Excerpt from The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Tsar of Love and Techno


by Anthony Marra

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra X
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 352 pages

    Jul 2016, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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The Tsar of Love and Techno
st. petersburg, 2010; kirovsk, 1990s


Galina called to say she had bought me a first-class ticket to Moscow, and then she said that my brother was dead. I couldn't believe my luck. I'd never even received first-class mail since the postal service introduced it six years ago, let alone a first-class train compartment. As for Kolya, well, he'd been dead for years.

She lived in a top-floor penthouse with a chest-tightening view, lined with thick white carpets that may have been polar bear pelts. Wealth announces itself with what's easy to break and impossible to clean. The chairs were all curvy works of art that turned sitting into yoga exercises. Jasmine and plum perfumed the air. A crooning tenor went into histrionics on the Bose. Dozy bronze Buddhas meditated on the bookshelf. I was wondering if artsy-fartsy types in Tibet fetishize crucifixes when Galina returned, her loosely tied kimono yawning at the chest and knees.

"My. God. Who is your hairstylist?" she asked.

In truth, I've never had a haircut that's fit my head. One-Eyed Onegin used to give my head the once-over with the clippers, but depth perception isn't his strong suit. Plus I'm pretty sure he uses them to shave his pubes.

"I don't really have one."

"Whatever you're doing, keep doing it. Very avant-garde."

If a stopped clock is right twice a day, a bad haircut is right twice a decade.

It had been longer than that since I'd last seen Galina, since my brother left for his first tour and she became a celebrity and they never saw each other again. It's easy to forget what someone really looks like when you see them everywhere. On billboards her face is airbrushed as smooth and shiny as an inner organ, and she has a bust-waist-hips ratio that is found in nature only inside the mind of a Dr. Frankenstein with Adobe Photoshop training. But the Galina standing there in a slab of noon light, made up and manicured, in a fancy kimono that ten million silkworms gave their lives for, looked more person-like than the Galina of the billboard, tabloid, or screen.

"It's been the most brutal morning, Alexei," she said. People who have it easy are always telling you how hard it is.

"You've been following the earthquake in Indonesia?" I asked.

"What? No, a trollop from the Royal Shakespeare Company landed the Russian seductress-spy role in the new Bond film. Probably shagged Leo the Lion to get the part."

"I'm sure you'd have gotten it if anyone in Hollywood had seen Deceit Web," I offered encouragingly. Her gaze dive-bombed to the floor. Some people you just can't cheer up.

"I know I should count my blessings, but that's what accountants are for."

"Must be weird being you."

"It's a strange thing, Alexei. When we were teenagers, I'd never even imagined living in a penthouse with a chauffeur and a chef and a butler. But now that I have it, it's nothing. Am I awful for saying that?"

"Just a little."

"Life's a little awful, I'm afraid. Pitiful creatures spinning on a senseless rock around a dying sun in a cold and uncaring cosmos and they still won't give me the Bond movie. Fighting over matches while the world burns, no?"

"Sure," I said. But I was trying to decide if it was rude to take a fifth konfeti when she still hadn't taken one. Nope, definitely not.

"So how've you been? You're not still in university, are you?"

"I am," I beamed. Through sheer grit and tireless effort, I'd managed to stretch a five-year philology degree into its tenth annum. It was a loaves-and-fishes variety of miracle. The universe may be cold, dark, and indifferent, but in university you get to take club drugs all night and sleep all day. "I'm working on my thesis paper. On Odessa Tales. I have my title, 'Babel's Babbles,' but that's about it."

Excerpted from The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. Copyright © 2015 by Anthony Marra. Excerpted by permission of Hogarth Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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