Monday, November 2, 2015

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories by Anthony Marra

Anthony Marra's intertwined short stories lay a myriad of Soviet-related horrors on the table. War. Labor camps. Drug rings. Mail-order brides. Surviving and dying. Mostly dying. Spanning the decades before and long after World War II, The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories is a grim look at a hopeless place.

Title: The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories
Author: Anthony Marra
Pages: 352 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Hogarth
Genre: Short Stories; Historical fiction; War
My Rating: 4/5

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena—dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interwoven stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.

This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.

Let's play a little game called 'Spot the Difference'.

Soviet censored images from: I Like To Waste My Time

Oh my god that was so much fun.

Marra begins his collection with The Leopard, the story of a young wife who is forced to scratch out her husband's face from family photographs following his arrest and conviction of religious radicalism under Stalin's rule. The censorship of images in the Soviet Union was carried out by the government in an effort to erase disgraced people from its history. This opening story sets the hushed tone of the collection. Erasure and restoration are major themes here.

"Her generation had journeyed through hell so we could grow up in purgatory." This best sums up this book. 

It's not all despair. A small glimmer of hope can be seen in Russia's industrialization, as featured in the title story, The Tsar of Love and Techno. You might die young from breathing in colossal amounts of chemicals that thicken the air and your unborn baby will probably grow a flipper but hey, you can't have it all. "We measured economic prosperity by the spread of rashes on our exposed skin." Yeah, this book is painful. 

Jumping back and forth through decades of Russia's history, the nine stories paint a portrait of a stagnant country and its people. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Soviet history or an interest in crying yourself to sleep.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

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