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Absurdistan

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3.31  ·  Rating details ·  12,895 ratings  ·  1,646 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 May 2nd 2006)
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Average rating 3.31  · 
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 ·  12,895 ratings  ·  1,646 reviews


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Jack
Aug 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 13, 2007 rated it liked it
"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
Cam
Aug 17, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeffrey
Aug 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Ed
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
M  F
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Daniel
Oct 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Ryan
Feb 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Joe Arencibia
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Ana
When I began reading this book, I was very skeptical with regards to how much I was going to like it. But here I am, giving a four star rating, because this has been one of the most absurd, yet funny, rides I've been on in a long time.

If anyone here read my review on "The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of his Window" (or something along those lines, I haven't checked the title of that work in a long time), you will know that I am definitely not a big fan of absurd literature in its most a
...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
Bob Newman
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-fiction
Everything Has Its Limits

Dear Jerry,
I've never visited your former country, though my grandparents did manage to escape the sour smell of its herring and poverty for the streets of America which smelled of ___________ [fill in your own description, you're better at it than I am]. Still, I've spent the last twenty-six years working with other, newer escapees. You've definitely got your thumb (or some other part) on the pulse of Russian Jews and no doubt on the Russian new rich class too. I'd lik
...more
Margaret
Jun 29, 2015 marked it as abandoned
I don't know why Gary Shteyngart doesn't interest me. He has a unique voice, interesting plot going on, but ultimately, every time I pick up one of his I feel bored. I have a similar experience with Chuck Palahniuk, and while these two authors are very different, they both have a specific voice and every one of their novels sounds and reads exactly the same. A lot of absurdity, unlikable characters saying and doing weird things, a whiny, misanthropic tone--and none of it feels real to me, none o ...more
Ian
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Tommy
Dec 06, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Daniel
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literature
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
Sharyl
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads, chuckles
Gary Shteyngarts's Absurdistan is very clever, and has some very funny moments. Misha Vainberg reminded me somewhat of Ignatius Reilly, from Confederacy of Dunces...anyway, this was interesting, engaging, and funny. A good one to finish on April Fools' Day...


Steve
May 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Rarely have I read a book where the novel itself so much resembles its primary character. Absurdistan is the story of Misha Vainberg, a morbidly obese, puerile, self-loathing, genital-obsessed, bloated man-child. Most of those descriptions can be applied to Absurdistan, too.

Misha is the son of modern-day Russian privilege, holder of a fortune handed down from his refusenik-turned-gangster father. He went to an American college, he's obsessed with hiphop culture and smitten with his Bronx girlfr
...more
Charles Matthews
Dec 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Never judge a book by its title, but you can bet that a novel called Absurdistan is not going to be subtle or take things seriously. And Gary Shteyngart's second novel is pretty much what you'd expect from the title: a broad satire on the current geopolitical scene.

Mr. Shteyngart, who was born in what was then Leningrad and came to the United States at the age of 7, made a well-received debut four years ago with The Russian Debutante's Handbook, a bumptious and bawdy look at expatriate Russians
...more
Stewart
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sheri
Aug 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mike
Jan 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Cyrus
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dorothy
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Morgan
Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Summer
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was given this as a gift by my brother's ex-girlfriend a year and a half ago. I think my guilt over not reading it before now made me persevere.

Somehow I finished the book, despite being equally repulsed and bored by it. I really did appreciate Shteyngart's use of language, which is why I have opted for two stars rather than one. I know that this is classified as a satire, but I felt that Shteyngart was making his characters such irritating cliches that I wanted to commit violent acts against
...more
Lemar
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Often immigrants to the U.S. revel in it's charms, opportunities and diversity and reawaken our own appreciation. This is one aspect of this marvelous novel which celebrates New York by seeing it from afar. The archetypes established by Los Angeles and New York inform the goals of many of the book's characters. Shteyngart is achingly funny in exposing human life complete with our petty desires and grand benevolent impulses. This is a 21st century book that achieves this distinction by bringing h ...more
Thara
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 wro
...more
Diana
Mar 27, 2011 rated it liked it
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 that the b
...more
Christian Lincoln
May 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
in the spirit of confederacy of dunces with a russian mafia, and woody allen bent.
super funny, and very well written.
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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.

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