In the imaginary nation of Absurdistan, populated with a cast of very plausible politicos and insiders, Mr. Shteyngart sets in motion a plot that makes the wildest accusations of Michael Moore seem like pussyfooting understatements. Absurdistan might not exist, but something like it certainly resides in the idle fantasies of America’s neocons and foreign-policy cowboys. It’s part nation-state and part stage set for the unveiling of late capitalism’s gushing wet dreams—a country where the dollar’s primacy crushes any petty concern for conscience and the sanctity of human life. “The Americans have really been helping us out,” says one local democrat. “Free use of the fax machines after nine p.m., discounted Hellmann’s mayonnaise from the commissary, five thousand free copies of An American Life by Ronald Reagan.” It’s what the world would look like if no one were watching and global affairs were managed with all the discretion and tact of Lindsay Lohan. When Absurdistan’s vaunted oil reserves turn out to be a sham, the savvy American politicos don’t pack their bags and head back to Texas—they incite a bit of internecine bloodshed in the hope of scoring fat, no-bid peacekeeping contracts from the Department of Defense.
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