By Karen Karbo
Updated May 05, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Absurdistan

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The second novel of the obscenely gifted Gary Shteyngart (The Russian Debutante’s Handbook) follows Misha Vainberg, the self-pitying, 325-pound, Ativan-popping son of ”the 1,238th richest man in Russia.” Misha, who considers himself a holy fool on par with Dostoevsky’s Idiot, spent a good portion of his life in the U.S. and is now stranded in St. Petersburg; the fussy INS won’t issue a reentry visa since his gangster father murdered an Oklahoma businessman. Thus inconvenienced, Misha must travel to the wealthy, unstable nation of Absurdistan to purchase Belgian citizenship. Shteyngart’s prose never fails to pop, and nothing escapes his satiric eye, but Absurdistan suffers for the humblest reason: The hero fails to win our sympathy.

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Absurdistan

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