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Absurdistan

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3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  9,930 ratings  ·  1,390 reviews
Open Absurdistan and meet outsize Misha Vainberg, son of the 1,238th-richest man in Russia, lover of large portions of food and drink, lover and inept performer of rap music, and lover of a South Bronx Latina whom he longs to rejoin in New York City, if only the American INS will grant him a visa. But it won't, because Misha's late Beloved Papa whacked an Oklahoma business ...more
Paperback, 333 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2006)
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Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoyevskyAnna Karenina by Leo TolstoyThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Best Russian Literature
97th out of 383 books — 1,420 voters
Love Is Never Past Tense... by Janna YeshanovaLove Is Never Past Tense... by Janna YeshanovaLove Is Never Past Tense... by Janna YeshanovaThe Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary ShteyngartAbsurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
Ex-Soviet Immigrant Fiction
4th out of 33 books — 44 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jack
I finished this book only because I paid full price for it. It was not funny and the self-absorption of the main character, Misha, was tiresome to say the least. Repetitious sex, gluttonous eating and lame political satire do not make a funny book. I hated this book, and feel absurd for having read the entire thing. Maybe I missed the point, some political and cultural satire, but I cannot believe its cover blurbs that cite so many newspapers naming it among their top ten books of the year.
Dave-O
"Absurdistan" is a very self-aware book. This hybrid of "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "Fight Club" the book is calculated and scathing in its language. With one swipe, Gary Shteyngart brings hipsters, academics, politicians, MBAs, history and consumerism to a palatable middle-brow level. Which is just where the 300 pound anti-hero Misha needs them to be.

At its best "Absurdistan" is clever to the nth degree. Misha sees the world as it is, stripped of marketing gimmicks to the often ugly misogynis
...more
Jeffrey
Absurdistan is a few different novels at once. Along the way Gary Shteyngart uses sex, drugs, and violence to present constant dicotomies of pleasure and pain, and hope and despair. There are quite a few sex scenes that are kinky in a humorous and even strangely endearing way. And then there is sex that is the sort only offered or taken part in because of desperation and despair. These moments are nauseating. There is a very entertaining drug scene in which the protagonist, Vainberg, is very hi ...more
Cam
This disaster of a book is as senselessly profane as it is painful to read. While surely some measure of artistry was necessary to have stretched such an uninspired satire into 333-pages of filth, only a true dullard would find occasion to be impressed.

Shteyngart's aptly titled story of Absurdistan is told from the perspective of a morbidly obese pig-man who possesses the intellect of a lobotomized chihuahua. This vacuous ogre of a protagonist, Misha Vainberg, dawdles away life by lavishing ove
...more
Ed
Dec 10, 2007 Ed rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the political activist that burbles and groans just under the surface of your skin
Shelves: popularstuff
This struggles only in how it starts and how it ends. Now I don't need a bow, ribbon, road signs, and a pat on the head when I read, but he soapboxed his way through this allegory, and it needed something firmer coming out the other side. It blurs at the edges and you're left nowhere when you spent all this time grounded in a very specific, real "somewhere." If you put in all that effort to bring us with you, keeping us tightly wrapped in this "Iraq" stand-in, you can't just let us drop into a v ...more
Daniel
Oct 25, 2007 Daniel rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like reality TV and schedenfreude.
There's satire and then there's books in which everybody is horrible. "Absurdistan" is one of the latter, I think. It's about Misha, an emotionally crippled, morbidly obese Russian oligarch who wants only to move to New York to be with his girlfriend. He can't though, since his obese Russian oligarch father once killed an Oklahoma businessman and now the INS won't give Misha a visa. His quest for a US visa brings him from Russia to Absurdistan, the (made-up) pearl of the Caspian Sea, where he ma ...more
M  F
Aug 14, 2007 M F rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those in need of a hearty laugh
This is laugh-out-loud hilarious, by which I mean that it literally caused me to guffaw audibly in public. Second novels are often disappointing, but this one was insightful, incisive, and timely.

Shteyngart skewers just about every ethnic group and political ideology in this whirlwind farce, and it's impossible to put down. A great airplane read, and the short chapters also make it suitable for a subway commute.

I will say this, though -- I love to read about food, and the gourmand on these page
...more
Stuart Ross
"At Accidental College, we were taught that our dreams and our beliefs were all that mattered, that the world would eventually sway to our will, fall in step with our goodness, swoon right into our delicate white arms. All those Introduction to Striptease classes (apparently each of our ridiculous bodies had been made perfect in its own way), all those Advanced Memoir seminars, all those symposiums on Overcoming Shyness and Facilitating Self-Expression. And it wasn't just Accidental College. All ...more
Ryan
If you were ever wondering what the difference was between a novel that is well written and a novel that is fun to read, you could begin your study with Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan.

