A darkly comic American sensation
Gary Shteyngart is nothing less than a sensation in the world of contemporary American literature. At 39, he has just published his third novel, Super Sad True Love Story, his second – the bestselling Absurdistan – having already made him into a household name. The new novel comes on the back of the New Yorker calling Shteyngart one of the best 20 writers in America under the age of 40 “who capture the inventiveness and the vitality of contemporary American fiction”.
Super Sad True Love Story (watch the trailer of the book here) is a dystopian view of America. It is a vision of a country in terminal crisis, dwarfed by the menacing rise of China and swamped by a Big-Brother-like surveillance and terror. It is also a country where the novel’s protagonist Lenny Abramov, a 39-year-old who – like the novel’s author – came to America from Russia as a child, is an authentic oddball because he is the only person around who reads books.
While Super Sad True Love Story is chillingly reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 for its vision of a bleak future, it is also laugh-aloud funny in parts. Shteyngart’s writing fizzes along, every page set alight by his linguistic pyrotechnics. Nearly every page also has a gag, and his satire has genuine bite. “Humour is my multiple warhead delivery system,” Shteyngart says in this interview. Reading this novel, you know exactly what he means.
On the back cover of my edition, novelist Jay McInerney writes: “If there is any serious reader out there who has not yet made the acquaintance of the seriously absurd universe of Gary Shteyngart then she would be well advised to get on it…” I couldn’t agree more.