Having read and enjoyed A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, I was eager to read his next book The Tsar of Love and Techno. I appreciate Marra’s beautiful yet spare style and am fascinated by his exploration of the Russian-Chechen war.
This collection of interconnected short stories treads the same war-ravaged ground, with a foray into a Siberia and its post-gulag life including surreal details like a faux forest littered with the dead and a chemical lake holiday.
Much of what I enjoy about Marra’s writing is on display in these stories. His ability to redeem tragedy (though he is not adverse to steal away some of that slim hope) through the lyrical use of language, to give it beauty, is on display in the first few stories. In particular, the story of the censor was exquisite.
However, the stories in the middle of the book were very gritty. The language itself lost some the beauty it had possessed earlier. And while this is likely the author’s intention as much of this section takes place during the Chechen war with all its attendant absurdities and horrors, it was very difficult to read as it felt like a descent into a nihilism.
While I think that the author achieved the lofty literary goals he set for himself in this book, it’s not the type of book I would chose to read again. Still, I would recommend this collection to those with a strong love of literary fiction and an understanding of its goals and ideals.
N.B. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.