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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satire gets no better then this.
What a fantastic book. I bought it to keep me company during a 5 week trip to Belarus, unfortunately the book was far better then the trip. The story of Misha bear, the son of a dead oligarch who inherits his fathers wealth and heads south to Absurdistan in order to somehow head West to his great love New York.

Absurdistan ( read Azerbaijan )is a corrupt, poor...
Published on 11 Nov 2007 by Mr. B. Rich-swift

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Things that make you go, hmmmm.
'Absurdistan' is the type of book that leaves you wondering, "What was the point of that?" Initially drawing me to this book was the title- 'Absurdistan' (you gotta love a book that loudly declares itself absurd) -and it was, right from the beginning. Gary Shteyngart gives you moments of complete and total hilarity and ridiculousness, and you can see that he is acutely...
Published on 31 July 2007 by maya j


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Things that make you go, hmmmm., 31 July 2007
By 
maya j (Quail Crossing) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
'Absurdistan' is the type of book that leaves you wondering, "What was the point of that?" Initially drawing me to this book was the title- 'Absurdistan' (you gotta love a book that loudly declares itself absurd) -and it was, right from the beginning. Gary Shteyngart gives you moments of complete and total hilarity and ridiculousness, and you can see that he is acutely aware of the human condition. He uses this to his full advantage in describing scenes and characters, but eventually, it all dissolves into one big mess with no cohesive plot.

To begin with, the main character, Misha Vainberg, is a morbidly obese Russian whose father was the 1,238th richest man in Russia. Misha is absolutely obsessed with eating, and the descriptions of Misha taking a meal are nothing less than repulsive. Misha finds himself in all sorts of situations that, although they are not supposed to be funny, are made so by his sarcasm and self-deprecating observations. His comical meandering through life begins when, as a young adult, his father forces him to become circumcised, and it all goes very wrong. After enduring this, while in the US attending college (Accidental College!), Misha meets the love of his life, Rouenna. Rouenna is a rough-edged, Bronx-ghetto chick with a flair for commentary and a love for her 325 pound "bobo" (Misha). His love for Rouenna blankets his entire life with a sense of longing and sadness, as he cannot leave Russia to return to her in the US. After his father dies (and after a brief dalliance with his step-mother), Misha attempts to leave Russia and return to the US to his large-love Rouenna. To facilitate this, he becomes a Belgian citizen, and it's from here his escapades begin in earnest. In his attempts to flee Russia, Misha is taken to the country of Absurdistan by his American best friend, Aloysha-Bob. That effort is thwarted because a civil war breaks out in Absurdistan, and Aloysha-Bob leaves on the next flight out, while Misha is stuck in this new country with only a Belgian Visa and some hookers to keep him company. As you can see, it just keeps getting more and more absurd!

Throughout `Absurdistan', Gary Shteyngart inserts political musings in the form of Halliburton and Iraq references, and his ability to take American colloquialisms and turn them into bits of farce is fantastic. Throughout his trials and tribulations, we get Misha-isms (he refers to his hands as "big squishies") which open a window into his soul as a self-loathing and emotional wreck of a guy. All told, Misha and the other characters are very well-developed in their bizarre way, and you really do feel for them. As the story goes on, however, the plot sort of dissolves, and by the end, there really is no plot. At the conclusion, you're left holding a bag of absurd references, going, "What just happened?" It's worth reading if only for the amazing and wry insight Gary Shteyngart has concerning his home country (Russia), his current country (the US), and people in general. It's an interesting combination of farce and irony, yet it sort of leaves you going, hmmmmm?
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satire gets no better then this., 11 Nov 2007
By 
This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
What a fantastic book. I bought it to keep me company during a 5 week trip to Belarus, unfortunately the book was far better then the trip. The story of Misha bear, the son of a dead oligarch who inherits his fathers wealth and heads south to Absurdistan in order to somehow head West to his great love New York.

Absurdistan ( read Azerbaijan )is a corrupt, poor country reliant on oil wealth. It is into this world of corruption,intrigue and American king making that Misha and his deformed khui head. I read this book and was constantly thinking how clever the author is, cleverer then Rushdie at his best. There are poor reviews but I can only think that it went over peoples heads because I cannot fault it. Maybe my knowledge and love of Russia/Russians helped me enjoy it more then the average reader. Who knows and who cares? Not me, I loved it! Read it and you will think "WOW!"
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but a decent absurd farce that keeps you reading, 16 July 2008
By 
Mr. Stuart Bruce "DonQuibeats" (Cardiff, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
Maya J's review is spot on so I won't attempt to better that description of the plot points or the novel's blend of satire and farce, but I did want to add a couple of points to it.

That review overlooks the Jewish themes that run throughout the novel, and Jewish behaviour is one of the key targets for Shteyngart's absurd satire.

