I loved Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena when it was published in 2013 and when I discovered that his newest novel, The Tsar of Love and Techno was coming out this fall, I requested through Net Galley a galley copy of it and was pleased that the publisher, Hogarth, granted my request. And as I “turned” the pages on my Kindle, I was again transported back to not just Chechnya, but also Leningrad (St Petersburg), and Siberia across eight decades of Soviet life as seen through an unforgettable cast of people who lived through the golden age of Communism and/or the age of Glasnost connected together by both a common history and art. The result is a collection of stories which connects both a historical past and a personal past through censored photographs and a censored painting that is retouched as it makes its way across the former Soviet Union.
While Tsar is a moving piece of fiction which highlights both pathos and joy in living in and through difficult conditions, it is also a demanding read. But in keeping close attention as you read, you will encounter many many serendipitous moments and connections that will cause you to pause and consider what I consider a thematic strength of this novel – the power of art to both shape and influence life long after the creator has passed on. For in the fact that the photographs, inked out are also altered in a fashion for an aging man to again remember his father, nearly eight decades later, is one illustration of art’s power in this novel.
And then are some great lines that will cause you to stop and think about life, growing up, and the culture you live in… (and even chuckle at times…)
“Wealth announces itself with what’s easy to break and impossible to clean.”
“The modernists ruined reality for laypeople.”
“Turning I would to I did is the grammar of growing up.”
“There are so many paths to contentment if you’re open to self-delusion.”
The Tsar of Love and Tech is a gallery of paintings and snapshots about faith, hope, and love across the kilometers, the tundra, the history of repression and then a widening openness that takes time to digest. About faith – in people, in freedom (artistic and otherwise); about hope in the future and in the ability to remember; and about love – being in love, falling out of love, loving when reality dims and when the past returns in the staring back of your father in another medium from another time and place.
I loved this book. I rate it an “outstanding” read.
Note: I received a Kindle epub copy of this book in exchange for review from the publisher via Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review.