Absurdistan Characters
by Gary Shteyngart

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Absurdistan Characters

Misha Vainberg

Misha Vainberg is the narrator of Absurdistan, and he describes himself in a variety of ways. Misha identifies himself as a Secular Jew and will often point to his nose when people ask him about his ethnicity. Physically, he is obese and often refers to his breasts and to his penis, which was hideously mangled when he was circumcised at the age of eighteen. Misha is born and raised in Russia but attended a university in America and now wishes to be a New Yorker. Misha is the son of the 1,238th richest man in Russia, the gangster Boris Vainberg. Misha also describes himself as a patron of multiculturalism, as a melancholic, and as a philanthropist. As a philanthropist, he has had his assistants start an organization called “Misha’s Children.” Finally, Misha enjoys gangster rapping with his friends.

Throughout Absurdistan, Misha is passive; he generally agrees to every proposal offered him. For example, Misha agrees to make peace with his father’s murderer; he agrees to sleep with his father’s mourning wife; and he agrees to pay any amount of money to robbers, blackmailers, and scam artists he meets in Absurdistan. Misha appears to be helpless and devoid of intelligence, but at times he is also capable of provocative insights about his situation.

By the end of Absurdistan, Misha becomes more responsible and more assertive. He accepts the position of Minister of Multiculturalism while in Absurdistan. He also takes action to leave the Nanabragovs after he realizes they have duped him. Finally, Misha decides to leave Nana and reaffirms his commitment to Rouenna. When the novel ends, Misha is determined to return to New York however he can, regardless of what this will require.

Rouenna Sales

Rouenna is Misha’s Latina girlfriend from the South Bronx. When they first meet, Rouenna is working as a barmaid at a “titty bar.” Soon Misha begins to finance her education. After Misha is refused reentry to America, Rouenna leaves Misha for his college rival, Jerry Shteynfarb, though she hopes Misha will continue to pay for her education. Shteynfarb encourages Rouenna to become a writer. Before long, Rouenna is pregnant and Stheynfarb has left her to take a new job.


Alyosha-Bob is one of Misha’s closest friends. They first met while at the university. Although Jerry Shteynfarb had been trying to convince Alyosha-Bob that Russia is a deeply spiritual country, Misha informs him that many Russians like nice things like speakers. Their friendship grows as they party and rap together. Alyosha-Bob often takes care of Misha, acting like a protective personal assistant. Alyosha-Bob goes with Misha to Absurdistan but leaves Misha there. After Alyosha-Bob leaves, Misha is forced to begin making his own decisions.

Mr. Nanabragov

While in Absurdistan, Misha starts a relationship with Nana Nanabragov, a New York University senior who is missing courses now that she is stuck in Absurdistan. Nana’s father is an influential man in Absurdistan, and at first he welcomes Misha into the family. However, Misha learns that Nanabragov is not what he seems. The Absurdi is actually using Misha in the hopes of getting more attention from the international media. It turns out that the unrest in Absurdistan is all a ruse to attract American attention and reinvestment. Nanabragov also wants Nana to remain near him rather...

(The entire section is 855 words.)