The Golden Calf by Илья Ильф, Evgeny Petrov, Konstantin Gurevich & Helen Anderson

Book Review : The Golden Calf

By Илья Ильф, Evgeny Petrov, Konstantin Gurevich & Helen Anderson

  • Publication Date: 2009-12-15
  • Genre: Literary

Book Review

"A remarkably funny book written by a remarkable pair of collaborators."—New York Times

Ostap Bender, the "grand strategist," is a con man on the make in the Soviet Union during the New Economic Policy (NEP) period. He's obsessed with getting one last big score—a few hundred thousand will do—and heading for Rio de Janeiro, where there are "a million and a half people, all of them wearing white pants, without exception."

When Bender hears the story of Alexandr Koreiko, an "undercover millionaire"—no Soviet citizen was allowed to openly hoard so much capital—the chase is on. Koreiko has made his millions by taking advantage of the wide-spread corruption and utter chaos of the NEP, all while serving quietly as an accountant at a government office and living on 46 rubles a month. He's just waiting for the Soviet regime to collapse so he can make use of his stash, which he keeps hidden away in a suitcase.

Ilya Ilf (1897–1937) and Evgeny Petrov (1903–1942) were the pseudonyms of Ilya Arnoldovich Faynzilberg and Evgeny Petrovich Katayev, a pair of Soviet writers who met in Moscow in the 1920s while working on the staff of a newspaper that was distributed to railway workers. The foremost comic novelists of the early Soviet Union (invariably referred to as Ilf & Petrov), the pair collaborated together for a dozen years, writing two of the most revered and loved Russian novels, The Twelve Chairs and The Golden Calf, as well as various humorous pieces for Pravda and other magazines. Their collaboration came to an end following the death of Ilya Ilf in 1937—he had contracted tuberculosis while the pair was traveling the United States researching the book that eventually became Little Golden America.

Konstantin Gurevich is a graduate of Moscow State University and the University of Texas at Austin. He translates with his wife, Helen Anderson. Both are librarians at the University of Rochester.

Helen Anderson studied Russian language and literature at McGill University in Montréal. She translates with her husband, Konstantin Gurevich.

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