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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Absurdistan - Gary Shteyngart I discovered Shteyngart reading a reportage by him from Baku and Azerbaijan on The New Yorker. That was an exilarating and yet apparently honest account of one of the most controversial post-soviet ex-Russian republics, the bird shaped one on the shores of Caspian Sea.
The same Baku and Azerbaijan on which Shteyngart has modeled his fake Svani City and Absurdistan.
Refineries, bribes, Western companies billboards, Radissons, Park Hyatts, pipelines, hookers, Halliburton trucks.

Now that I'm halfway through the pages of the original version of the book I have to admit that this novel by Shteyngart is all but original. The writer likes to fill his pages quoting ironically masters like Goncarov, Dostoevskij, Gogol', Pushkin and even Sol┼żenicyn (one chapter is titled "One day in the life of Misha Borisovich" sic!) but Absurdistan has nothing to share with White Nights, Dead Souls or Oblomov.

However it can't be denied how Shteyngart joins the same club of an author like Jonathan Safran Foer especially in his way of satirizing the contemporary Russian parvenus.

In its best moments Absurdistan has a shade of the underrated comical talent of John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces". The unbearable overweight laziness mixed up with unexpected moments of boyish impetuosity of the main character here resembles Ignatius J.Reilly's one.

Anyway, even if Absurdistan has the tendency on insisting too much on the use of self indulgent yiddish stereotypes and unpolite Russian words suffering a kind of Borat Syndrome, it is a funny reading in these days.

Update: it's getting worse and worse reaching the end. Too much attention on unrealistic sex. Too much confusion on Halliburton tycoons. Too many parrots. Too much of everything. And why Mr. Shteyngart dedicates one page on Genoa G8 accidents in the middle of an ex KGB members banquet?