Absurdistan is the story of Misha Boisovich Vainberg, a.k.a., Snack Daddy, the son of the 1.238th richest man in Russia, his Khui (pecker) and his odyssey to reclaim his cuero, Rouenna, in the Bronx. The problem is, that although Misha is an avowed Amero-phile with a degree in Multi-Cultural Studies from the Midwest’s Accidental College, the gangster-like activities of Beloved Papa have convinced the wise generals of the INS to bar Misha’s reentry into the United States. But now that rival gangsters have tossed a landmine into beloved Papa’s SUV on St. Petersburg’s Palace Bridge, thereby making Misha an only child orphan, the time to get out of Russia is now. Dubious official connections set his journey in motion by directing him to the former Caspian soviet of Absurdistan in pursuit of a forged Belgian passport.

Throwing off its Russian yoke, arrival in Absurdistan allows the book’s comic absurdities to level up. Ridiculous ethnic tensions, natural resource-swindling multinational corporations and a scripted civil war starved for CNN’s attention provide an entertaining backdrop for Misha’s escape. Turns out that Beloved Papa is a legend in Absurdistan for selling an 800-kilogram screw to Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, and is the longtime benefactor of Absurdistan’s Mountain Jews. Consequently, Misha is appointed Commissar of Multicultural Affairs and asked to speak to Israel about getting some better news coverage and post-war development funds. Though naturally indolent, e.g., his hero is Goncherov’s Oblomov, Misha springs into action by drafting a grant proposal for the Institute for Caspian Holocaust Studies. A 5-page crescendo of the absurd.

Does Misha make it to NYC? Who cares, the book is a roll. Gary Shteyngart really channels John Kennedy Toole in this one. It’s a slow starter, but gets real funny about a third of the way through.


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