Absurdistan: A Novel

by Gary Shteyngart | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 1400061962 Global Overview for this book
Registered by msjoanna of Columbia, Missouri USA on 11/8/2010
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by msjoanna from Columbia, Missouri USA on Monday, November 8, 2010
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Misha Vainberg, the rich, arrogant and very funny hero of Shteyngart's follow-up to The Russian Debutante's Handbook, compares himself early on to Prince Myshkin from Dostoyevski's The Idiot: "Like the prince, I am something of a holy fool... an innocent surrounded by schemers." Readers will more likely note his striking resemblance to John Kennedy Toole's Ignatius Reilly. A "sophisticate and a melancholic," Misha is an obese 30-year-old Russian heir to a post-Soviet fortune. After living in the Midwest and New York City for 12 years, he considers himself "an American impounded in a Russian body." But his father in St. Petersburg has killed an Oklahoma businessman and then turned up dead himself, and Misha, trying to leave Petersburg after the funeral, is denied a visa to the United States. The novel is written as his appeal, "a love letter and also a plea," to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to allow him to return to the States, which lovingly and hilariously follows Misha's attempt to secure a bogus Belgian passport in the tiny post-Soviet country of Absurdistan. Along the way, Shteyngart's graphic, slapstick satire portrays the American dream as experienced by hungry newborn democracies, and covers everything from crony capitalism to multiculturalism. It's also a love story. Misha is in love with New York City and with Rouenna Sales, his "giant multicultural swallow" from the South Bronx, despite the pain they have caused him: a botched bris performed on Misha at age 18 by New York City's Hasid-run Mitzvah Mobile, and Rouenna running off with his stateside rival (and Shteyngart's doppelganger), Jerry Shteynfarb (author of "The Russian Arriviste's Hand Job") while Misha is stuck in Russia. The ruling class of Absurdistan is in love with the corrupt American company Halliburton, which is helping the rulers in a civil war in order to defraud the U.S. government. Halliburton, in turn, is in love with Absurdistan for the money it plans to make rebuilding Absurdistan's "inferstructure" and for the plentiful hookers who spend their nights and days by hotel pools looking for "Golly Burton" employees to service. And everyone is in love with America—or at least its money. Everything in Shteyngart's frustrated world—characters, countries, landscapes—strives for U.S.-style culture and prosperity, a quest that gives shape to the melancholy and hysteria of Shteyngart's Russia. Extending allegorical tentacles back to the Cold War and forward to the War on Terror, Shteyngart piles on plots, characters and flashbacks without losing any of the novel's madcap momentum, and the novel builds to a frantic pitch before coming to a breathless halt on the day before 9/11. The result is a sendup of American values abroad and a complex, sympathetic protagonist worthy of comparison to America's enduring literary heroes.

Journal Entry 2 by msjoanna at Columbia, Missouri USA on Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I ended up listening to this as an audiobook rather than reading the hard copy. My review of the audio is as follows:

The reader for the unabridged audio version does an excellent job. He reads Misha in a wonderful Russian accent that really brought the book alive for me. I think I just like this A Confederacy of Dunces-style humor. Misha is a fat, self-absorbed Russian Jew who desperately wants to return to New York but finds himself instead trapped by visa problems and attempting to obtain a Belgian passport from a corrupt consulate in Absurdistan, a former Russian state. Hilarity ensues as Misha gets involved in the Absurdi politics, begins dating the daughter of the head-criminal/politician of Absurdistan, and generally wanders around spouting philosophy learned at "Accidental College."

Shteyngart doesn't always manage the humor of the book and sometimes the sex scenes got tiring, but there were enough good moments to make this a really fun novel. He manages to satire hipsters, multiculturalism, post-Soviet states, Russia, and, of course, the United States, Haliburton, and more. At the same time, there is an underlying message about the American dream and the desire of the rest of the world to get a piece of what America is selling.

I'm now passing this along as a birthday gift through the Birthday Exchange over at Book Obsessed.

Journal Entry 3 by msjoanna at Columbia, Missouri USA on Friday, January 14, 2011

Released 13 yrs ago (1/14/2011 UTC) at Columbia, Missouri USA


Mailed to a birthday exchange partner from Book Obsessed.

I'm a bit of a screw up, so the books I sent aren't the ones that I'd intended for you (they were the ones intended for purple-pixie). But I hope you might be interested in these anyway since they're heading to you. I'm also sending you one from your wishlist separately.

Journal Entry 4 by perfect-circle at Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear United Kingdom on Monday, January 24, 2011
Part of my fab birthday package from msjoanna. Maybe not intended for me, but it looks good and is definitely something I'd read, so thank you!

Released 11 yrs ago (4/27/2013 UTC) at Newbiggin Maritime Centre⚓️ in Newbiggin-By-The-Sea, Northumberland United Kingdom


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