by Gary Shteyngart

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In Absurdistan, what similarities and differences are found in Misha comparing Russia and the United States in terms of a "dream" life?

In Absurdistan, Misha finds Russia and America similarly corrupt, but he prefers the unashamed American version of consumerism to the clandestine luxury of Russia. Even in St. Petersburg, his girlfriend and his closest friend are American, and he longs for a culture more in tune with his own unrestrained hedonism, without the Russian penchant for profundity and soulfulness.

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At the beginning of Absurdistan, Misha Borisovich Vainberg tells the reader,

For many of my last years, I have lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, neither by choice nor by desire.

As a resident of St. Petersberg, Misha is unimpressed by the fabled beauty of Russia's "Venice of the North," which he dismisses as "a phantasmagoric third-world city." He longs to return to America, which he regards as his true home. One might say that America was Misha's spiritual homeland, but the truth is that his reasons for wanting to be there are physical and hedonistic. He loves America because it is the worldwide center of conspicuous consumption and unashamed pleasure seeking.

Forced to live in Russia at the beginning of the novel, Misha does whatever he can to bring America to him. His best friend in St. Petersburg is a "former American" he calls Alyosha-Bob, who comes from upstate New York. Even his girlfriend is flown over from the South Bronx, since Misha tells the reader,

I absolutely refuse to sleep with one of my co-nationals. God only knows where they've been.

One important similarity Misha finds between the two countries is that his money can buy him practically anything in both places. In Russia, the corruption is merely more clandestine, and the consumption has to be less conspicuous. However, Misha ultimately finds Russian consumerism a poor substitute for the American original. There is an underlying soulfulness in the Russian character and Russian culture which does not suit him, and even in the midst of luxury in Russia, he longs for the excesses of American popular culture.

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