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Absurdistan: Book summary and reviews of Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

Absurdistan

A Novel

by Gary Shteyngart

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart X
Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
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  • Published May 2006
    352 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The result is a sendup of American values abroad and a complex, sympathetic protagonist worthy of comparison to America's enduring literary heroes." - Publishers Weekly

"Who else could tie together nineteenth-century Russian literature, hip-hop, and twenty-first-century oil politics and strife?" - Booklist

"Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries." - Library Journal

"[H]is characters are too grotesque to prompt much sympathy. ... Leaves a very sour aftertaste - but that's probably the point." - Kirkus

"The novel is grounded in a noble literary lineage. You can hear echoes of Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, with its glorification of size and appetites. Misha is a man of leisure on the order of Goncharov's Oblomov, who spends most of his time in bed. Although it's not written with as much compassion as A Confederacy of Dunces (justifiably so -- do we need to sympathize with the oligarchy?), Absurdistan exhibits a similar sense of humor mixed with sharp insights into the absurdity of the modern world." - The Washington Post

"Compared with most young novelists his age, who tend toward cutesy involution, Shteyngart is a giant mounted on horseback. He ranges more widely, sees more sweepingly and gets where he's going with far more aplomb. His Absurdistan, to Americans, may seem amusingly far away at first, but the longer one spends there, hunkered down with Misha in a hotel room high above the rocket fire, the closer and more recognizable it gets. Absurdsvanï is far, but Absurdistan is near." - The New York Times

"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

This information about Absurdistan was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Gary Shteyngart Author Biography

Gary Shteyngart is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir Little Failure (a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist) and the novels Super Sad True Love Story (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Absurdistan, and The Russian Debutante's Handbook (winner of the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction). His books regularly appear on best-of lists around the world and have been published in thirty countries.

Link to Gary Shteyngart's Website

Name Pronunciation
Gary Shteyngart: SHTAYN-gahrt (first syllable rhymes with mine, second with heart)

Other books by Gary Shteyngart at BookBrowse
  • The Russian Debutante's Handbook jacket
  • Super Sad True Love Story jacket
  • Little Failure jacket

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