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Envy by Yuri Olesha

Envy (1927)

by Yuri Olesha

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Here's a question for you: What do you get when you cross Dostoyevsky's underground man, Gogol's wicked satire, a Nabokovian gift for metaphor, and place them in early Soviet Russia?

Unfortunately, something less than the sum of its parts.

Envy is set in 1920s Soviet Russia, with a drunken loser, Kavalerov, living in the home of a porcine official sausage-maker, Babichev, who is beloved by all. Kavalerov hates Babichev's guts, and writes a letter full of bile against him. Soon after, there's some family drama with Babichev's brother, Ivan.

The language, aside from a few fantastic metaphors, is dull. The narrative is gormless, and largely exists to string together the better moments together. For a 'Modernist' work, it is not as metaphorical or colorful, like Petersburg. I'm not sure whether to ascribe it to undiscovered Soviet editorial mangling, or a subpar translation (the NYRB edition). A pity. ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
First published in 1927 at the wave of Soviet avant-garde fiction, it is a small wonder that this book got in print. Its surreal and playful style is a great precursor to Master and Margarita, which Bulgakov started to write in 1928. Olesha managed to write a deeply ironic and satiric piece that nevertheless won official critical acclaim - this alone is a testimony that the novel can be read on several different levels.

A masterpiece of Russian fiction that deserves to be listed among the major works of 20th century literature. ( )
2 vote nuwanda | Sep 10, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yuri Oleshaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Anthony WolfeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwartz, MarianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the morning he sings in the john.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0882330918, Paperback)

First published in 1927, Yuri Olesha’s Envy is, both stylistically and thematically one of the most provocative novels of the Soviet Era. Andre Babichev is a paragon of Soviet values, an innovative and practical man, Director of the Food Industry Trust, a man whose vision encompasses such future advances for mankind as the 35-kopeck sausage and the self-peeling potato. Out of kindness, he rescues from the gutter Nikolia Kavalerov, violently tossed from a bar after a drunken and self-destructive tirade. But instead of gratitude, Babichev finds himself the subject of an endlessly malignant jealousy, as Kavaelrov sees in him a representative of the new breed of man who has prevented him from realizing his greatness. A scathing social satire, Envy is a concise and incisive exploration of the paradigmatic conflicts of the early Soviet age: old versus new, imagination versus pragmatism, and the alienation of the romantic artist in the age of technology.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:00 -0400)

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