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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gary Shteyngart Tells it Like it Is -- Guess that makes him a Russophobe?

"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.")


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, well these quotes you have included are actually from a work of fiction written from the perspective of an embittered émigré returning to Russia. So, the book is obviously about that character's mental state rather than being some broadside at contemporary Russia. And even the reviewer takes issue with the tone of the book, while acknowledging its literary worth:

"There are a lot of stereotypes here and plenty of intellectually incorrect exercises in racial and group determinism."

And God knows we shouldn't tolerate group determinism like, say, Russophobia.

La Russophobe said...

Suggested topic for discussion:

Is Shteyngart "Russian"?

I've referred to someone as being "Russian" on many occasions only to be corrected by a "Russian" who tells me "he's not Russian, he's Jewish."

Was Nabokov "Russian" even though he spent a huge portion of his life away from Russia and wrote in English?

La Russophobe said...

REITH: Wow! What an amazing hypocrite you are! When I write about another person's view you attribute it to me and call me a racist, but when Gary does it it's only his character talking. It's exactly this kind of ludicrous double standard that has ruined Russia.

Is Russophelia "group determinism"? Or is it only "determinism" if the view is negative?

Yahor said...


I'm very impressed by your blog and appreciate your efforst. Thanks!

You are in my favorites list.

La Russophobe said...

Yahor: Thanks! La Russophobe appreciates your support.

Anonymous said...

Winston again. Can I email you?

Anonymous said...

You surely cannot be so simple-minded as to not understand the basic fundamentals of fiction. A character is not necessarily the same thing as the author. That is, after all, the point of fiction. So, is Shteyngart a Russophobe? There is no evidence to support this from the extracts included in the NYT piece.
Blind Russophilia would be group determinism, as much as Russophobia. You have to deal in the subtleties, not in broad generalisations. Anything else is just a mockery of good sense.

La Russophobe said...

REITH: The point of my post, you hopelessly benighted moron, was to ask whether a person automatically becomes a "russophobe" simply because they make harshly critical statements about Russia, such as "these miscreants were our country's rulers."

But to approach the issue on your own totally idiotic terms, you surely cannot be so simple-minded as not to understand that when a writer has a character make strong political statements in a work of fiction, it is generally because he either agrees or disagrees with those statements. They don't often appear at random for no reason in the work of talente authors. That, after all, is the point of fiction that delves into politics.

Which means Gary either agrees or disagrees with the statement "these miscreants were our country's rulers" and the hundreds of other such statements to be found in the body of his work, with which you are obviously unfamiliar, or he disagrees.

If you think he disagrees and/or has a generally positive view of Russia, you've clearly been swimming in vat of samagon.

Anonymous said...

Do stop whining just because you've been caught out on your deceptive excercise of misrepresentation. Those quotes you featured, which you failed craftily to attribute correctly, are written by Shteyngart, but they are not meant to express his own views. They may well reflect his views, but that's an extrapolation you have contrived in order to give some intellectual ballast to your irrational hatred of the Russian people.
No-one who wants to be taken seriously talks in the generalised terms that you relish in. I doubt Shteyngart's views are anywhere as crude and unsophisticated as you would like them to be.

La Russophobe said...

My quotations are attributed with exact precision, you spineless little worm. I clearly stated that they came from his novel and hyperlinked to a page from the New York Times where full details could be found.

You are blazing hypocrite. My statement that you attacked as racism (not even using the correct word) was just as clearly "not meant to express his own views" and you did NOTHING to investigate whether anything else was the case before condemning me for them.

You doubt what his views are because you HAVE NOT READ HIS WORK, which is FAMOUS for being crude and unsophisticated.

I'm glad his words made you feel uncomfortable and forced you into a hysterical, factless, knee-jerk defense of Russia by means of a personal attack on me. That's exactly why I published them.

Anonymous said...

Well, let's get a couple of facts straight first. I did attack you but questioned the logicality of Russophobia, at which point you reacted with you now trademark style.
Second, nowhere in your original post did you mention that the quotes came from a novel. The only assumption that one could derive from the information you gave is that (a) those are Shteyngart's own views and (b) that he is a Russophobe, like you, God forbid.
The issue is not whether the attitudes in the quotes are his own, but that you tried to make it appear as though they were. As always, you try to twist things to make them fit your preconceived notions.

La Russophobe said...

