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Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

Absurdistan (edition 2007)

by Gary Shteyngart

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,817None3,836 (3.29)71
Authors:Gary Shteyngart
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2007), Edition: later printing, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:listsofbests to get
Tags:unowned, listsofbests, nytimes best books 96-08

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Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

(8) 2007 (14) 21st century (22) America (8) American (19) American fiction (10) American literature (23) comedy (8) contemporary fiction (9) Eastern Europe (9) fiction (319) humor (61) Jewish (14) Jews (7) literature (15) Middle East (14) New York (8) novel (66) oil (12) own (11) politics (10) read (40) read in 2007 (7) Russia (116) Russian (21) satire (75) to-read (39) unread (26) USA (12) war (9)
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English (64)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
This book fell way short of my expectations after Super Sad True Love Story and Little Failure. Absurdistan protagonist, Misha Vainberg, is a rich, grotesquely obese Russian I found totally unlikeable. It follows the familiar ugly man only sleeps with beautiful women trope. Sure Rouenna his Latina lover from the Bronx is after his money, but she seems to genuinely like him too for no apparent reason. His later lover Nana Nanabragovna doesn't need his money, so I guess were supposed to believe she using him for political reasons. Whatever. The female characters are one-dimensional sex toys for the most part. Is it too much to ask for some character development in a political satire? I don't think so. I think Shteyngart is up to the task of a complex, humorous, political novel with real characters.

Then there's Absurdistan. I fail to understand why I'm supposed to care about this make-believe country's ludicrous politics. It turns out it's all about oil money and post-war contracting money. Blow 'em up so we have to rebuild 'em. And corruption. Everyone is corrupt. But Misha is such a moral relativist he hardly seems to care.

So why did I give it even three stars? Well it reads like stand-up comedy sometimes. Shteyngart is really funny. He's like Mr. one-liner. There's some parts about the Jews that are hilarious. To paraphrase since I don't have my copy handy: they polled 30 Jews in a bar in Maryland for name recognition of these basic Jewish concepts: Torah, Mikvah, Talmud, Holocaust, Whitefish, Kabbalah. Only Whitefish scored higher than Holocaust. Proving that a Holocaust museum in Absurdistan would be wildly popular. I'm probably telling it badly, but Shteyngart is funny. I did make it through the whole book despite being sometimes disgusted by Misha and his lovers and sometimes bored by the politics. ( )
  kylekatz | Dec 18, 2013 |
Hilarious until it flags out near the end. ( )
  Periodista | Jul 7, 2013 |
i really like you gary shteyngart, but that was sort of excruciating.
( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 10, 2013 |
A great book. One of the funniest and strangest and most difficult narrators I've read. Great settings. Interesting characters. Funny, ironic writing. Pathos. Relevance. Subversiveness. ( )
  malrubius | Apr 2, 2013 |
audiobook - ick. I listened to this almost all day today because I just wanted to get it OVER WITH. I love Russian novels, and the points the author tries to make are worthwhile. Russia is run by corrupt gangsters. The fall of the Soviet Union left a vacuum which is being filled by corruption loosely disguised as Capitalism. Corrupt people are corrupt. US Department of Defense contracting companies are corrupt (I feel like I should take personal offense to that . . .). Europe is corrupt. Corruption.

Misha is a 350 pound secular Jew with half a penis who is the son of a rich Russian (i.e. gangster) and lives in NYC with his trashy girlfriend he met at a "titty bar". He goes back to St. Petersburg for his father's birthday only to find out that his father has murdered a US citizen and thus the entire family is forbidden from getting a US visa. Some spoiler-y stuff happens, then Misha devises a plan to get back to the US. He has a friend who has a friend who knows the super, super corrupt Belgian ambassador to Absurdistan (a fictional former Soviet state "next to Iran"). Misha travels to Absurdistan and meets with the ambassador who gives Misha a Belgian passport in exchange for a buttload of money. And then a civil war breaks out between two the Orthodox Christian sects that comprise the population (they're fighting over whether Jesus' footrest on the cross should tilt to the left or the right), and Misha can't leave Absurdistan. While he is stuck there, he learns all about their country. They're basically run by Halliburton (the US defense contracting company), which is corrupt. Misha is taken in by a rich "Absurdi" family; they're corrupt too. The end.

There are much better ways to get these messages across. Misha is unlikable and unrelatable and I really could not make myself care about him or his problems. And I really, really, really could have done without the copious descriptions of Misha's half-amputated, infected penis. Thanks. ( )
  norabelle414 | Jan 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Like a victorious wrestler, this novel is so immodestly vigorous, so burstingly sure of its barbaric excellence, that simply by breathing, sweating and standing upright it exalts itself.
In the end Misha gives new meaning to that archetype of Russian literature — the "superfluous man" — while Mr. Shteyngart's novel manages to seem equally beside the point.

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Gary Shteyngartprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, ArteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812971671, Paperback)

Absurdistan is not just a hilarious novel, but a record of a particular peak in the history of human folly. No one is more capable of dealing with the transition from the hell of socialism to the hell of capitalism in Eastern Europe than Shteyngart, the great-great grandson of one Nikolai Gogol and the funniest foreigner alive.”
–Aleksandar Hemon

From the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook comes the uproarious and poignant story of one very fat man and one very small country
Meet Misha Vainberg, aka Snack Daddy, a 325-pound disaster of a human being, son of the 1,238th-richest man in Russia, proud holder of a degree in multicultural studies from Accidental College, USA (don’t even ask), and patriot of no country save the great City of New York. Poor Misha just wants to live in the South Bronx with his hot Latina girlfriend, but after his gangster father murders an Oklahoma businessman in Russia, all hopes of a U.S. visa are lost.
Salvation lies in the tiny, oil-rich nation of Absurdistan, where a crooked consular officer will sell Misha a Belgian passport. But after a civil war breaks out between two competing ethnic groups and a local warlord installs hapless Misha as minister of multicultural affairs, our hero soon finds himself covered in oil, fighting for his life, falling in love, and trying to figure out if a normal life is still possible in the twenty-first century.
With the enormous success of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Gary Shteyngart established himself as a central figure in today’s literary world—“one of the most talented and entertaining writers of his generation,” according to The New York Observer. In Absurdistan, he delivers an even funnier and wiser literary performance. Misha Vainberg is a hero for the new century, a glimmer of humanity in a world of dashed hopes.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:35 -0400)

Hoping to get out of Russia and return to his adopted home in the U.S., Misha Vainberg, the obese son of a wealthy Russian, makes his way to Absurdsvani, a small unstable country on the brink of civil war.

(summary from another edition)

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