it in one of his concepts) that in the area of radical youth culture nothing sells as well as well-packaged and politically correct rebellion against a world that is ruled by political correctness and in which everything is packaged to be sold.
'What sizes do you have?' he asked the sales assistant, a very pretty girl in a vaguely Babylonian-Assyrian style.
"There's only one left,' she answered. 'Just your size.'
He paid, put the tee shirt in his shoulder-bag and then froze in indecision at the counter.
'We've got a new lot go,' purred the girl, and with inscriptions in runic of crystal balls, better buy one before they all she began sorting out a pile of children's bibs characters.
'What are they for?' Tatarsky asked. 'For meditation.'
Tatarsky was just about to ask whether you were supposed to meditate on something through the crystal balls or something actually in them, when he suddenly noticed a small shelf on the wall - it had been hidden behind the tee shirt he had just bought. Slumbering on the shelf under a clearly visible layer of dust were two objects of an uncertain nature.
'Tell me,' he said, 'what are those things up there? Is that a flying saucer or something? What's that pattern on it?'
'That's a supreme practice frisbee/ said the girl, 'and what you call a pattern is a blue letter "hum".'
'But what's it for?' asked Tatarsky, a vague memory of something connected with mushrooms and Gireiev nudging briefly at the edge of his awareness. 'How is it different from an ordinary frisbee?'
The girl twisted her lips into a wry expression. 'When you throw a frisbee with a blue letter "hum", you're not simply throwing a plastic disc, but accumulating merit. Ten minutes throwing a frisbee with a blue letter "hum" generates the same amount of merit as three hours of samadhi meditation or one hour of vipassana meditation.'
'A-ha/ Tatarsky drawled uncertainly. 'But merit in whose eyes?'
'What do you mean, in whose eyes!' the girl said, raising her eyebrows. 'Are you buying or do you just want to talk?'
'I'm buying,' said Tatarsky. 'But What's that to the right of the supreme 'That's a ouija board, a classic.'
'What's it for?'
The girl sighed. She was obviously tired of dealing with fools all day
long. She took the ouija board down from the shelf and set it on the counter in front of Tatarsky.

'You stand it on a sheet of paper,' she said. 'Or you can attach it to a printer with these clips here. In that case you put the paper in through here and set the line print speed to 'slow'. It's easier if you load a roll. In this slot here you put a pen - best to buy a helium one, with a reservoir. You put your hands on it like this, see? Then you enter into contact with the spirit and just let your hands move however they want. The pen will write out the text that's received.'
'Listen,' said Tatarsky, 'please don't be angry, I really want to know - what spirit am I supposed to contact?'
'I'll tell you if you're buying.'
Tatarsky took out his wallet and counted out the money. For a piece of varnished plywood on three wheels the ouija board was refreshingly expensive - and this disproportion between price and object inspired a trust that could hardly have been generated by any explanation, no matter how profound.
'There you go,' he said, putting the banknotes on the counter. 'So what spirit do I get in contact with?'
'The answer to that question depends on your level of personal power,' said the girl, 'and especially on your belief in the existence of spirits. If you stop your internal dialogue using the method from Castaneda's second volume, you enter into contact with the spirit of the abstract. But if you're a Christian or a Satanist, you can contact a specific spirit. . . Which kinds are you interested in?'
Tatarsky shrugged.
The girl lifted up the crystal hanging on round her neck and looked at Tatarsky through gazing directly at the centre of his forehead.
'What kind of job are you in?' she asked.
'Advertising,' Tatarsky answered.
The girl slipped her hand under the counter and took out an ordinary 
exercise book with squared paper and spent some time leafing through pages covered with tables in which the columns were completely filled with fine handwriting.
'It would be best for you,' she said at last, 'to regard the text received as a free discharge of subconscious psychic energy facilitated by the motor skills of writing. A kind of spring-cleaning for an advertising man's personal Augean stables. That approach will be less offensive to the spirits.'
'I beg your pardon,' said Tatarsky, 'do you mean to tell me that the spirits will be offended when they find out I work in advertising?'
'Yes, I think so. So the best protection against their wrath would be to doubt their existence. When it comes down to it, everything in this world is a matter of interpretation, and a quasi-scientific description of a spiritualist seance is just as correct as any other. And then, any enlightened spirit will readily agree that he doesn't exist.'
'Interesting. But how will the spirits guess that I'm in advertising? Is it written on my forehead or something?'
'No,' said the girl. 'It's written in the adverts that came out of your forehead.'
Tatarsky was about to take offence at that, but after a moment's consideration he realised that he actually felt flattered.
'I'll tell you what,' he said, 'if I need a consultation on spiritual matters, I'll come to you. You don't mind, do you?'
'All things are in the hands of Allah,' the girl answered.
'I don't know about that,' said a young man with dilated pupils, swinging round from the huge crystal ball into which he had been gazing to face the girl. 'All things? What about Buddha-consciousness? The hands of Allah only exist in Buddha-consciousness. You won't argue with that, will you?'
The girl behind the counter smiled politely.
'Of course not,' she said. "The hands of Allah only exist in Buddha-consciousness. The catch is that Buddha-consciousness still lies in the hands of Allah.'
'As Isikawa Takuboku wrote,' interrupted a gloomy-looking customer of a Mephistophelean appearance, who had approached the counter in the meantime, '"leave off, leave off this vain dispute" ... I was told you had Swami Zhigalkin's brochure "Summer Thoughts of a Samsaric Being". Do you think you could have a look for it? It's probably up on that shelf, no, no, over there, to the left, under the tibial flute ...'Поиск  [from LIBGEN, the Russian megasite,the downloadable text of "Babylon" aka "Generation 'П'" aka "Homo zapiens" , plus of many others of his books]П%22«П»  [BOMB magazine 
interview to VP, 2002]  [LINK: 'From Homo Sovieticus to Homo Zapiens: Viktor Pelevin’s Consumer Dystopia', SOFYA KHAGI [THE RUSSIAN REVIEW, 2008]

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