NERVOUS PEOPLE AND OTHER SATIRES by Mikhail Zoschenko

NERVOUS PEOPLE AND OTHER SATIRES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A rich, vigorous collection of funny, frightening tales, short and long, from the Gogol of the Soviets, Zoschenko who relates the few ups and the many downs of Communism's first three decades, also suffered accordingly: branded a ""literary hoodlum"" during the purges, it was not until the post-Stalinist ""thaw"", a few years before his death, that he was ""rehabilitated"". However, despite the pell-mell political pressure, Zoschenko was thoroughly popular, both with the literati and the masses, and probably only a bureaucrat would be hard put to know why. His sketches, for instance, all narrated in knockabout, man-of-the-street style, and expertly translated here, spoof the officially sublime (Comrades, three cheers for the new five year plan!) and strafe the unofficially ridiculous (bedbugs in all the beds, bathhouses without baths, etc.). His larger efforts, anti-Utopian in temper and ironically irreverent in tone, approach less Gogol than the Dostoevsky of Notes from the Underground and the Nabokov of emigre days: Michel, a study of a prerevolutionary intellectual's dissolution in the new era, and Sunrise, a sort of mind-at-the-end-of-its tether vaudeville, pinpointing, from dazzlingly different angles, a picture of breakdown and upheaval, at once absurd, agonizing, adventuresome, humane. Said Zoschenko- ""Laughter was in my books, not in my heart"". A true, truly-felt talent.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1963
Publisher: Pantheon