Super Sad True Love Story is the third novel by American writer Gary Shteyngart. The novel takes place in a near-future dystopian New York where life is dominated by media and retail.
The son of a Russian immigrant, protagonist Leonard (Lenny) Abramov, a middle-aged, middle class, otherwise unremarkable man whose mentality is still in the past century, falls madly in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean-American struggling with materialism and the pressures of her traditional Korean family. The chapters alternate between profuse diary entries from the old-fashioned Lenny and Eunice's biting e-mail correspondence on her "GlobalTeens" account. In the background of what appears to be a love story that oscillates between superficiality and despair, a grim political situation unravels. America is on the brink of economic collapse, threatened by its Chinese creditors. In the meantime, the totalitarian Bipartisan government's main mission is to encourage and promote consumerism while eliminating political dissidents.
The novel won the Salon Book Award (Fiction, 2010) and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize (2011). It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (Fiction & Poetry, 2010), New York Times bestseller (Fiction, 2010), and Amazon's Best Books of the Month in August 2010. It was named one of the best books of the year by numerous publications, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, O: The Oprah Magazine, Maureen Corrigan of NPR, and Slate. The literary critic Raymond Malewitz has recently published an article on "digital posthumanism" in the novel in the journal Arizona Quarterly.
Ben Stiller and Media Rights Capital are producing a TV series for Showtime.
- ^"Love Found Amid Ruins of Empire", MICHIKO KAKUTANI, New York Times Book Review, July 26, 2010
- ^"Shteyngart's humorous trailer to his book"
- ^"Super Sad True Love Story, "Random House Inc."
- ^Malewitz, Raymond. “'Some new dimension devoid of hip and bone': Remediated Bodies and Digital Posthumanism in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story" Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory 71.4 (Winter 2016)
- ^Wagmeister, Elizabeth. "Showtime Developing Novel 'Super Sad True Love Story' with Ben Stiller Directing (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.com. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
It all started on the 5th of June 2009 at Nomaganga Primary School, a school located in Hlabisa, in a place called Mpelenyane. There was a boy there named Sizwe. He was very shy. He did not have many friends at school, and he spent most of his time alone.
Sizwe was different from the other boys at school. He did not seem to have much interest in girls, until one day, when he met a girl called Silindile. She was very beautiful and intelligent. The majority of the boys at school liked her. Sizwe introduced himself to her, but she did not have any interest in him. Like any guy would, Sizwe started doing things to try and impress Silindile. He even begged his sister to talk to Silindile for him. Silindile was good friends with Nothando, Sizwe’s sister. Nothando tried to convince Silindile to love Sizwe, but unfortunately Silindile was not interested.
Sizwe did not give up. He realised that he had to tell Silindile how he felt about her for himself. He had to stop sending his sister to talk to her on his behalf. Silindile rejected him every time. She told him that she had a boyfriend who was much better than him. Sizwe did not believe this, and one day he asked Nothando about it, but she told him that it wasn’t true. Months went by. It was very hard for Sizwe to accept that Silindile had a boyfriend, until one day when he saw her kissing a guy who was a friend of Sizwe’s cousin.
From that day onwards, Sizwe was always upset. One day, Sizwe was very angry, and decided to pick a fight with the guy who he had seen kissing Silindile. Sizwe was being controlled by his emotions. He shouted at Nothando, because she had lied to him when he had asked her about Silindile. This created tension between Sizwe and Nothando. Sizwe felt betrayed and blamed Nothando for the situation he was in.
One day after school, Sizwe went to apologize to Nothando and Silindile. He then told Silindile how he felt about her, but her answer was still “no”. Sizwe’s friend tried to convince him to look for another girl. His friend told him that there were many girls at the school who would be interested in him. Sizwe told his friend that Silindile was the only girl he wanted, and that he would do anything to get her.
A group of boys at school started to laugh at Sizwe. He became the laughing stock of the school. From that time onwards, he was always involved in many fights at school, and had many enemies. He used to play soccer with some boys after school but because of the situation he was in he decided to stop playing soccer. His behaviour changed. He was always quiet in class. During break and lunch time he wouldn’t leave the classroom. If it happened that he decided to go outside he would buy something to eat, go back to the classroom and sit there alone.
At the time, Sizwe and Silindile were both in Grade 7, the final year of primary school. The year ended and they both passed Grade 7. In 2010, the following year, they had to go to high school. Silindile registered at a local high school called Shiyinkosi High School. Sizwe decided to go to another high school, because he thought that it would be easier to forget about Silindile if he was far away from her.
