- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 3, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812971671
- ISBN-13: 978-0812971675
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Absurdistan: A Novel Paperback – April 3, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
At the center of Shteyngart's rollicking tale of the ridiculousness of life in post-Soviet Central Asia is Misha Vainberg, an obese, extremely wealthy young Russian man stuck in Absurdistan, an imaginary republic that mirrors the striving but backward real "stans" of the world. Unable to get a visa back to the U.S., where he went to college and has an ex-girlfriend from the Bronx ghetto, Misha instead must fend for his life as a civil war erupts in the tiny country, to the concern of almost no one else in the world. Arte Johnson gamely tackles multiple accents, but the brilliant free-for-all of Shteyngart's wordplay, which tumbles out with delightful ease on the page, sometimes trips him up. The stumbles disrupt the engrossing tale of the failures, frustrations and hilarity that result from Absurdistan's ardent pursuit of a Western-style modernity for which it is ill-prepared. Listeners will still be swept up in Misha's neurotic, self-centered but endearing narration and pleasantly startled by his spot-on observations of 21st century life in both Central Asia and America, but they will wish this production did better justice to Shteyngart's facility with language and the novel's crazy antics.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
In his rambunctious follow-up to The Russian Debutante's Handbook (2002), Shteyngart explores the disillusionment surrounding the creation of sudden democracy. Despite its historical bent, Absurdistan is more a cultural and political satire than a work of geopolitical fiction. Critics agree that Shteyngart is an inventive, witty writer, whose self-defeating hero and dark humor tempered with pessimistic social realism rarely fail to entertain. Shteyngart's humor may have been more effective in smaller doses; the plot falls apart in the last third of the novel; and the sheer number of names and references can overwhelm. If Absurdistan sometimes goes too far over the top, it masks its painful global issues not far beneath its surface. <BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
Misha is obscenely obese, uncontrollably and unabashedly gluttonous, an alcoholic with a cringe-worthy lack of self-control, slightly-criminal, a student of the Marie-Antoinette School of Rich and Ignorant, and a curious, well-meaning, often-loveably oaf. In short, Misha is America.
Unforunately, Misha wasn't born in America, and he finds himself struggling to get back to New York after his wealthy gangster father kills an Oklahoma businessman and the entire Vainburg family is barred re-entry from his beloved New York, and from his actual beloved, a round-bottomed, foul-mouthed stripper with a heart-after-gold, Rouenna.
His adventures take him to Absurdistan, an ex-soviet state fractured by religious sectarian issues borne from laughable theological debate, overrun with Halliburton contractors, and absolutely lacking in that promised international currency, oil. Misha stumbles into the nascent civil war, and becoming enmeshed with the most corrupt characters by means of his honourable - if misplaced - intentions and his easily-swayed sex-drive.
Will Misha manage to detach himself from elite Absurdis pinching his every roll of lard? Will he manage to steal back his Rouenna from that god-awful, classless professor Jerry Shteynfarb? Those questions drive this contemporary reflection on the true absurdity of war, love, and INS.
My favourite book of 2012.
IF the book had been edited, I would say this. I don't blame Shteyngart. He writes some seriously hilarious stuff in here, even going so far as to posit the masterminds behind the Iraq war. (Who ever thought they'd read a comic novel featuring Halliburton?!) A good editor would have smoothed out Shteyngart's witticisms or, at the least, directed them in a different style. What should have been an overarching comedic theme winds up being a set of disjointed one-liners that are, at best, as another reviewer put it "Self-deprecating." Perhaps another way to express my distaste (though it may work for you) is to say that parts of this book made me feel like I was reading a script for a sequel to "Borat." With a decent edit, I would have easily placed this in the 5-star realm and added it to my own personal canon of great humorous literature.
Does that mean I would not recommend this novel? Hell no! It is truly awesome, and the work of a writer I'm sure we will be hearing much more of in the future. Shteyngart is a master of voice and character. No one is saved from the sweet cruelty of his pen. Our protagonist is a big fat jerk, but he's a lovable Train-Wreck of a big fat jerk, and one that we somehow pull for in the end. Not since O'Toole's Ignatius J. Reilly have we seen this class of unlikely protagonist.
All that said, is this a book for everyone? No. I can see where many people would not understand the humor. A reader who has an understanding of world events and geography will certainly benefit from that knowledge in regard to this novel.
I have spoken.
He becomes embroiled with gangsters of all styles - from expansive dictators to American contractors seeking the spoils of conflict. The targets of Shteyngart's satire are wide but deep. Each character is bizarre and memorable. From his "manservant", Timofey to his ghetto-ripened sweetheart, Rouenna.
It's a strange, smart trip that poignantly ends on September 11, 2001, giving a look into a new era in history that can often be summarized in one word: Absurd.
[To give some legitimacy to this review, I must point out a flaw. The flaw is Shteyngart's nerdiness. It comes through often: in the jaunts into hip-hop lingo, in the zany corporate caricatures. For example, a background character by the name of Gary Shteynfarb lurks in the novel - a kind of lascivious, pompous alter ego for the writer. Yeah, we get the joke. Funny...nerd....]