From the New York Times best-selling 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.
©2015 Anthony Marra (P)2015 Random House Audio
"Powerful...strikingly reimagines a nearly a century of changes in Russia. [T]he book's brilliance and humor are laced with the somber feeling that the country is allergic to evolution." (Kirkus Reviews)
"As in his acclaimed novel, Marra finds in Chechnya an inspiration for his uniquely funny, tragic, bizarre, and memorable fiction." (Publishers Weekly)
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"The Nutcracker's Cosmonautic March"
I normally find it difficult to complete even half of a short story collection, except on the rare occasion the stories are intertwined by characters and events. I'll listen to 1 or 2 but eventually go back to the traditional Freytag's Pyramid, invest myself in a novel, and then forget about the collection of nice, but not compelling, stories.
In comparison, I quickly became absorbed by the lofty TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO because, for one thing, the first story is both chilling and compelling, and another, these stories make you want to discover the interlacing threads and watch the magic of the completed whole. That is to say, the reader learns through each story which characters are primary, and discovers that character has returned in a later story in some other context. The stories so complement the others that, aside from the 1st, 3d and 4th stories, I'm not sure the others would have nearly the impact they do had any one of them stood on its own outside the context of the collection.
I enjoyed the entire collection excepting the second story. Should you get annoyed by the shrew's narration, stick with the book; while irritating in itself, the second story adds pieces to the whole. In hindsight, the structure seems hard to have pulled off, but I couldn't tell at the time because of the seeming simplicity of each story (all of which were structured brilliantly).
These stirring stories center on an uncle and nephews, a pair of brothers, a couple, a mother (and daughter), a girl (and grandmother) and a painting, and occur variously at three locales of the former Soviet Union (Leningrad/St. Petersburg, Kirovsk [in Siberia to the east of China] and within Chechnya). The first story is set in 1937 during the Stalin purge [“In order to become the chisel that breaks the marble inside us, the artist must first become the hammer," said the Soviet censor of paintings and photos.] The remaining tales occur primarily between the mid-1990s and 2013. They hit on a wide array of subjects like censorship, Russian art, the breakup of the Soviet Union, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, Russians in Chechnya, mine fields, the nuclear age and outer space, and art (in life and capturing life in art). IMAGES - mix tapes, leopard bikini bottoms, a ballerina, a painting of an empty Chechen field in the afternoon, a lone wolf in the woods for an execution.
This magnificent collection evoked reflection on how circumstances can change people so that basically good people have the capacity to do evil, but how, in all but the most aberrant among us, there's a reservoir of basic goodness in the face of evil. It also aroused my contemplation of the fleeting nature of life, what impression do we really and truly make on a planet we visit so shortly, how small each of us is in relation to time and space, and how Art, above most else, can transcend life.
Anthony Marra is a master at evoking sympathy for characters so foreign to a reader in the U.S., and in his ability to simultaneously create both sympathy and contempt for a character. Even in short stories, knots of complexity surround the six major characters, making them so human, their sentiments so real.
In my opinion, this book is even better than Mr. Marra's debut novel "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." I believe he has the potential to write a novel for the ages. No exaggerating.
On a side note, I think Marra made up for his debut's hard-to-recall title and its washed out cover with his new Hip title and even Hipper cover.
"I switched to print."
The narration, in my opinion, was not worthy of the story. I lost so much in that the voices didn't sound as intelligent as the words being spoken. I missed SO MUCH. I am very glad the library had it so I could go back and appreciate the entire text. And I am usually not one to complain about voices but this didn't work for me.
Maybe, the Imerfectionists by Tom Rachman - for linked stories.
I want to read everything Marra writes.
"I highly recommend, but read it, don't listen"
Beautifully woven story of the pain, injustice and losses to everyday lives by the Stalinist system and its corrupted aftermath.
Roman, the first character we meet, who launches the story as he fights guilt and despair through his art.
This is an extraordinary work, so I found the reading to be very unfortunate -- heavily accented Russians were apparently recruited, producing flat, poorly expressed readings of many of the stories. I found myself making a deliberate effort to focus on the words while blocking out the readers' renditions. I would HIGHLY recommend this book, but only if read, not listened to. I feel I was cheated, and the author was, too.
"Brilliant book; disappointing Audiobook"
Only Mark Bramhall brings this dazzling human "novel" to its full potential. The other readers, who sound like native Russian speakers, are not up to the task.
"Brilliant, Delightful & Moving Stories"
There’s a certain point when human behavior is so absurd it just becomes compulsively funny.
That is part of what I found delightful about Anthony Marra’s ingenious collection of short stories. The other aspect I very much enjoyed, was the feeling of putting together a puzzle, with each story providing some of the missing pieces until it was finally complete.
The interlocked stories on The Tsar of Love and Techno, are cleverly structured, bizarre, almost surreal. They encompass decades of Soviet history, from the Cold War to the dissolution of the USSR right up to modern-day Putin’s Russia.
The geographical settings include Siberia and St. Petersburg, but its Chechnya and its capital, Grozny that are at the center of most of them.
Marra drops enough cultural and political landmarks to help the reader recognize the historical context, but I personally appreciated The Tsar of Love and Techno more for its ability to recreate the Russian pathos than for giving me history lessons.
I felt in love with Marra’s imagination, his disparate characters with their tongue-in-cheek banter and the vulnerabilities he gives even to those alpha-male soldiers living under the most deplorable conditions in war-ridden regions.
The Tsar of Love and Techno is a beautiful contemplation on the good/evil nature in all of us, the transcendent power of art and the horrific, perhaps irreversible consequences of polluting the environment on the only planet we have.
The multiple narration on this audiobook is top-notch. These narrators truly brought these stories to life!
"Funny, sad, unexpected beauty"
An engrossing, intertwined short story collection set in Russia from 1937 to today. Intriguing characters and portraits of difficult lives.
"Beautiful book ruined by execrable narration"
Elegant prose and luminous, thought provoking stories marred by fake Russian accents that narrators struggle to sustain. I love Marra's writing so much that I would gladly pay for a different version of this book. Please release a new version with capable narrators!
This collection of stories is full of unique settings and clever human connections. It is beautifully written and expertly narrated.
"Best book I've read this year."
Incredible weaving of stories of Russia from Lenin to present. Absolutely brilliant. Show manipulation of history through doctoring of photos. Shows how corrupt Media is a danger to everyone.
The one face appearing over and over.
Russian accents and depression. I know. My family is Russian.
The very end.
"Great Narration! Complex Story!"
If you like intense history and complex stories requiring thinking and connecting the dots, then this book is for you.
The scenes that take place in the "White Forest", a man-made woods of metal trees and plastic leaves constructed in the boon years of Brezhnev ....
I did like the choice of eastern european accents versus listening to an american accent. Listening to foreign accents is an effort, but made it real for me, as if I was living in those days....
I liked the female voice a lot.... frightened, vulnerable and then so cold and stern. That voice transported me to Russia... But having dinner with her in Russia?! To Go or Not to Go? That is the question.
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