From the New York Times bestselling 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.
ANTHONY MARRA is the author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013), which won the National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, and appeared on over twenty year-end lists. Marra’s novel was a National Book Award long list selection as well as a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and France’s Prix Medicis. He received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where he teaches as the Jones Lecturer in Fiction. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and now resides in Oakland, California. His story collection, The Tsar of Love and Techno, is forthcoming from Hogarth (Fall 2015). Visit http://anthonymarra.net/
The Tsar of Love and Techno 4.4 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Stories full of feeling, will make you laugh until they make you cry.
More than 1 year ago
The Tsar of Love and Techno is an inventive and accomplished collection of interwoven short stories by the author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (my favorite read of 2015). The stories take place in the war-torn areas of Russia, Chechnya and Siberia, and have characters, places, items and/or storylines in common. The characters are very well developed, the storylines are fresh and innovative. The author's writing is top notch, and I've become a serious fan! Please read!
More than 1 year ago
Three years ago I read Anthony Marra's debut novel about people trapped in the Chechen war, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I could not stop talking about it and recommended to anyone who would listen (and even those who wouldn't). I was thrilled when the critical accolades came in for Marra; he even won a National Book Critics' Circle Award. It is a brilliant book.
Marra's second book is a collection of linked short stories, The Tsar of Love and Techno, set in the USSR. This collection covers a wider range of years and characters, and it is even more brilliant because of that.
Marra starts off strong with The Leopard, a story set in 1937 that drops the reader into an nearly improbable situation, yet one that happened everyday in the Soviet Union. Roman Markin works in the Department of Party Propaganda and Agitation. His job is to erase people who have been determined by the government to be traitors.
He literally erases them- painting over them in photos and paintings. Families are ordered to turn over any evidence that a loved one ever existed to be eliminated. Roman visits his sister-in-law to collect photos of his brother Vaska, her husband who was executed for his religious practices, and to warn her of the dangers of disobeying the government.
Roman also instructs his sister-in-law to take photographs of her son every year in case she is arrested and he is placed in an orphanage. This will make it easier to find him if she is ever released. That fact just floored me.
Roman continues his work daily erasing people from existence. But he began adding something too- he put his dead brother into every painting he censored. He put images of Vaska as a young boy, a teen, an adult, an older man. Every single image he worked on had Vaska in it to atone for Roman's guilt over his brother.
Others people we meet in the collection of stories include Galina, the beautiful granddaughter of a famous ballerina, who deserted her first love to become the wife of a wealthy oil oligarch. We read of Kolya, her first love who became a soldier and drug dealer, and his brother Alexei who makes a mixtape for his brother to take into war with him.
A painting by a famous Russian artist of a pasture ties the stories together. Roman puts his brother into it, and Kolya ends up spending too much time in the actual pasture under unfortunate circumstances. Many of the characters in the story have a connection to this painting and it is a lifeline to some.
The writing in The Tsar of Love and Techno just stuns. Writing of how people turned their neighbors in to police for any suspected infraction, he says " Our city was small and whispers easily became verdict." That sentence conveys everything about life then and there in nine words.
Other examples are :
"The obvious is only obvious when it happens to someone else."
"I said nothing, and as is often the case with men who possess more power than wisdom, he took my silence for affirmation."
"Wealth announces itself with what's easy to break and impossible to clean." (Talking about Galina's apartment filled with white carpets and expensive chairs and art.)
"To say he felt guilty would ascribe to ethical borders that were lines on a map of a country that no longer existed."
"Uncertainty recalibrated the moral compass to point toward survival."
It took me a week to read The Tsar of Love and Techno because I simply didn't want it to ever end. I would read a story, and then take time to appreciate the writin
More than 1 year ago
I do love Anthony Marra.
First let me say this about his latest, The Tsar of Love and Techno. The book itself is labeled a collection of short stories but to me this book is a novel. Yes it is written in short story form but the characters of each short story are interconnected in some way. It is like a mystery in that sense as the story comes together at the end.
That said, this book is a keeper. I advise picking it up when you are returning that horrific sweater Aunt Maude gifted to you for the holidays. Then immerse yourself with this delight of a book which I guarantee you will have completed by New Year's Eve.
I'm giving Mr. Marra 5 of 5 stars for this one. Bravo!
