The Wheeler Centre
View all episodes in this series
Gary Shteyngart: Little Failure
As a Russian immigrant to the United States in the late 1970s, Gary Shteyngart (formerly Igor Steinhorn – his family name was mangled by Soviet bureaucracy and he changed Igor to Gary so he wouldn’t get beaten up so much) inspired so little confidence in his mother that he would ever amount to anything, she gave him the nickname ‘Failurchka’, or ‘Little Failure’.
Despite this prediction, her son went on to become the international bestselling author of novels such as Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story. His latest book, Little Failure, is a memoir of his life growing up as a child of Soviet Russia, suddenly transplanted to the brash and bustling shores of America, the land of orthodontics, happiness and 69 cent hamburgers.
Describing the experience as being like ‘stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of pure Technicolor,’ the Little Failure struggled for years to balance his new American aspirations with his dour Soviet home life, always wondering how he could fit into either.
Gary Shteyngart runs Emerging Writers’ Festival director Sam Twyford-Moore through the hilarious twists and turns of his own personal Cold War and explains how one little failure turned out to be a huge success.