Sizwe registered at Mbopha High School, a school located in the town of Hlabisa. It was one of the best schools in Hlabisa. In the year that Sizwe did his Grade 8 he was very happy to be in high school. He did very well and passed Grade 8. After all the drama he had been through in the past year it seemed that he had finally accepted that Silindile did not love him. Being far from Silindile helped him to easily forget about her, but was this true or was he just pretending?
He seemed normal and happy. Even his friends had noticed a change in his behaviour. He was doing well at school, and it seemed that everything was OK. However, if someone happened to ask him about his past he would become very angry and would even cry sometimes. It was obvious that he hadn’t moved on.
One day after school, when Sizwe was going to town, he saw Silindile and talked to her. He told her how sorry he was about everything that had happened back in primary school. He asked if they could be friends, but she turned him down again. He asked for her cell phone number but she did not give it to him. Silindile told him to stay away from her. She told him that she did not want to talk to him again.
In 2011, Sizwe did Grade 9. There was a girl called Noxolo in his class. Sizwe and this girl got along very well. They were friends, and at the time they used to sit at the same desk in class. Sizwe started to like Noxolo. He told her that he loved her, but again he was turned down. Noxolo called Sizwe’s sister to tell her what had happened. Nothando was not happy to hear this. She shouted at Sizwe, and asked him why he was always after her friends. It looked like history was repeating itself.
After this, Sizwe promised himself to never again try to tell any girl that he loved her. Was this a good decision? To him it was, because he had accepted that no girl would ever love him. This was very painful. All of his friends had girlfriends. He was the only one who didn’t have a girlfriend. He was too young to experience all of this.
One day, Sizwe took his sister’s cell phone and copied Silindile’s cell number to his phone. He also sent himself a picture of Silindile. He used to look at that picture whenever he was alone.
In 2012, when Sizwe was in Grade 10, he met a girl named Nokwanda. He started to like her, but he remembered that he had made a promise to himself that he would never ever again in his life tell a girl that he loves her. He decided to be friends with this girl. He spent most of his time with her. He trusted her, and he even told her about his past, which was something he usually never told anyone about.
Sizwe passed Grade 10 and went on to do Grade 11 in 2013. Unfortunately, things did not go well for him in Grade 11. He failed and had to repeat this grade. Silindile also failed Grade 11 in the same year.
In 2014, when Sizwe was repeating Grade 11, he became friends with another girl whose name was Nomfundo. One day, in the middle of June, Nomfundo told Sizwe that she loved him. She even wrote a letter and put it in his school bag. The letter said: “Sizwe, I meant what I said to you yesterday. I really love you. Please think about this. I want an answer from you in two days.”
The next day, Nomfundo kissed Sizwe and said to him: “I am still waiting for your answer.” Sizwe told her that he loved another girl, so he could not be in love with her. On the same day, after lunch, Sizwe saw that everyone in the class was laughing at him when he entered the classroom. He asked them why they were laughing, but no one gave him an answer.
The next day, he discovered that Nomfundo had been recording all their conservations, and that everyone in the class had been listening to these recordings. Everyone in class laughed at him every day. Sizwe promised himself to never trust any girl again.
Both Sizwe and Silindile passed Grade 11 and went on to do Grade 12 in 2015. Sizwe was so happy. In February 2015, Sizwe and Silindile started to become friends. Silindile used to call Sizwe and tell him that she was sorry for having treated him the way she did. She told him not to change, and that he should stay the way he was.
Sizwe did not understand. He asked Silindile why she was saying all these things, but she did not tell him. One day, Sizwe got a message from Silindile that said: “Please forgive me for all the bad things I said to you in the past. I was so young that I did not understand. I have now realised that you are the only boy who truly loved me. I wish I could turn back the clock, but I can’t. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. Don’t worry, one day you will find a girl who loves you.”
Sizwe did not understand any of this. He asked his sister about it, and she told him that Silindile was nine months pregnant. It was hard for Sizwe to believe it, but he finally did when he saw Silindile with his own eyes.
In March 2015, Silindile gave birth to a girl. From then on, Sizwe did not want to talk to her again, until August 2015. They started to get along again. Silindile apologized to Sizwe for all the pain he had gone through because of her. Sizwe forgave her and told her that he still loved her. Silindile told him that she also loved him, and that she wouldn’t allow anything to come between them. From that moment onwards they were both happy, and always spent their weekends together. However, their relationship did not last for long. Sizwe decided to end their relationship, because he found out that Silindile had not broken up with the father of her child.
This time, Sizwe vowed he would never again, love or trust another girl.
Tell us what you think: Do you think people who love like Sizwe still exist? Or do people just move on to the next love?
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