THE LIFE AND EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF PRIVATE IVAN CHONKIN by Vladimir Voinovich

THE LIFE AND EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF PRIVATE IVAN CHONKIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1963, a year after One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich appeared in Novy Mir, this satiric send-up was announced there; it was written between 1963 and 1970, parts of it circulating in samizdat. Private Chonkin is another simple peasant Ivan with red ears, but he's a real shlub (derivation Slavic), his career epitomized in one of the first utterances he provokes: ""this is no soldier, this is a bad joke."" He materializes shortly after a biplane comes down in a small village, frightening one Nyura Belyashova into a potato furrow. Presumably he is to guard the plane, and he joins Nyura in her house. She's a plain, practical young woman whom life and men have passed by (even if later there's something about her marriage to her hog Borka whom she considers a ""living soul"" and whom Ivan smashes in the snout). You'll meet other villagers--Golubev, Chairman of the kolkhoz; Gladishev, the native intellectual (after all, the word Water Closet is imprinted on his outhouse) and, toward the end, even an official from SMERSH. Part II, sharing the fate of many a jape, is more straggly. It deals with the war years when Chonkin becomes the cynosure of high military eyes--he's a deserter, or perhaps the head of a gang, or. . . . Voinovich is a very funny writer even if the humor may be as broad as a farm horse rump in an era when horses were at a greater premium than sacred cows--be they poets or Jews or ""Heil Stalin"" or the System. A work of genially camouflaged truth and sublime ineptitude.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1976
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux