- Publisher: Berkeley Slavic Specialties (September 1996)
- Language: Russian
- ISBN-10: 1572010282
- ISBN-13: 978-1572010284
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.5 x 10.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,241,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Golden Calf, Zolotoi Telenok: An Annotated, Accented Reader With Exercises (Russian Edition) (Russian)
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Top customer reviews
Ilf and Petrov were two satirical writers who were very popular in the Soviet Union. Of course during the writing of this book (and its prequel the Twelve Chairs) it was impossible to satirise life in the 20s and 30s in the USSR directly without losing your life. They managed to write two books that satisfied both the officials and the readers. The books are incredibly funny and absurd dissections of almost every aspect of Soviet society, but often the most punchy parts aren't said explicitly. They also make fun of the pre-Soviet mindset just as well.
In The Golden Calf we again see Ostap Bender the charismatic con artist re-emerge after surviving his last adventure against all odds. He teams up with a small handful of other petty criminals and a car and they come up with another enrichment scheme. This time, they aim to blackmail Koreiko who they find out is a millionaire. They go on a road trip to end all road trips and again see their country through the magnifying glass that is the satire of Ilf and Petrov. There is also an ideological part as Bender's investigation of Koreiko's past causes him to "lose his faith in humanity" and he also finds that having money in the USSR is no advantage whatsoever - in fact it alienates him further from society (one of my favourite scenes is when a dejected Bender seeks an audience with a visiting Indian philosopher to find out the meaning of life).
A fierce, sharp but warmhearted satire on early Soviet and pre-Soviet society - make sure to read the prequel too!
These two books are about adventures of the main hero Ostap Bender in Russia in the period between 1927 and 1930. Ostap in a very non-conventional type of "hero", in fact he is an opposite of the typical Soviet stereotype of a good man (factory worker, Communist, faithful husband and etc.). Ostap is a small time con artist who dreams of riches and doesn't think that he belongs to Soviet reality. In both books he's hunting for treasures and the readers get a great chance to catch a glimpse of Soviet reality as seen through his and his mostly inept companions' eyes.
Both books are written with a bright, ever contemporary humor that still makes people laugh even though the USSR is long gone. I don't know how what it is like for the people who weren't born in the former USSR to read these books in languages other than Russian, as some of the funniest things will probably go unnoticed or will be lost in translation. However, I highly recommend reading both of them if one wants to understand Soviet culture better or impress friends from the former USSR by using phrases that became a part of the general culture (i.e. "Money in the evening, chairs in the morning" or "I will command the parade!").
The books were even further popularized by the great TV series "Twelve Chairs" with a star cast of Soviet cinematography (A. Mironov as Ostap and A.Papanov as Ippolit) and "Golden Calf" with a great cast as well.
The only books in Russian that I always keep (in my mostly technical collection) are these two and "Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov - another great masterpiece...
These crooks on the loose, with their ingenuity and street smarts, who impersonate the sons of former great national Generals in order to cadge money and cafetaria tickets, who take the heroes' welcome due to the real roadrace cars and dine at the citizens' expense wherever they go... surely this was made into a movie somewhere along the line? Now that the USSR is gone?
I'm waiting for it at the video store.