And now... our feature presentations for this post. I am looking forward to attending this book club organized by the Russian Round Table, a wonderful Russian club of Miami.
*Starred Review* Ilya Ilf (1897-1937) and Evgeny Petrov (1903-42) are the foremost comic novelists of the early Soviet Union. Their The Twelve Chairs (1928) was never suppressed, and in 1970 Mel Brooks made one of his earliest hit movies out of it.
Their popularity and doctrinal orthodoxy helped them land an assignment for a series of articles about the real America, illustrated by photos Ilf snapped with a new Leica.
Starting out from New York City in late November 1935, they drove to Chicago and then in a southerly circuit through Missouri and the Southwest, up to San Francisco, and back via southern Texas and the Gulf and tidewater coasts to Manhattan after New Year's.
They gawked and got bored, picked up hitchhikers, palavered when they could (they were stunned by Americans' incuriosity about them), swallowed a couple of stretchers, and reported everything in 11 loosely thematic pieces whose prose is clean as a whistle and much more ingenuous.
Ilf's pictures, reproduced from the best available sources (the negatives have vanished), are reminiscent of the Farm Security Administration photos of , Dorothea Lange, and company, but they're literally artless, just snapshots, really.
Impeccably translated, edited, and introduced, and supplemented by artist Aleksandr Rodchenko's prepublication assessment of the original photos and remarks by Ilf's daughter, Aleksandra, this is riveting, fresh-eyed Americana and--how d'you say?--Sovietiana? Ray Olson
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... a jovial and surprisingly affectionate account... a fascinating snapshot of a nation's history... before the Cold War took firm hold. -- CNN Traveler, Dec. 2006
In 1935, two Soviet writers embarked on a Borat-like tour of the U.S. Relive their strange journey in this delightful book. -- , "The Must List", November 10, 2006
Now translated, this is a riveting piece of Americana. -- Booklist, September 15, 2007
Sorry, Borat, but two sassy Soviet Russians beat you to it. Just published for the first time ever in English, this lost treasure is a cool, srange artifact, but it's also simply a hoot. -- Very Short List, November 9, 2006