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Private Chonkin #1

The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin

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Ivan Chonkin is a simple, bumbling peasant who has been drafted into the Red Army. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he is sent to an obscure village with one week's ration of canned meat and orders to guard a downed plane. Apparently forgotten by his unit, Chonkin resumes his life as a peasant and passes the war tending the village postmistress's garden. Just after the German invasion, the secret police discover this mysterious soldier lurking behind the front line. Their pursuit of Chonkin and his determined resistance lead to wild skirmishes and slapstick encounters.

316 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1969

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About the author

Vladimir Voinovich

71 books87 followers
Vladimir Voinovich (rus. Владимир Николаевич Войнович) was born in what is now Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, but which at the time of his birth was Stalinabad, a city in the USSR.

Voinovich started writing and publishing poetry during the army service; he later switched to writing prose and ultimately became famous as a master of satirical depiction of the absurdity of Soviet life. However, he does not forgo real people in favor of the grand scheme of things.

Satiric fiction has never been popular under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. Voinovich's writing and political activity (dissident) led to his expulsion from the Writer's Union (194), emigration to Germany (1980), and loss of USSR citizenship (1981; restored 10 years later).

Voinovich is a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Department of Language and Literature.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 115 reviews
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,377 reviews12k followers
January 24, 2020

Short, bowlegged, big red ears, field shirt sticking out over his belt, Private Ivan Chonkin, the hero of Vladimir Voinovich’s novel, has been likened to Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk, and for good reason – like Švejk, Chonkin is an everyman forever at war with the forces - political, military, social, whatever - that use the iron fist of power in an attempt to obliterate a person’s unique individuality and humanity.

Squarely in the great tradition of satire and the absurdist fiction of Gogol, Kharms and Zabolotsky, with The Life & Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin Vladimir Voinovich served up enough anti-Soviet zingers to contribute to his eventually getting kicked out of the country and stripped of his citizenship.

The storyline is simple: a pilot of a Soviet aircraft makes a forced landing in the farming village of Krasnoye near his Air Force base. Private Ivan Chonkin is sent to guard the military’s property.

I so much enjoyed the novel’s narrator telling readers directly how he amassed information on the subject of Chonkin and the village and added a little something of his own. And how he would have taken a tall, well built, disciplined military hero for his main character but all those crack students of military and political theory where already taken up and all he was left with was Chonkin. However, he urges us to treat his novel’s hero (Chonkin) as we would our very own child since when we have a child we get what we get and don’t throw the kid out the window.

Likewise, I relished the Mikhail Bulgakovesque dream sequences that gave Mr. Voinovich the opportunity to flex his creative imagination. Chonkin has his first dream when he’s sleeping in bed with Nyurka, his new girlfriend from the village. He watches as none other than Comrade Stalin slowly descends from the sky holding his rifle and wearing a woman’s dress. Stalin tells the sergeant in charge that Private Chonkin abandoned his post guarding the aircraft, lost his combat weapon and therefore deserves to be shot.

In our hero’s second dream, he attends a wedding reception where the groom and all the guests turn out to be not humans but pigs. Oh, no, he's been duped! Chonkin realizes he has blurted out a classified military secret to the first person (actually a pig) he ran into at the table. And one of the dire consequences of his fatal mistake? Humanork is on the menu! A tray bearing naked Comrade Stalin holding his famous pipe, all garnished with onions and green peas. Stalin grins slyly to himself behind his mustache.

The third dream is another doozy. This time the dreamer is Gladishev, one of the villagers who is a prototypical Soviet “new” man of science. In Gladishev’s dream his horse Osya informs him in plain Russian that he is no longer a horse but a human being. Gladishev says if Osya is a true Soviet human he would go to the front to fight the Germans. Osya replies that Gladishev is the dumbest person in the world since he should know a horse doesn’t have fingers to pull a trigger.

These are but snatches catching several colorful, hilarious bits. What's noteworthy is the way these dreams reinforce a major theme running throughout the novel: the prevailing Soviet system is a complete misreading of the rhythms of nature and life. Such an inept, ass-backwards system will lead men like Gladishev to do such things as fill his house with shit, even eat shit and drink water mixed with shit, based on scientific and materialistic calculations that all life is nourished by shit.

