“I stood there listening to my father’s killers. Oleg and Zhora were of Papa’s generation. All three had been made fatherless by the Great Patriotic War. All three had been raised by the men who had managed to avoid battle, the violent, dour, second-tier men their mothers had brought home with them out of brutal loneliness. Standing before the menfolk of my father’s generation, I could do nothing. Before their rough hands and stale cigarette-vodka smells, I could only shudder and feel, along with fright and disgust, appeasement and complicity. These miscreants were our country’s rulers. To survive in their world, one has to wear many hats — perpetrator, victim, silent bystander. I could do a little of each.”
“The windswept Fontanka River, its crooked 19th-century skyline interrupted by the postapocalyptic wedge of the Sovietskaya Hotel, the hotel surrounded by symmetrical rows of yellowing, waterlogged apartment houses; the apartment houses, in turn, surrounded by corrugated shacks featuring, in no particular order, a bootleg CD emporium, the ad hoc Mississippi Casino (‘America Is Far, but Mississippi Is Near’), a kiosk selling industrial-sized containers of crab salad, and the usual Syrian shawarma hut smelling invariably of spilled vodka, spoiled cabbage and some kind of vague, free-floating inhumanity.”
By Gary Shteyngart.
As reviewed in The New York Times (includes multi-media on Shteyngart)
Also reviewed in The Washington Post (“When you land in Russia these days, you are likely to see this sign: ” Rossiya strana vozmozhnosty ” (‘Russia is the land of opportunity’). And then, amid the expected shabbiness, you see Hummers and Rolls Royces. Russians exceed even Americans in their taste for size, status and ostentatious wealth. The situation lends itself to parody, and Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Absurdistan, does a marvelous job of satirizing the new Russian oligarchy.”)