10 Questions with Gary Shteyngart

The best-selling author on growing up Soviet, his real name and why he didn't mind getting hit as a kid

Erik Tanner for TIME

You've written three novels--The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story--that draw on your life, so why a memoir?

Well, I'm 41, which is 67 in Russian years, so I feel like time is passing me by. I need to get this out before the heart attack, the stroke and the exploding liver that many Russians have at this age. I wanted to get this little story down with these three people who were my family. It's also a 20th century story, about moving from one failed superpower to another not-doing-so-great superpower.

Aren't you worried that you've used...

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