The Tsar of Love and Techno, by Anthony Marra
Every once in a while we read something that speaks to us on such a profound level that we find that the words resonate through our soul and stick with us. This is what The Tsar of Love and Techno did for me. The language was so poetic, yet the phrasing so unusual, that I am still not sure what to think of it, as the words ring in my ears. The book was phenomenal; this book is one that I could read for the first time, again.
A collection of short stories set in Siberia and Chechnya, the characters are tied together by an obscure Russian painting of a field. In the 1930s, a censor is tasked with reworking the painting toward the goals of the Soviet Union. What he does instead echoes throughout the century, linking the stories of a legendary ballerina sent to the gulags, her granddaughter, a gangster, a widower who last saw is wife in that field, and a soldier held in a well with a mix tape of unknown contents.
The resulting story, is ... well ... beyond anything I have ever aspired to have read. This is the best book I have read this year. The characters are touching, charming and incredibly human; their flaws adding to their allure. The story is fantastic, epic in its twists and turns, its humor and its sorrow. The setting itself plays a character in tale, as all of the characters are trying to find where they fit in a country that is constantly changing and re-creating, and trying to survive the wars, the governments and the capitalism. It was fascinating to see how each of the different characters dealt with Russia at different points in time.
This book was beautiful. It was crass, dark, hopeful, sad, funny, but above all, it was a extraordinarily gorgeous book about the human condition, and the nature of connecting with people in a unstable world that is always changing.