REVIEW: The Tsar of Love and Techno

BOOK: The Tsar of Love and Techno9780770436438.jpg
AUTHOR: Anthony Marra
PAGES: 222
PUBLISHER: Crown Publishing/Hogarth
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (5/5)

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.

I received an electronic copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.

“The calcium in the collarbones I have kissed. The iron in the blood flushing those cheeks. We imprint our intimacies upon atoms born from an explosion so great it still marks the emptiness of space. A shimmer of photons bears the memory across the long dark amnesia. We will be carried too, mysterious particles that we are”.

The Tsar of Love and Techno is not your average book of short stories, and if you’re the type of person who generally tries to avoid them, I say don’t. This book will be worth every second of your time, and those short stories will all weave together to tell you an even greater story, painting an uncensored vision in your mind.

Why have I not heard of this author before? He came seemingly out of nowhere and blew me away with this book. Marra’s writing is completely mesmerizing, so full of the most rich and colorful metaphors. I found myself highlighting so many passages, wanting to savor every last word of this novel.

Marra’s stories take place from the political and social landscape of Soviet Russia during Stalin’s reign, to a more recent time period in the 2000’s. His cast of characters are typically more downtrodden, brought low by historical circumstances beyond their control. But their lives go on. Your heartstrings will be tugged on by each one. There’s the sensor artist of the Communist Party who’s sole purpose is to remove people considered enemies from various photographs and paintings. There’s the prima ballerina and her not-so-graceful granddaughter. There’s the young woman fascinated by a restoration artist who paints the same gentleman in all of his works. There’s the man who cannot remember the face of his father.

“You remain the hero of your own story even when you become the villain of someone else’s.”

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll pass the time. And when you’re finished, you’ll hug this book so close to your chest and never want to let it go.


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