From ‘Absurdistan’ by Gary Shteyngart

Excerpt

Published April 28, 2006, issue of April 28, 2006.
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Project Overview

The greatest danger facing American Jewry is our people’s eventual assimilation into the welcoming American fold and our subsequent extinction as an organized community. Due to the overabundance of presentable non-Jewish partners in a country as tantalizingly diverse and half-naked as America, it is becoming difficult if not impossible to convince young Jews to engage in reproductive sex with each other. Efforts to connect Jews of reproductive age through professional social networks and alcohol-fueled “meat markets” have had limited success. Israel, once a source of pride and inspiration, is now populated largely by an aggressive Middle-Eastern people whose bizarre lifestyle is thoroughly incompatible with our own (cf. Greenblatt, Roger, “Why Does Humus Leave a Bitter Taste in My Mouth?” “Annals of Modern Jewry,” Indiana University Press). It is time to turn to the most effective, time-tested, and target-specific arrow in our quiver — The Holocaust.

Even among the most thoroughly secular and unaffiliated young Jews, the Holocaust enjoys great name recognition. When asked to identify the following eight components central to Jewish identity —Torah, Mishna, Talmud, Holocaust, Mikvah, Whitefish, Israel, Kabbalah — only Whitefish scored higher than the Holocaust in a survey of thirty drunk Jews at a nightclub in suburban Maryland (cf. Greenblatt, Roger, “Oy! What a Feeling, I’m Jewish,” “Annals of Modern Jewry,” Indiana University Press). The Holocaust, when harnessed properly as a source of guilt, shame, and victimhood, can serve as a remarkable tool for Jewish Continuity. The problem is the over-saturation of the Holocaust brand in media and academe, creating the need for a fresh, vibrant, and sexy (yes, sexy — let’s keep our eyes on the prize) approach to the mother of all genocides.

The newly independent Sevo Republic, run under the democratic and Israel-friendly auspices of the State Committee for the Restoration of Order and Democracy (SCROD), is a small but attractive nation-state on the shores of the beautiful Caspian Sea. The history of Sevo-Jewish friendship runs as deep as the waters of the Caspian. Both are educated, entrepreneurial, and maligned people fighting with their much larger oxlike neighbors for their share of love, recognition, and adequate living space. In 1943, as Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa thundered toward the peaceful oil reserves of the Caspian, the Sevo populace began a voluntary campaign to transport the native Jewish population out of the republic and toward safety in Stalin’s Siberia. Today the country remains easily the most Jew-tolerant place on earth outside of Brookline, Massachusetts. This philo-Semitism, combined with an exotic location, the chance to enjoy the hospitality of a righteous people (finally an entire nation of tzadikim), and the opportunities of a temperate, beach-filled landscape most reminiscent of Cancún, Mexico (only cheaper, much cheaper), creates the perfect environment for an education-based initiative that is a world apart from the hackneyed death marches of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Yad Vashem.

Methodology

A Striking Architectural Design

Some of the world’s most remarkable recent architecture has been built in commemoration of the Holocaust, but much of it is too abstract and cerebral to inspire immediate Continuity in the loins of a frigid Jewish woman in her thirties. The Institute for Caspian Holocaust Studies will take the shape of a giant broken matzoh, in reference to the tragedy that befell our people and as a reminder of the Passover meal, which, among all the traumas of a Jewish upbringing, consistently rates as the “least scarring” (cf. Greenblatt, Roger, “Why on This Night of All Nights Do I Take Only One Milligram of Lorazepam?,” “Annals of Modern Jewry,” Indiana University Press). The main exhibition space of the broken matzoh will lead to a titanium-clad lamb shank (hint: Frank Gehry) symbolizing both the forearm of the Almighty and our own newly found brute strength.

The New Tribalism

Identity politics are a great boon to our quest for Continuity. Identity is born almost exclusively out of a nation’s travails. For us — a prosperous, unmolested people safely nuzzled in the arms of the word’s last superpower (as of this writing, anyway) — this means Holocaust, Holocaust, Holocaust. The twin halves of broken matzoh will be infused with the spirit of the New Tribalism that is captivating young people across the Western world as an angry response to global homogenization. The first half will show the past travails of the Jewish people (a parallel series of walk-in closets will do the same for the Sevo), and the second half will show how easily we forget how much they hate us (ditto, Sevo). To be a bit reductive: first half, unpronounceable — Kristallnacht, Kindertransport, Kraków ghetto, Chernowitz, Wadowice, Drohobycz; second half, guilt inducing — towering videos of Jewish college boys at fraternity mixers hitting up demure Korean girls, while pretty suburban Jewish maideleh fetishize their urbanized African-American counterparts at a Smith Barney softball game. Subtext: six million died and you’re twirling around a bar stool with some hazzar?

Holocaust for Kidz

Studies have shown that it’s never too early to frighten a child with images of skeletal remains and naked women being chased by dogs across the Polish snow. Holocaust for Kidz will deliver a carefully tailored miasma of fear, rage, impotence, and guilt in children as young as ten. Through the magic of Animatronics, Claymation and Jurassic technology, the inane ramblings of underqualified American Hebrew day schools teachers on the subject of the Holocaust will be condensed into a concise forty-minute bloodbath. Young participants will leave feeling alienated and profoundly depressed, feelings that will be partly redeemed and partly thwarted by the ice-cream truck awaiting them at the end of the exhibit.

The “Think It Can’t Happen Again?” Annex

Yeah, you think so? Well, think again, friend. This daring conceptual space will feature dozens of French Arab youths throwing rocks at passing museumgoers, threatening, “six million more,” while passive French intellectuals stand by in the shadows, smoking and drinking, smoking and drinking. For safety reasons, the “rocks” will be made of 100 percent recyclable paper and the French Arab youths will be caged.

The Titanium-Clad Lamb Shank

We end the museum on a high note, celebrating the achievements of cutting-edge American Jews through life-affirming exhibits such as “David Copperfield: The Myth and the Magic” and “Onwards and Sideward: The Death of Literature and the Birth of the Sitcom.” A room or two can be devoted to Israeli cultural achievements. Or not.

The Tent of Consent

This is where it all comes together, where Continuity gets its capital “C.” Upon entering the Tent of Consent and submitting a blood sample and credit check, Jews of reproductive age (thirty-four to fifty-one) will show Hitler and his goons just where they can stick their Final Solution. Here, the word “no” is not an option. Here there is no diaphragm. Note: Tent should be rugged and green to denote summertime reproduction. No circus tents! This is serious business.

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor…

As an opportunity to reach out to the true hellmouth of American political power, evangelical Christians will be given their own (much smaller) tent from which they can proselytize to reproductive Jews emerging all sweaty and wobbly from the Tent of Consent. We estimate only 1 to 2 percent of our most expendable stock will actually fall for this crude goyishe siren song. A small price to pay, and our lobbyists will thank us.

Outcomes — First Year of Operation

1) Two hundred thousand Jews will sow an additional one hundred thousand Jews on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

2) Two to four thousand lackluster Jews will become born-again Mormons (or whatever the hell) and will stop pulling the rest of us down.

3) Twenty thousand Jewish children will learn that it’s somehow their fault.

From the novel “Absurdistan,” to be published by Random House in May. Copyright (c) 2006 by Gary Shteyngart.






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