The New York Times has released its annual list of the Top 10 books of the year, and Gary Shteyngart’s novel Absurdistan was one of five works of fiction selected. While I still favor Shteyngart’s debut — The Russian Debutante’s Handbook — Absurdistan includes both profound hilarity and profound brilliance.
Absurdistan follows Misha Vainberg, the son of a Russian Jewish oligarch, who, while trying to get back to the USA (where he studied at a Midwestern liberal arts college), gets caught in a former Soviet republic that has deteriorated into civil war. The best — and most important — part of the book is a section called “A Modest Proposal,” a grant application for a Holocaust museum that Misha writes for one of the groups fighting in the war in order to garner them the support of American Jewry. It is, perhaps, the greatest satire of the American Jewish community’s preoccupation with continuity — and victimhood — ever written.
The Forward excerpted “A Modest Proposal” back in April, and you can read it here.
Other Jewish-interest books to make the Times list of 100 Notable Books of the Year:
- Collected Poems, 1947-1997, By Allen Ginsberg
- Everyman, By Philip Roth
- Intuition, By Allegra Goodman
- A Woman in Jerusalem, By A.B. Yehoshua
- The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, By Daniel Mendelsohn
- Prisoners: A Muslim and Jew Across the Middle East Divide, By Jeffrey Goldberg
- Sweet and Low, By Rich Cohen