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
More than 1 year ago
Although The Tsar of Love and Techno is, superficially, a collection of "interwoven" stories, I quickly realized that the stories were so closely linked that I couldn't rate each story individually, as I would ordinarily do with a collection of short stories. Rather, The Tsar of Love and Techno is an immersive experience, with such a strong sense of time and place that it must be appreciated and reviewed as a whole.
So many other reviewers have synopsized the various interlocking narratives and have rhapsodized over Marra's exquisite writing that I will not repeat those efforts here. Instead, I want to comment on two things which stood out for me. First was Marra's telling of "Granddaughters" in the first person plural (i.e., from the point of view of "we"). The "we" are a group of six women who are reflecting on their lost seventh member Lydia and the beauty they both admired and envied from afar, Galina. Of course, what they say is actually more a commentary on, and defense of, their own life choices. Marra has captured perfectly the voice of a group of girls, the tone of mingled jealousy of the one who got away and self-satisfaction at the fallen one forced to return.
The second element I particularly enjoyed was how Marra tied his cast of characters together, not only through the bonds of friendship and family, but also with their connections to a particular landscape painting. Like the comic book in Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven , this painting moves from hand to hand, valued by some simply as an artistic object but by others because of what really happened on the hill depicted in it. As much as I admired Station Eleven, though, Marra's use of this device is so much more nuanced and organic. His writing in this regard is masterful.
I did not particularly care for the book's cover, which, I am ashamed to admit, is why The Tsar of Love and Techno languished for so long on my to be read list. I should know better than to judge a book by its cover.
I received a free copy of The Tsar of Love and Techno through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
More than 1 year ago
For me, this was a very chilling, compelling, sad, touching and moving story of life in the Soviet Union over several decades. There were not a lot of happy times in this tale. There was, however, a lot of loss.
A man whose job it is to take enemy's faces out of pictures or to keep Stalin's face looking young? Then he is forced to admit he is a spy and then when he doesn't do so, he is taught Polish with the words that say "yes I am a spy". A lot of propaganda in this book.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading this book, however, sometimes I did have trouble with who was telling the story. I'm not sure if that's because I'm just tired or what. I see a lot of five star reviews and have to believe that it's just me. There are a lot of fascinating eye opening stories included in this book. I have to believe that although it's fiction that it's not far from the truth.
I want to thank the publisher for this free book in exchange for an honest review.
More than 1 year ago
3.5 probably because it is not my wheelhouse of interest and is a collection of short stories which I am not so fond of. It is marvelously written, though, and the stories come together wonderfully.
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra is a collection of nine interwoven short stories. It is a lesson into the hardships and struggles of 80 years within the regions known as Siberia, Russia, Grozny, Checnya, and the Soviet Union. It starts in the 1930’s when a censor artist airbrushes the out of artwork anyone who is considered to be in opposition to the Soviets. When he is hired to erase his brother out, he takes a visit to his sister-in-law and nephew. From this point forward though, he indiscreetly adds his brother’s face to the artwork he censors. One day he is accused of being a Polish spy who leads to his demise. He preserved a landscape painting and this setting leads to other characters and situations which interconnect. He had censored a painting with a ballerina, but left the hand which led them to be suspicious of him after someone reported him. The ballerina’s granddaughter’s boyfriend-fiancé is conscripted. Rather than waiting for him, she marries the 13th richest man in Russia after becoming Miss Siberia in a beauty contest. This is just a hint of the stories. There is plenty of tragedy. A character I liked became one I disliked. There is definitely a wrap around as later stories answer questions from previous ones. The history buff and person interested in Russia will love this book.
"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."
More than 1 year ago
Anthony Marra is a gifted writer who makes you root about his characters, who sometimes live dismal lives, but make the best of them. He does a smooth job of connecting the recurring characters among the stories. I found that reading them chronologically in time, instead of how he grouped them, was helpful toward avoiding confusion. Mr. Marra's stories piqued my interest in a part of the world that I rarely think about, Eastern Europe, and I will be following up. I do have one bone to pick. When he mentioned Ronald Reagan's comment about the future of the world, Marra should have clarified that it was not intented as a genuine threat. Reagan wasn't serious, but rather he told a bad joke - and he thought he was speaking off the record. For younger readers who don't remember the incident, this would be misleading.
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