I just finished reading The Golden Calf and it was GREAT. It is by far the funniest, wittiest Russian satire I’ve ever read. (Actually, it’s the only Russian satire I’ve only read but that’s not really the point.)
Set during the 1930s the novel takes place during Lenin’s New Economic Policy. The story follows con man Ostap Bender as he puts together a crew to track and bilk a underground millionaire of his fortune so Ostap can fulfill his dream of escaping to sunny Rio de Janeiro. The novel is part heist narrative, part sly political commentary, and part absurdist farce.
The Golden Calf is part of the Open Letter series published by the University of Rochester. The series focuses on international literature and only publishes works originally written in non-English languages after they have been translated into English. Open Letter publishes twelve books a year and you can subscribe to receive them as they are released. (N gave me a subscription for Christmas which I how I read The Golden Calf.)
I recommend the series and The Golden Calf in particular. It’s one of the few books that have made me laugh aloud and yet left me feeling smarter after reading it. From what I can tell (not knowing Russian and all) the translation wonderfully captures all the humor of the original story. And on an aesthetic level, the book cover is nicely designed and the book is printed on very nice paper so it’s a pleasure to hold in your hand.
If you can track down a copy I think you’ll be happy you read it.