(Or Heart of Darkness, for that matter.)

Don't get me wrong, I can see what The New York Times is gushing about. Unfortunately, seeing it and feeling it are two different things. Sadly, for me, it is very rarely when I am in the mood to read a satire that is as dedicated to its cleverness as Absurdistan. Although I r
...more
Will
The book starts as a pseudo-surrealist consumer comedy (channeling Evelyn Waugh, who Shteyngart name drops, but more closely related to another New York Writer: Arthur Nersesian) and slips into a tragic farce of geopolitical affairs, globalization and war a la Joseph Heller (also directly cited in the text). But of course, being written in 2006, and as the parantheticals may have indicated, it comes with the full on tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of post-post-modern literature (god I hate myself ...more
Joe Arencibia
Good political and social satire makes you look at the world a little differently, with some laughs along the way. This did not.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why this book got such critical acclaim. The humor was cheap and obvious (although sometimes actually funny) and I couldn't help feeling like Shteyngart robbed his main character from A Confederacy of Dunces, only without the keen ability to actually develop the character like Toole had (RIP).

The most annoying part was that Shtey
...more
Ian
Read this one on the strength of several great reviews...and learned never to read a book simply on the strength of several great reviews. Not poorly written, but the author's attempts at self-deprecating humor came across as more self-indulgent than anything else. The main character (an obvious riff on Ignatius Reilly) never gained my sympathy as a reader despite Shteyngart's best intentions. Overall, it simply didn't sit well with me and stopped being fun to read after the first 100 pages or s ...more
Dorothy
Aug 27, 2008 Dorothy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of good fiction
Misha Vainberg is fat. There is no doubting or denying that. He is the narrator of his story here and he reminds us of his fatness on almost every page.

He is also rich, the son of the 1238th richest man in Russia. As such he has lived a pampered life and the happiest part of that life has been spent in America. Specifically in New York.

But it is 2001 and Misha has been banned from New York, banned from America, because his father, the 1238th etc., has killed an American in Russia and now all Va
...more
Cyrus
Jan 20, 2008 Cyrus rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: obese secular russian jews who listen to hip hop, just about anyone

I thoroughly enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek, satirical coming of age tale, though it was good for different reasons than I had expected. The political satire in the book deals with the nature of geopolitics in the age of oil addiction, terrorism and a vacuum in the sort of global stability that existed in the stalemate of the cold war. I was expecting this book to be a send up of the logic of nation building, war for oil and the related issues that are so deadly important in the world now. Howeve
...more
Mike
This was a really odd book. “Absurdistan” is about Misha Vainberg, a big, fat, spoiled Russian in his late 20s who is trapped in Russia. He’s stuck there with his girlfriend Rouenna, a largish black stripper from Harlem and his best friend Alyosha-Bob who isn’t Russian but kind of pretends to be. Misha yearns to go back to the US where he attended Accidental College and had himself a botched circumcision. He’s trapped in Russia because his father, who is now dead, killed an Oklahoman man and no ...more
Morgan
Really, it boils down to the fact that this was just a boring wank-a-thon. Boring. As shit. I can see how people would be impressed with this book though, since Shteyngart can emulate all of the writing styles of every single polular Russian writer of the past two centuries. Ok, dude, I get it, you can write like Tolstoy and Nabokov, I get it. However, if you're trying to impress me with that junk, it's a wasted gesture, since the people that get it are the same people who have already read Dost ...more
matt
(Almost) non-stop brilliant. I was skeptical at first because I thought he was going to be an over-hyped "satirical" Gen-Xer kinda thing. I figured it would be good and everything, but when the blurbs on the back seem to hyperventilate I get antsy.

Nope! Wrong again! This thing pulled me in by the ears and I haven't been the same since.

His satire is raucous, raw, witty, considered, cosmopolitan, and takes on all comers. Dopey liberals (like myself) and sinister corporate Conservative conglomerate
...more
Diana
Alright. People say this book is "Confederacy of Dunces" meets "Fight Club." There is definitely also the gentle poking-fun-of-foreigners'-English-for-humorous-effect of "Everything is Illuminated," and the over-the-top language of "Lolita," as well as the feel of Dr. Strangelove. Kind of a weird book.

