The Brass Tack

Let's get down to it.

From Russia with Love

Posted by srconstantin on August 4, 2009

Two wonderful things of the Russkie variety:

Lydia Kavina (a student of Leon Theremin himself) playing “Claire de Lune” on the theremin.

The full text of Ilf and Petrov’s classic The Twelve Chairs. For the uninitiated, Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov were a pair of humorists, writing together from 1927 to 1937.
As they introduced themselves in their “autobiography”

t is very difficult to write together. It was easier for the
Goncourts, we suppose. After all, they were brothers, while we are not even
related to each other. We are not even of the same age. And even of
different nationalities; while one is a Russian (the enigmatic Russian
soul), the other is a Jew (the enigmatic Jewish soul).

The Twelve Chairs (later made into a fairly awful Mel Brooks movie) is the story of a down-on-his-luck aristocrat trying to recover the jewels that his mother-in-law sewed into a chair before the Revolution, and the irrepressible young con-man Ostap Bender who helps him on his quest. It was a daring book — there’s quite a bit of ribbing at the expense of the Communists — and the humor holds up through eighty years and a rather old English translation. Not only humor, but sweetness; in the sense that, no matter what happens, people will keep on complaining, eating, drinking, falling in love, and ridiculing the pompous.

The Little Golden Calf is also supposed to be good, and maybe I’ll read that next if I can find it. Skip Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip. It’s a Pravda project, and reads like one: stilted and pedantic. The power to make a writer not funny anymore — that’s a sad thought.

(Link thanks to mute.

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