Thursday, 2 December 2010

eighty-one.

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart (2006)

"This is a book about love. The next 338 pages are dedicated with that cloying Russian affection that passes for real warmth to my Beloved Papa, to the city of New York, to my sweet impoverished girlfriend in the South Bronx and to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This is also a book about too much love. It's a book about being had. Let me say that right away: I've been had. They used me. Took advantage of me. Sized me up. Knew right away that they had their man. If "man" is the right word."

Misha is the son of the 1238th richest man in Russia, a famous Jewish Soviet dissident. He is living a carefree life in New York after graduating from an American university when his father wants him back to St. Petersburg. While he is there, his father kills an American and Misha is denied visa to the US again. And then his father is murdered and Gary is the sole inheritor to his money. Because of his father's influence, he is guaranteed a Belgian passport, but he has to move to Absurdistan, the Norway of the Caspian Sea, to get it. And then things get really complicated for Misha.

This book is absurd and brilliant. The stereotypes are spot-on; the filthy newly rich Russians, the multicultural girlfriend from Bronx, the American investors in Absurdistan, the various Absurdi ethnic characters and the rest of the characters. I also liked how Gary Stheyngart had put himself in the book. I also loved the description of St. Petersburg (made me miss the city) and New York. He also did a great job making up an entire country and describing the every day life in the capital. And I finally learnt some new Russian swearwords!

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