Finally there was something a bit too familiar about Misha Vainberg, who reminded me a good deal too much of the central character in Bo Fowler's "The Astrological Diary of God". Although Fowler's book targets religion and worship rather than Russian and US cultures, there are several parallels. Ultimately though I would recommend "The Astrological Diary Of God" more than this because it has a greater success rate when it comes to hitting the mark.

Also, it's a limp criticism I know but the ending of "Absurdistan" feels hurried and flat, and I think it's the last 10 pages or so that are the real cause of the "um... what was the point of that?" feeling that this book does give you at the end. But up until that point, it's definitely worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 8 Dec 2010
This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
I picked this book up randomly at an airport bookshop and I absolutely loved it. I would recommend it to anyone of my (and Shteyngart's)generation with a reasonably international outlook on life - particularly anyone with connections to Eastern Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East.

The reviews here haven't said much about the Jewish references in the book. They run through it all the way and I found them hilarious - Misha's proposal for a museum of Sevo-Jewish friendship was a particular high point. I live in Warsaw, where it's hard to get away from memories of the Holocaust, (and where they're currently building a museum of Polish-Jewish history) but this book provides a fascinating new take on how it may be perceived nowadays. Much more original than say, Safran Foer's maudlin novels.

As for the end of the book - which some of the reviewers here felt let down by - I was intrigued about the significance of the date, which is mentioned both at the beginning and the end. Misha gets out of Absurdistan early in the morning of September 11 2001. So we know what happens next, don't we?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very clever, very dark, 31 Dec 2007
By 
Andy (Berkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
Enjoy for the quality of the writing, the ideas, the black humour, and the cuts of deep satire.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absurdly and inexplicably good book, 5 Sep 2008
This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
This book is outside all my usual genre comfort zones, and probably everyone else's as well, but I found it outstanding, compelling, funny, shocking and moving.
I approached this book without expectations, and found it slightly baffling at first. The over-priveledged, over-weight, trash-culture-loving narrator proves, improbably enough, an immensely sympathetic character, an innocent abroad on the strangest of journeys. With a reasonably clever political plot as background, and a just-supportable blend of humour and depravity, this is essentially a positive book telling a redemptive story, about an improbably lovable man. Not like anything else I've ever read (although I'm just ordering Shteyngarts other book), a unique, unclassifiable and outstanding book. I'd reccommend giving it a try, you might hate it, but if not, there's a chance it may be the best book you've read this year. Oh, one caveat, probably not ideal for early teens or below, the various forms of effectively detailed depravity might overwhelm the humour and the imagination for the younger reader!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Comedic Fictional Masterpiece From Gary Shteyngart, 9 Aug 2008
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
"Absurdistan" is acclaimed Russian-American writer Gary Shteyngart's madcap exploration of post-Soviet Russia, chronicling its simultaneous emergence from the Socialist hell that was the Soviet Union and its simultaneous descent into the Capitalist hell of the modern, authoritarian, Russian Federation. It's also the most unlikely of literary pleasures; a dazzling, hilarious feast of sights and sounds that I found almost impossible to put down. Where can I place this rather long, quite incredible, and still extremely funny, novel? Should I even try? While "Absurdistan" has the grandeur of a vintage Tolstoy classic like "War and Peace", its emotional heart owes much, much more to both Mark Twain and the Brothers Marx for its ample doses of comic relief.

In Misha Vainberg, Gary Shteyngart offers a remarkable, if rather petulant, protagonist of Freudian portions (I am alluding of course to Lucian Freud's elaborate canvasses of stocky, rather overweight, young men of Himalayan visage and scope; not to his grandfather Sigmund's psychological notions of human behavior.). Mere months before the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks here in the United States, young Vainberg finds himself beset with terrorism both at home in Moscow, and in the oil-rich, Caspian Sea republic of Absurdistan. He's also lost his heart romantically to a young Hispanic woman from the Bronx, who allows herself to become romantically linked to a dashing young Russian-American writer of fiction (You won't believe who, and I won't even try spoiling it, but the ensuing results are quite rich in ample doses of hilarity.). Vainberg thinks he finds salvation - or does he - in the arms of a young, well-educated, Absurdistani woman, just as her country descends into chaos, terrorism and civil war. "Absurdistan" is among the funniest novels I've stumbled upon lately; a genuine literary triumph from a writer whom I met in March 2008 at the Grand Army Plaza (main branch) of the Brooklyn Public Library; someone who could be the best writer of fiction to have emerged from our prominent New York City high school, and, without question, amongst the most gifted writers of our generation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps not a masterpiece, but it's a fun read nonetheless., 10 Jun 2010
By 
A. Schmidt (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
The satirical Absurdistan is unfortunately an all too accurate account of life in the post-Soviet "-stans" of the world. The characters are exaggerated, but in a fun way. Overall an entertaining read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frustrated in his desires, 29 Oct 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
Misha Borosovich Vainberg is thirty years old, enormously fat and the son of the 1,238th richest man in Russia. He spent his teenaged years in America at Accidental College in the mid-west, and there he met the glorious Rouenna Sales (pronounced Sah-lez) and Aloysha-Bob, also of Russian descent. After college Misha went to New York with Rouenna, but on his return to St Petersburg his father was involved in the killing of a prominent Oklahoma businessman, and subsequently Misha has been unable to get a visa to go back to what he considers his true homeland - New York. Even after Misha's father is killed in a bomb-blast, the American embassy remains closed to him, and Misha's only recourse is to emigrate to the tiny state of Absurdistan where, he can buy a Belgian passport. Unfortunately, a civil war is about to break out and the melancholy and socially inept Misha seems fated to be frustrated in his desires yet again.

