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Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart

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At thirty years of age, Misha Borisovich Vainberg is grossly overweight at three hundred twenty-five pounds. Whatever his physical shortcomings, the son of the 1,238th-richest person in Russia is not in want of respect. Misha was educated in the United States at Accidental College, where he learned to think of himself as a multiculturalist. He also picked up the nickname of Snack Daddy, a girlfriend from the Bronx, and a penchant for rap and the culture, such as it is, of hip-hop.

Misha finds himself wishing to return to the West but unable to get an American visa and not exactly welcome in the EU. A scheme is hatched to remedy the situation and Misha goes with his friend Alosha-Bob and manservant Timofey to the Republic of Aburdsvanï, known less formally as Absurdistan. As it appears that Misha will finally overcome the hurdles before him, things turn complicated.

Shteyngart's Absurdistan seems a world away from the English readers of the novel but is entirely believable as a former Soviet republic, stuck somewhere in Asia, tribal and unable to surmount its ancient prejudices and rivalries. Only when Misha has to navigate his surroundings without Alosha-Bob there to guide him do we discover just how foreign the place is.

The novel is a remarkable work, a look at the world from a very different perspective. It is in turns hilarious, pathetic, broody, and disturbing—a true if unflattering reflection of much of the world around us.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2007-12-31 09:25 AM
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