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One of the reasons I undertook this translation is because it had been out of print for so long, when it is actually, according to many readers, the better of the two novels about Ostap Bender (the first novel being The Twelve Chairs).
Also, there can be a sense that Ilf and Petrov are “too Russian” for others to understand. I don’t agree — for one, the writing duo is not just Russian, but also Jewish, in the person of Ilya Ilf — but it is true that the Anglophone world has never quite understood what all the fuss is about. I have always blamed this disinterest on inadequate translations that treat Ilf and Petrov like an in-joke: if you don't already get it, there’s no point in explaining it to you. This approach is not only condescending, it is unjust to both the novel and the reader. You don't have to have lived in the Soviet Union to appreciate the glee with which Ostap Bender takes official Soviet “Newspeak” and twists it to serve his own ends — like an aikido master, Bender takes the force of the enemy's attack and directs it back against him. And readers don't have to have been bombarded with Soviet-era propaganda to appreciate the way Bender deliberately misquotes famous slogans (“you have nothing to lose but your extra chains”), or makes up new ones (“don't make a cult out of food”), or even just appropriates an extant phrase (“I will command the parade!”).
And finally, the novel's reception history is truly fascinating. As one would expect from any self-respecting satire, the Bender novels have been claimed by both sides of the political spectrum: they were called “anti-Soviet slander” and “classics of Soviet satire,” depending on the decade. But they have also provoked bitter arguments over the role of the Russian (and Jewish Russian) intelligentsia; enriched Russian culture with dozens of proverbial sayings and archetypal figures; inspired three “third novels about Ostap Bender,” as well as many film and stage adaptations, puppet theater adaptations, operettas, and radio shows (including one pitting Ostap Bender against Sherlock Holmes); prompted the creation of the People's Museum of Ostap Bender in St. Petersburg; caused a smattering of statues of Bender and other characters to appear all over the FSU; and spawned an entire industry of commentaries. At least four different commentated Russian-language editions have been published since 1989, all of which pale before the monumental commentaries of Yury Shcheglov (think Nabokov's commentaries to Eugene Onegin), which are themselves the target of Alexander Wentzell's fascinating hybrid genre of “memoirs-as-commentary,” his 2005 Commentaries to the Commentaries, Notes to the Notes of Y. K. Shcheglov, in which he expresses the hope that others will keep the game alive by writing their commentaries to his commentaries to Shcheglov's commentaries... all of which is another reason the novel had to be equipped with what is, really, the minimum possible number of endnotes.
In sum, these novels are key texts for understanding Soviet culture, which, of course, makes them indispensable for understanding the post-Soviet sphere as well. This edition is meant to:
— Anne O. Fisher
Anne O. Fisher first tried reading Ilf and Petrov’s Ostap Bender novels in 1995, as an undergraduate exchange student at Petrozavodsk State Pedagogical University, where patient friends spent many hours explaining the books to her. Ten years later, she defended her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Michigan on the novels’ reading and publishing history from 1928 to the present. She will soon complete her new translation of The Twelve Chairs. Her most recent award is an NEH grant to support her next project, a collaboration with Alexandra Ilf on a biography of Ilya Ilf and a translation of his writer's notebooks.
This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
For over 100 years, most of the science fiction produced by the world’s largest country has been beyond the reach of Western readers. This new collection changes that, bringing a large body of influential works into the English orbit.
A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.
Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
In honor of Chekhov's 150th birthday, we produced a special 168-page Chtenia: Chekhov Bilingual with English and accented Russian on facing pages throughout. This is truly a collector's edition, in addition to being a great language-learning tool.
A look at the life and work of Bulat Okudzhava, King of the Bards. Thematic sections have short introductions, and all poems and stories in this volume are presented side by side in English and Russian.
The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.