Such a misreading has its effect on all areas of Soviet life and community. For instance, at one village meeting the chairman of the local kolkhoz (collective farm) chastises members who fail to work the minimum number of workdays. Among the Comrades singled out for a tongue lashing is Zhikin, one of those who flaunts his age and illnesses. The chairman goes on: “Of course I realize that Zhikin is a disabled Civil War veteran and has not legs. But now he’s cashing in on those legs of his. . . Let him sit himself down in a furrow and crawl from bush to bush at his own speed, weeding as he goes and thereby fulfilling the minimum workday requirements.”

The chairman also is vocal when the village learns of the German offensive against their country: “The war will write everything off. The main thing’s to get to the front as fast as possible; there either you get a chest full of metals or a head full of bullets, but either way, at least you can live like an honest man.”

Such Soviet wisdom peppers every page. This is a very funny book. But as you are laughing, Comrades, you will be brought face-to-face with life on a community farm and in the military that is downright cruel and brutalizing.

One last example that really tickled my funny-bone. The narrator relays a rapid change of chairmen over at another village. The first chairman was put in jail for stealing, the second for seducing minors, and the third took to drinking and kept on drinking until he drank up everything he owned and all the kolkhoz funds. Things got so bad he hanged himself but left a one world suicide note – “Ech” with three exclamation points. The narrator tells us nobody figured out what that “Ech!!!” was supposed to mean. Actually, even as an American in 2018 I have a pretty good idea what he was getting at with his “Ech!!!” --- I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANY MORE!!!

Having read The Fur Hat and Moscow 2042 I wanted to treat myself to Vladimir Voinovich’s classic earlier work. I’m glad I did. I enjoy laughing and this novel provided ample opportunities. I can see why Ivan Chonkin is now a widely known figure in Russian popular culture.

Vladimir Voinovich, Born 1932

"Kuzma Gladishev was known as a learned man not only in Krasnoye but in the entire area. One of the many proofs of his erudition was the wooden outhouse in his garden, on which was written in large black letters, in English, WATER CLOSET." - Vladimir Voinovich, The Life & Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
Profile Image for Tony.
919 reviews1,556 followers
February 25, 2016
This has been called 'the Russian Švejk', and I can certainly see that. It's a farce; and it kept me smiling then laughing, at a little sly humor or at outright buffoonery.

Skewering the communist system: A meeting is an arrangement whereby a large number of people gather together, some to say what they really do not think, some not to say what they really do.

Or the foolishness of war: Chonkin did not learn about what had happened (Barbarossa) immediately because he was sitting in the outhouse, in no hurry to leave.

The laugh out loud part is when, through a misunderstanding, a Russian officer escaping from Chonkin is thought by other Russian officials to be a German soldier. He has to be interrogated, right? So they find some junior lieutenant who 'studied' German in school. What he actually learned pretty much began and ended with : Heute ist das Wasser warm. But in he goes to question 'the German'. The poor Russian officer wakes from a concussion, thanks to a rifle butt to the jaw, and is groggily confronted by this soldier barking some Guten Morgen, Herr at him. Thinking himself captured by the Nazis, he starts shouting Heil Hitler! Stalin kaput!

I was entertained.

_____ _____ _____ _____ _____

Not that these star rating thingies really matter, but I bumped this up a half-star because Vladimir Voinovich is the guy who carried the micro-filmed pages of Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate to the West. That has to count for something.

Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,892 followers
December 27, 2016
Chonkin a hapless, stupid soldier, is a classic Ivan from a folk tale who although simple and straight forward will win through in the end. Taken out of his environment and placed in another ecosystem things quickly look very different.

Sent to guard an aeroplane that was forced to land in a village, the dumbest soldier in the Red Army becomes the cleverest man for miles around. There he finds true love in the shape of the cleverest woman in the village which plainly is right and appropriate. Alas the craziness of the world ensures that things rapidly go wrong in order to maintain the comedy, but not too badly wrong since Voinovich was able to continue the story in a sequel Pretender to the Throne .

