Nervous People, and Other Satires

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Indiana University Press, 1963 - Literary Criticism - 449 pages
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Among the most popular writers of the early Soviet period was the satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko, whose career spanned nearly four decades and who was as beloved by ordinary people as he was admired by the elite. His most popular pieces, often appearing in newspapers, were "short-short stories" written in a slangy, colloquial style. Typical targets of his satire are the Soviet bureaucracy, crowded conditions in communal apartments, marital infidelities and the rapid turnover in marriage partners, and what a disdainful Soviet judge in one of the sketches dismisses as "the petty-bourgeois mode of life, with its adulterous episodes, lying, and similar nonsense." Farcical complications, satiric understatement, humorous anachronisms, and an ironic contrast between high-flown sentiments and the down-to-earth reality of mercenary instincts were his favorite devices. Zoshchenko had an uncanny knack for eluding Soviet censorship (one of the sketches even touches humorously on the dangerous topic of party purges) and his work as a result offers us a marvelous window on life in Russia during the twenties and thirties.

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There were no more writers in Russia of that days who was able to use Russian language at that extend. Zoschenko’s humour is not in the story or plot whatsoever, it is in language. Even not all Russian speaking readers can apprehend the language of Zoschenko’s short stories that is why I say Thank you so much to all interpreters who have managed to put it in English so as gaining the English readers’ acknowledgment.
Thank you

Review: Nervous People and Other Satires

User Review  - Zach - Goodreads

I have not read every single story, nor will I probably until I am officially retired, and not just unemployed. Here are encapsulated the very reason I detest going to the theater, and my frustrations ... Read full review


What the Nightingale Sang
The Lilacs Are Blooming
Michel Sinyagin
Nervous People
The Bathhouse
The Crisis
An Amusing Adventure
A Water Ballet
A True Incident
A Heart of Stone
The Dictaphone
BigCity Lights
The Canvas Brief Case

A Summer Breather
The Czars Boots
A Clever Little Trick
Dont Speculate
The Affidavit
The Story of a Man Who Was Purged from
Baths and People
A Tragicomedy
The Funeral Feast
A Jolly Game 205
Bees and People
The Buoy
An Extraordinary Incident
Before Sunrise excerpts

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About the author (1963)

His first book of stories appeared in 1921 and became extraordinarily popular. However, he came under political pressure in the 1930s because some of his works, such as Youth Restored (1933), were too slyly ambiguous to fit the socialist realist model. In 1946, together with Akhmatova, he was singled out for an extraordinary attack by culture "boss" Andrei Zhdanov and was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers. From then on he mostly produced translations. Zoshchenko was an extremely effective satirist who took his subjects from the paradoxes and incongruities of post-Revolutionary Russian society. He showed that human nature, which the new government was trying to change, would assert itself nonetheless. His language is fascinating. He often chooses lower-class narrators who speak in a mixture of the colloquial and of the new Soviet rhetoric---with highly comic results. During the 1930s, Zoshchenko's fiction began to explore philosophical and theoretical problems. A well-known example is Before Sunrise, the first part of which was published in 1943. In it the author analyzes his own psyche, in the process touching on the then-forbidden theories of Freud. Publication of the complete text of this work did not occur until 1972.

Leo Tolstoy (18281910) was the author of two of literatures greatest novels, "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina,"
Ronald Wilks has translated works by Gorky, Gogol, and Chekhov for Penguin Classics.
Hugh McLean has published widely on Russian literature.
Paul Foote was, until his retirement, a university lecturer in Russian and fellow of The Queens College, Oxford.

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