Shteyngart has been compared to John Kennedy Toole, whose novel A Confederacy of Dunces is unforgettably brilliant as well as comic. Absurdistan is funny too, but (and this is going to sound counter-intuitive) we get too close, we are given too much intimacy with Misha Vainberg, whose plaintiveness wears thin and of whom we see too much, indeed, see through, since he is always ready to bare his tragic Russian soul. Toole's hero was never so unguarded, so promiscuously brazen, he was a fumbling, fallible, if equally misguided individual, whereas Misha's money makes him untouchable and his greed (not just for food), brash comedy that it is, also makes him foolish.

Nevertheless, this is a good novel in the something of the same way that Joseph Heller's Catch 22, with its emphasis on paranoia and grand guignol exaggeration, is good. The comparison ends there however. It hasn't the staying power or the manic strength of Heller's vision. It is about the clash between Russia in a dying fall and America in stasis. Shteyngart gives us the voice of a bankrupt country and the longing of its people to be somewhere, almost anywhere, else.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Things that make you go, hmmmm., 31 July 2007
By 
maya j (Quail Crossing) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Absurdistan (Paperback)
'Absurdistan' is the type of book that leaves you wondering, "What was the point of that?" Initially drawing me to this book was the title- 'Absurdistan' (you gotta love a book that loudly declares itself absurd) -and it was, right from the beginning. Gary Shteyngart gives you moments of complete and total hilarity and ridiculousness, and you can see that he is acutely aware of the human condition. He uses this to his full advantage in describing scenes and characters, but eventually, it all dissolves into one big mess with no cohesive plot.

To begin with, the main character, Misha Vainberg, is a morbidly obese Russian whose father was the 1,238th richest man in Russia. Misha is absolutely obsessed with eating, and the descriptions of Misha taking a meal are nothing less than repulsive. Misha finds himself in all sorts of situations that, although they are not supposed to be funny, are made so by his sarcasm and self-deprecating observations. His comical meandering through life begins when, as a young adult, his father forces him to become circumcised, and it all goes very wrong. After enduring this, while in the US attending college (Accidental College!), Misha meets the love of his life, Rouenna. Rouenna is a rough-edged, Bronx-ghetto chick with a flair for commentary and a love for her 325 pound "bobo" (Misha). His love for Rouenna blankets his entire life with a sense of longing and sadness, as he cannot leave Russia to return to her in the US. After his father dies (and after a brief dalliance with his step-mother), Misha attempts to leave Russia and return to the US to his large-love Rouenna. To facilitate this, he becomes a Belgian citizen, and it's from here his escapades begin in earnest. In his attempts to flee Russia, Misha is taken to the country of Absurdistan by his American best friend, Aloysha-Bob. That effort is thwarted because a civil war breaks out in Absurdistan, and Aloysha-Bob leaves on the next flight out, while Misha is stuck in this new country with only a Belgian Visa and some hookers to keep him company. As you can see, it just keeps getting more and more absurd!

Throughout `Absurdistan', Gary Shteyngart inserts political musings in the form of Halliburton and Iraq references, and his ability to take American colloquialisms and turn them into bits of farce is fantastic. Throughout his trials and tribulations, we get Misha-isms (he refers to his hands as "big squishies") which open a window into his soul as a self-loathing and emotional wreck of a guy. All told, Misha and the other characters are very well-developed in their bizarre way, and you really do feel for them. As the story goes on, however, the plot sort of dissolves, and by the end, there really is no plot. At the conclusion, you're left holding a bag of absurd references, going, "What just happened?" It's worth reading if only for the amazing and wry insight Gary Shteyngart has concerning his home country (Russia), his current country (the US), and people in general. It's an interesting combination of farce and irony, yet it sort of leaves you going, hmmmmm?
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Absurdistan
Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart (Paperback - 4 Feb 2008)
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