The Twelve Chairs

12By Ilf and Petrov.

Yet another great book. I seem to be on a roll recently or perhaps the critical process before I select a novel to read is paying dividends. This is every bit as good as The Golden Calf – I think it is maybe more standard as a novel but it still runs away with itself similar to ‘the Calf’ which is the sequel.

There are many laugh out loud moments but generally the book was read with a constant smile on the face. There is more than just the humour  – it is an indictment of the desire for money. The characters that strive for financial gain are sensitively treated however, particularly Ostap Bender. It also critiques the trappings of communism and the NEP reforms of the 20s along with the bureaucrats and it is precisely this political ambiguity which means the novel is still relevant.

This story is strange, amusing and imaginative with some underlying meaning. You never know what is going to happen at any juncture – who are the odd characters you will meet, will Bender and cohorts win or fail and does it really matter?

There is one more Ilf and Petrov book left to get – I will need to savour reading it.

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The Golden Calf

calfBy Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov

Absolutely fantastic. This is exactly what I love: picaresque, amusing, ironic, intelligent and surreal. I am not sure how exactly they got this through the censor – possibly because the moral can be seen as being against the filthy lucre. The alternative ending given as an appendix is very interesting as well. As with most picaresque novels there is a search for something or a goal. I really don’t want to give too much away so all I can say is you should read it if you like this sort of thing. I do, so will soon be purchasing the Twelve Chairs and their American Road Trip.

As a summary, Ostap Bender is a con man operating in the relatively lax NEP environment of the 1920s. The Golden Calf is the sequel to the Twelve Chairs so I have read this the wrong way round – but no matter. I would really love a sequel to the Golden Calf. Maybe this is something worth pursuing – though it would need to be with an accomplice. Would anyone like to write a sequel with me?

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