The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar
The story and adventures of musician Franz Nicolay's leaving his band to journey around the world, meeting artists, neo-nazis, and punk rockers along the way. Amongst political turmoil Nicolay and punk rock culture found themselves within a revolution. In Humorless Ladies of Border Control Nicolay explores the past and present of what it means to be a punk rocker in post-communist world of adversity.
In 2009, musician Franz Nicolay left his job with the Hold Steady, aka “the world’s greatest bar band.” Over the next five years, he crossed the world with a guitar in one hand, a banjo in the other, and an accordion on his back, playing the anarcho-leftist squats and DIY spaces of the punk rock diaspora. He meets Polish artists nostalgic for their revolutionary days, Mongolian neo-Nazis in full SS regalia, and a gay expat in Ulaanbataar who needs an armed escort between his home and his job. The Russian punk scene is thrust onto the international stage with the furor surrounding the arrest of the group Pussy Riot, and Ukrainians find themselves in the midst of a revolution and then a full-blown war.
While engaging with the works of literary predecessors from Rebecca West to Chekhov and the nineteenth-century French aristocrat the Marquis de Custine, Nicolay explores the past and future of punk rock culture in the post-Communist world in the kind of book a punk rock Paul Theroux might have written, with a humor reminiscent of Gary Shteyngart. An audacious debut from a vivid new voice, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control is an unforgettable, funny, and sharply drawn depiction of surprisingly robust hidden spaces tucked within faraway lands.
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