To me, it progressed as follows:

Bizarre, and difficult to get into ->
Engaging and funny ->
Very weird (drug trip) ->
Unsatisfying.


The dramatic irony building up throughout (the implication t
...more
Peter Conti
He's my favorite writer to debut in the 21st C. The book is even funnier than his other two. He mocks political correctness and doesn't walk on egg shells-- he understands that most ppl want a good laugh even if it means writing honestly. He's not a fraud. Prob wouldn't recommend this for the emasculated victims of feminism and political correctness.
Tommy
Dec 06, 2007 Tommy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: silly people
Fat Russian explores the Middle East a la Confederacy of Dunces, except not quite as charming and a bit more overbearing. Bits with Brooklyn fling quite comical; most other parts too heavy-handed to be laughable.
Christian Lincoln
in the spirit of confederacy of dunces with a russian mafia, and woody allen bent.
super funny, and very well written.
Sheri
Aug 13, 2013 Sheri rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: race
I must first say that I just hate reviewing books that I have given 1 star ratings. I know some reviewers out there enjoy the scathing review. I, personally, just feel like it is yet another an imposition on my time by a novel that was not worth my time in the first place.

That said, I think my least favorite piece of this novel (and that is saying a lot) is that it ends on 9/11/01. The main character is trying to get out of the Middle East and into NYC despite having been banned by INS and he en
...more
Stewart
It is difficult enough, for a native speaker/writer of a language, to attain the skills to have his or her writing published. How much more difficult for an immigrant who has English as a second language. I am thinking of Vladimir Nabokov, Isak Dineson (Karen Blixen), Joseph Conrad, Billy Wilder, Maxine Hong Kingston, Arthur Koestler, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anais Nin, and Chinua Achebe, among others.
Add to that distinguished list Gary Shteyngart. Born in what was then the Soviet Union, Shteyngart cam
...more
Daniel
According to the New York Times, this is one of the ten best books of the year. What a sad year for literature was 2007!

I wanted very much to like this, and there were moments when I smiled at a phrase or passage or even a bit of biting satire, but over-all this was nothing more than literary masturbation ... an author trying to show off how clever he is rather than actually engaging a reader in a story. And, quite frankly, the story doesn't even begin until nearly a third of the way into the bo
...more
Daniel
Brief summary:

Vainberg, a rotund, melancholic Russian man, lives a life of misadventure. Haunted by his bygone days as an American college student, he frequently recalls attending "Accidental College" (aka Oberlin) where he studied Multiculturalism. The main character from "The Russian Debutante's Handbook" makes a cameo appearance, shared with the author himself - ("Shteynfarb"). But Vainberg wastes no love on either, for he is trapped in the former USSR while his countrymen remain in the west,
...more
Thara
Misha, the main character, is a Russian and watered-down version of Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces. Read that instead: it's one of the funniest & most brilliant books you will ever read. Absurdistan, on the other hand, is entertaining, but not a laugh riot.

Shteyngart teeters the line between vulgar and funny, often landing on the more-vulgar-than-funny side. I also have beef with the author's self-satire, which comes in the form of an often referenced nemesis in America who
...more
Edmole
A book published in 2006 about the world just before 9/11. Oligarch's sperm wriggling around in a complex world whose complexity was about to spill out into the simple bliss of the West's nineties. A world where power was all American and the citizens and denizens of foreign lands looked over at America's various inane and insane cultures and corporations and smacked their lips, working out how to get a slice.

A relentlessly smart, sarcastic, hyper intelligent book that I've seen around for 8 yea
...more
Erma Odrach
Am not a fan of this title and don't think it deserves all the acclaim it got. A lot of it was repetative, the tone seemed forced, and the narration was self-indulgent.

However, the clashes between capitalism and communism and glimpses into modern-day Russia made it worth reading. It was also funny at times.
Liana
Hella-funny, outlandish and insanely intelligent.
Paul
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Gary Shteyngart is an American writer born in Leningrad, USSR (he alternately calls it "St. Leningrad" or "St. Leninsburg"). Much of his work is satirical and relies on the invention of elaborately fictitious yet somehow familiar places and times.

His first novel, The Russian Debutante's Handbook (2002), received the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award.
More about Gary Shteyngart...
Super Sad True Love Story The Russian Debutante's Handbook Little Failure Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story: Two Bestselling Novels A Hero of Our Time

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“Life for young American college graduates is a festive affair. Free of having to support their families, they mostly have gay parties on rooftops where they reflect at length upon their quirky electronic childhoods and sometimes kiss each other on the lips and neck.” 7 likes
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