Absurdistan (novel)

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AuthorGary Shteyngart
CountryUnited States
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
2 May 2006
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages352 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN978-1-4000-6196-9 (first edition, hardback)
813/.6 22
LC ClassPS3619.H79 A63 2006

Absurdistan is a 2006 novel by Gary Shteyngart. It chronicles the adventures of Misha Vainberg, the 325-pound son of the 1,238th-richest man in Russia, as he struggles to return to his true love in the South Bronx.


After Misha's father kills a prominent businessman from Oklahoma, the INS bars the entire Vainberg family entry to the United States, trapping Misha in his native Saint Petersburg, which he nostalgically refers to as "St. Leninsburg." Misha, a.k.a. "Snack Daddy" from his days at Accidental College, somewhere in the Midwestern U.S. (the college resembles Oberlin College, which Shteyngart attended, while the name is a play on Occidental College), is desperate to return to his true love, Rouenna, whom he met while she was working at a "titty bar" and who now attends Hunter College, at Misha's expense.

Misha's father is killed by a fellow oligarch. Soon after, Misha is given an opportunity to buy a Belgian passport from a corrupt diplomat in the fictitious ex-Soviet republic of Absurdsvanϊ (also known as Absurdistan).

Absurdistan's reputation for oil riches got it the title "Norway of the Caspian." Divided between two major ethnic groups, the Sevo and Svanϊ, whose mutual hatred stems from a dispute over which way the "footrest" of the Orthodox cross should be tilted, Absurdistan soon finds itself embroiled in civil war and Misha is forced to take sides on behalf of a new love.

Appointed "Minister of Multiculturalism," he is asked to petition Israel for funds, but he soon finds he is being played by the Sevo leader, who has, in fact, been in league with the Svanϊ leader all along.


Absurdistan debuted to mainly favorable reviews, including a glowing review by Walter Kirn on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. The same paper's Sunday Book Review listed it as one of the 10 best books of 2006.[1]

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