THE IVANKIAD by Vladimir Voinovich


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Bitterly, hilariously, the dissident Soviet humorist (. . . Adventures of Private Chonkin) recounts an autobiographical novella-length tale of bureaucratic madness that's too absurd--and too glutted with (footnoted) real names to be fictional. After five years in a single room at the Moscow Writers' Housing Cooperative, Voinovich and his wife (now pregnant) are promised the next available two-roomer, but, when one opens up (Andrei Klenov, nÉ Aaron Kuperstock, leaves for Israel), a blight attaches itself to Voinovich's life: Sergei Sergeevich Ivanko, ""parasite of parasites,"" author of Taiwan: Chinese Land From Time Immemorial, possessor of Party connections--and an American toilet for which the vacant apartment (it abuts Ivanko's already spacious suite) is the natural spot. The war for apartment 66 is under way, with politicking in the corridors, letter-writing, bribe-offering, appeals to the Regional Committee and the Writers' Union, hearings, impeachment proceedings (against the pro-Ivanko Chairman of the cooperative), and finally a last-resort, law-violating tactic--Voinovich simply moves in. Alternating between fevered fantasy, naked rage, and pointed whimsy (""Can a saucepan be considered a member of the Writers' Union?""), this mock epic--in an unusually fine, colloquial translation--entertains, and, at the same time, tells us enough about Soviet lifestyle (or lack thereof) and Soviet publishing (mostly non-publishing) to make us feel guilty for laughing: a double vodka, from Russia, with bile.

Pub Date: July 11th, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux