Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for Absurdistan
Format:
Title:
Absurdistan
ISBN:
9781400061969

9780812971675
Edition:
First edition.
Publication:
New York : Random House, [2006]
Physical Description:
xi, 333 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
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.

"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 Debutant'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."--Publisher's website.
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Status
Searching...
FIC SHTEYNGART 2006
Searching...
Searching...
Shteyngart, G.
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

"Absurdistanis 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 ofThe Russian Debutante's Handbookcomes 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 ofThe 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 toThe New York Observer. InAbsurdistan,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.


Author Notes

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad, which is now St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1972. He moved to the United States seven years later with his family. He received a bachelor's degree in politics from Oberlin College in Ohio and an MFA in creative writing from City University of New York. His debut novel, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His other works include Absurdistan, Super Sad True Love Story, which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, and Little Failure: A Memoir. He has taught writing at Hunter College, Columbia University, and Princeton University.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly 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. (On sale May 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Kirkus Review

Disappointing follow-up to The Russian Debutante's Handbook (2001) sends another Soviet-born Jewish protagonist to another global hot spot. This time, Shteyngart's not-so-heroic hero is 30-year-old, 325-pound Misha Vainberg, son of a St. Petersburg gangster who's just been offed on the Palace Bridge. Misha would like to go back to the U.S., where he spent the 1990s happily attending college and sampling New York's multicultural delights. But now, in 2001, he can't get an American visa--there's that small matter of the Oklahoma businessman whom beloved papa iced. His only way out is a trip to the Republic of Absurdistan, where the millions he negotiated as a settlement with Papa's killer (another mobster) can buy him a Belgian passport and a ticket back to Western materialism. So Misha heads for Absurdistan, a chaotic Caucasian region populated by two warring ethnic groups plus plenty of visiting employees of Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root: It seems there's oil somewhere in them thar hills. This sticky situation degenerates into civil war as nasty as it is ludicrous. (The sardonic chapter entitled "Why the Sevo and Svan™ Don't Get Along" says it all about the stupidity of ancient grudges.) Shteyngart's eye for the comic horrors of modern life remains acute: Prostitutes at the Absurdistan Hyatt offer discounts for "Golly Burton," and the local alleged reformers are appalled by the death of a protestor at the G8 summit "just as our struggle for democracy was gaining some market share in the global media." Ugly ethnic conflict, however, makes a dicier foundation for humor than the wide-open Eastern Europe of Shteyngart's first novel (referred to here as The Russian Arriviste's Hand Job). He now seems to be aiming for a tougher statement here with the brutal murder of a local democrat, but his characters are too grotesque to prompt much sympathy. And yet again, an author relies on the fact that 9/11 is approaching to pump up his climax's suspense; at least Shteyngart spares us an actual rehash. Leaves a very sour aftertaste--but that's probably the point. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Shteyngart's second novel ( The Russian Debutante's Handbook0 , 2002, was the first) is a wild ride that follows its protagonist and narrator, Misha Vainburg, from St. Petersburg (or St. Leninsburg as he prefers to call it) to a tiny country in the Caucasus called Absurdsvani, with occasional detours via flashbacks to New York City and Misha's midwestern alma mater, Accidental College. Misha, whose life seems to be a series of outlandish adventures, continues in that manner after the murder of his wealthy gangster father. Denied a visa to return to the U.S. or even the European Union, he instead heads for Absurdsvani--Absurdistan in his eyes--to purchase a Belgian visa. There he becomes embroiled in the tiny country's volatile politics fueled by the dark forces of Halliburton, or "Golly Burton" as the Absurdistanis call it. Shteyngart's satire takes no prisoners, including himself. Who else could tie together nineteenth-century Russian literature, hip-hop, and twenty-first-century oil politics and strife? But then Misha, as he often describes himself in this very funny, very pointed book, is a multiculturalist. --Frank Caso Copyright 2006 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Fat and spoiled Misha, son of Russia's 1,238th richest man, wants to flee to America. But he tries to go by way of a small, backward country recently christened Absurdistan, which lands him in a peck of hilarious trouble. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.