Gary Shteyngart

Portrait Gary Shteyngart
© Hartwig Klappert

Gary Shteyngart was born to Jewish parents in what was then Leningrad in 1972. When Shteyngart was seven the family emigrated to New York. As a child growing up in the USA he was a keen reader of both Russian and Jewish-American writers. After high school he studied Politics at Oberlin College in Ohio and in the early 1990s worked with a refugee aid organisation. Later he became a culture journalist, producing articles for various newspapers and journals, before turning his attention to literary writing. He graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing at New York City University.
His debut novel was inspired by a journey to Prague, and brought him immediate fame in the USA. »The Russian Debutante’s Handbook« (2002) is about a young Russian immigrant in America who becomes entangled with the Russian mafia, who send him to a capital in the European Wild East with the promise of meteoric advancement as a gangster. Shteyngart’s novel is a funny reckoning with 1990s Prague, the city so beloved of stoned young Americans. The author’s subsequent fiction is similarly marked by crazy plots, satire and humour, with gleeful digs at his Russian-Jewish background. »Absurdistan« (2006), his second work of prose, tells the story of a fat Russian-American whose oligarch father is the richest man in Russia. But when the father is assassinated he finds himself stranded in Petersburg amid the turmoil of post-Soviet civil war. Stheyngart’s latest novel, »Super Sad True Love Story« (2010), depicts a dystopian near future in which a Jewish Russian-American strives for immortality and falls in love with a woman 15 years his junior. While Nabokov, Turgenev and Philip Roth all influence Shteyngart the writer, he is at the same time »as evil as Borat and much funnier than Nabokov […], a great satirist, whose hands shape our era into an object that glamours and glitters, and rattles and rumbles, like a nightmarish machine for grown-up children.« (»Die Zeit«).
The author was a Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin, and has received several literary awards, including the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. Gary Shteyngart lives in Manhattan.

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