I am not going to rag on this book too much, because between the small number of reviews and the 3.26 average rating on Goodreads, I doubt many readers are stumbling on it unawares. But it was the only book I could find set in the Republic of Georgia. And it isn’t awful. Once I accepted that it was going to be largely nonsensical and lacking in plot, I didn’t really mind it. And is that the faintest praise you’ve ever heard, or what?
This book is narrated by the uniquely-named Slims Achmed Makashvili, who is a bit unhappy with his home country; he hasn’t been paid in months, he’s routinely robbed on public transit, and his best friend is turning to corruption. The book is more picaresque than realistic, so it doesn’t really dwell on these things; instead Slims writes a bunch of letters to Hillary Clinton, resulting in his being invited to spend several weeks learning business in San Francisco. He has mixed experiences in the U.S. and returns to Georgia more confused than ever, to witness some major political changes in his country – only to discover that the changes he’d wanted are not all they’re cracked up to be.
If you try to read this book for the (meandering) plot or (flat) characters, you’ll be disappointed, but I did learn a bit about Georgian culture and politics, and the book takes plenty of jabs at both Georgia and the U.S. It is sometimes humorous, as in this little aside:
“At lunch, when Mr. Fax was out, a man from the village of Zalikos came in to use the copy machine. I didn’t know what he wanted at first until he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolded it, and asked if we had a Georgian copy machine. ‘No, Georgia doesn’t make copy machines. We have one that was made in America though,’ I told him.
‘No, no, that won’t work,’ he said. ‘This document is in Georgian, not in English.’ ”
If you love post-Soviet satire, this might be worth your time. It has the advantage of being a quick read. As I said, I didn't mind it; when I read it while tired or otherwise not functioning at full capacity, it made some sense. But I wouldn’t recommend it.