Title: The Tsar of Love and Techno (Goodreads)
Author: Anthony Marra
Published: Hogarth, 2015
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Paperback
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository, Kindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
When I first read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I knew I had found a new favourite author in Anthony Marra. I was constantly recommending the novel to everyone and always took notice when someone suggested a book was the next Constellation. They were right with both All that is Solid Melts into Air and Girl at War. When I heard that Marra had another book coming out I was so excited. Then when it was released, there was no Australian publication and it would cost about $50 to get a copy delivered to me. I thought about just getting the audiobook but I really wanted a physical copy. Thankfully the Perth Writers Festival announced Anthony Marra as a guest and we quickly got an Australian edition of The Tsar of Love and Techno.
Unlike A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a collection of interconnecting stories. While it could be considered a collection of short stories, there is a common thread that allows this book to be read more like a novel. Beginning in 1930s Leningrad where a failed portrait artist finds himself with the task of airbrushing people out of existence. The people being removed from the pictures are the people the state have sent off to the Gulag for their counter-revolutionary behaviours. He finds himself removing his brother from pictures but instead of whipping him out of the memories completely he ends up putting his face in the crowds of other pictures.
There is something wonderfully captivating about the writing of Anthony Marra, and I think it goes further than just my love of Russian literature. I cannot help but be absorbed in his stories, eager to know what happens next. I love the way he explores Russian history and looks at ideas of war, censorship, family, love and the soviet government. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena does a good job of exploring the lives of ordinary people during war and The Tsar of Love and Techno is all about the people living in Russia during different periods of time.
While I think A Constellation of Vital Phenomena will always have a special place in my heart and everyone should read that book, The Tsar of Love and Techno is still worth the attention. I know some people have issues reading short story collections but I think this works as a novel. I am eagerly waiting the next Anthony Marra novel but I know I will have to wait a while. I just hope I do not have to suffer the same fate with The Tsar of Love and Techno, and Australia will release at the same time as the rest of the world.