The name of Shteyngart's novel ABSURDISTAN is clearly stated at the bottom of the quotations IN CAPITAL LETTERS together with a ling to the page in the New York Times which explains AND CONTAINS the origin of the quotes.

You have set forth NOT ONE SHRED of evidence to indicate that the author's personal views are at all different from the statements set forth.

It's clear you have never read one of Gary's novels.

Therefore, your comments constitute inane drivel, ignorant knee-jerk hostility of the same type as you hypocritically dare to attack La Russophobe for.

Anonymous said...

You tried to pass the quotes as Shteyngart's own views, when they are in fact the views of a character in his book. Shteyngart's writing is not at issue, your malignant use of them is. I haven't read Shteyngart and do not have any great interest in doing so. Nothing to do with his views on Russia, just that on the basis of the NYT review, his writing looks like overwrought nonsense.
Thus, the onus of proof is on you, not me. It is you that has tried to gull people into believing that Shteyngart could be your ally in your hysterical anti-Russian xenophobia. If he is as potty as you're suggesting, then good luck to him. Though I find it strange that you seek to define his views with quotes that you failed to identify as being the thoughts of a fictitious character. And nowhere did you say that the book was a novel. You didn't do any of those things because you knew perfectly well that they would weaken your attempt to cast somebody into the role of a fellow anti-Russian bigot.

Anonymous said...

Another victory for Reith.

Russophobe -- you're getting battered on your own site! You should start editing the comments, because you look like a bit of a fool on them!

La Russophobe said...

DEREK: Yes, REITH admits he's never read the book he's pontificating about, that definitely makes him a big winner. By the standards of Russian propaganda. Censor him? I wish I had a hundred more morons like him on this blog. Then I wouldn't have to post any more, I could just let their own words make all my points for me.

La Russophobe said...

REITH: Your dishonesty knows no bounds. All I did was quote his words and ask a simple question. I have the evidence of his words, you have OFFERED NO EVIDENCE OF ANY KIND to challenge my view AND YOU ADMIT YOU'VE NEVER READ HIS NOVELS. In fact, I bet you'd never even heard of him before I introduced you to him. You're an illiterate redneck hillbilly moron flapping your gums and making a total fool of yourself.

Your fundamental dishonesty is the hallmark of Russian failure.

Anonymous said...

Problem is, PMS girl, it doesn't matter how loudly you SHOUT at anyone, or how much your profess your own brilliance....

You're still getting a bashing from better minds on your own website.

You are made to look a fool too regularly. Even your (misplaced) self-confidence surely cannot hide that sad fact.

Reith has you running in circles.

I think you're a little too excitable ever to win a real debate.

La Russophobe said...

DEREK: Did you convince youself yet, little squirrel? You know, I think Russians believe the WON the battle of Borodino too, and that they were "oh so clever" when the "let" Napoleon take their capital city. It's thinking like yours that has led Russia to its current state, a disappearing population.

Your sexist garbage highlights your total lack of education, class or intelligence and illustrates most clearly the value of your opinion. Cave men like you always resort to personsal abuse when they've been bested.

And thanks for reading La Russophobe!

Anonymous said...

Funny, that. Because the Borodino metaphor is one that came to mind when I was thinking about you, too.

See, you keep shouting very loudly to everyone about HOW GREAT YOU ARE.

But here's a little tip for you. You should let other people do that for you. Otherwise you look like a bit of a fool.

If you can't find anyone else to do that for you, that might tell you something else, too.

If I were you, I'd kill the blog and come back again in a different guise. People would soon forget how irritating you were and and how disappointing your blog was (good idea, badly executed by a bit of an hysterical moron).

You could return with a nicer internet persona.

Just start over again. You'd feel a bit better about yourself at the end of a hard day's copying and pasting.

La Russophobe said...

DEREK: Oh, so you admit Russians are wrong in thinking that Borodino was a victory? Welcome to the Russophobe fold!

There's only one post out of 75 in the blog that talks about how great La Russophobe is. There may be one or two comments to that effect, but they were only made in response to attacks not voluntarily. Your statement is wildly unfair and inccurate, in other words not at at all suprising coming from you.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but La Russophobe will be here for a long long time. And until you show me YOUR blog with more impressive stats, La Russophobe will continue to ignore you as you yap at our heels like a cute little jealous doggy. We've hardly begun to exist, yet already we've made a major impact. The only thing that will prevent our continuous rise will be genuine democracy in Russia, and we'd be happy to get put out of business by that.