One of the few books with a joke featuring Stalin's two wives, as well as a man trying to develop a plant which grows potatoes at the root and fruits tomatoes off the stem too.
Profile Image for Phrodrick.
901 reviews39 followers
August 5, 2023
It is easy to understand why many reviewers of Vladimir Voinovich’s The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin to its Czech forerunner in The Good Soldier Švejk. Both characters are hapless peasants, drafted in the Army where their main goal is to finish their time and go home. In the case of Private Chonkin, he is a few days from his discharge and is the lest soldierly of his regiment. This makes him the obvious choice to be sent off base, to a remote village, with a few days supply of food and orders to stand watch over a crash laded aircraft from his unit. Guard duty is universally understood to be soul killing work, there being nothing to do but stand and watch and await relief. In Pvt Chonkin’s world no one can relieve a guard except the Corporal of the guard, the Sargent of the guard and maybe, but he is not sure a general. He has never met a general, but that seems like something a general should be able to do.

Very quickly he becomes bored and very quickly he catches the eye of the village post mistress. She is single and very appreciative to have a hard-working peasant- Albeit one in an army uniform, available to do yard work, prepare meals and be loyal after-hours company.

Somewhere in the vaster reaches of Mother Russia a war is about to happen. It will come as a surprise and will make desperate calls for soldiers and farm work. But that will be over there, in that part of the vastness of Russia. Over here is Pvt. Chonkin, his regiment has long since forgotten about him and the post mistress, her pig and cow are far more to Chokin’s liking.

All of this could be plot lines in The Good Soldier, or even added into the American comic strip Beetle Bailey. What makes this distinctly Russian are the steady broadsides at the expense of the Bureaucracy and the Soviet era’s dependence on fear. Russian humor has a long tradition of poking fun at the bureaucracy. Long before the Communists, government was repressive. Very senior people could make life miserable for their juniors. For a lower level bureaucrat being correct was a bad choice if, by being correct embarrasses his superior.

Early in the book, Chonkin’s sergeant while writing to his far away girlfriend, makes a strong case for staying in the Army, because he gets to push around lower ranking troops. He is suddenly in the presence of his captain who issues panicked, on the double orders ending for the sergeant any chance to waste his work day as was his wont. Of course, he will modify his letter accordingly.

Having been on the lookout for Russian humor, it is possible to anticipate some of the satire. Juniors quail before seniors, and in the absence of believers the local philosophy becomes the same as Pvt Chonkin’s: 1) work slowly 2) delay your work since the higher ups might change their mind. Voinovich adds in some clever takes against Soviet era science and its strange preference for the propaganda value of science rather than its actual possibilities. A local farmer becomes fixated on the notion of cross breading tomato and potato plants. The expected result being a plant with potatoes in the ground and tomatoes on its limbs. Our farmer is a man of science, dedicated to his goal and having attracted so favorable press he is left alone. Alone in this case means filling his house and his food with the crudest forms of fertilizers. Side notes the joke is slightly less successful in Russian, as the words for tomato and potato are not so much alike. The extended satire of the seriously evil, certain secret organization (the never named ‘smiling’ state police, NKVD) provides some of the best humor in the book.

Over all the satire in The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin can be heavy handed, but in that it is much like a lot of Russian satire. In the case of Vladimir Voinovich it did cost him his citizenship, and it did get him back during glasnost. Oddly Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed him to live out his 85 years without a fall from grace, or a window. Then again, Vionovich, also satirized Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,189 reviews
March 29, 2020
Querido lector, seguramente no se te habrá escapado que la escasa estatura, las piernas zambas y las orejas rojas eran las características de Iván Chonkin, aquel soldado que cumplía su último año de servicio. «¡Pues vaya figura desdichada! —dirás con enojo—. ¿Qué ejemplo es ése para la generación joven? ¿Y dónde habrá visto el autor un “héroe” semejante, así, entre comillas?» Y yo, el autor, entre la espada y la pared; cogido, como suele decirse, con las manos en la masa, me veré obligado a reconocer que no lo he visto en ningún lugar, sino que lo extraje de mi imaginación, y no precisamente con ánimo de proponerlo como ejemplo, sino únicamente para pasar el rato. «Admitamos que fuera así —replicarás con recelo—, pero ¿por qué inventar? ¿Es que el autor no pudo copiar de la vida misma su modelo? ¿Un gigante de la guerra, alto, apuesto, disciplinado, con sobresalientes calificaciones en formación militar y política?» Claro que habría sido preferible, pero no llegué a tiempo. Todos los dechados habían sido ya empleados por alguien como modelo, y a mí no me quedó más que Chonkin. Y aunque al principio reaccioné con amargura, acabé por resignarme. Porque, al igual que al hijo, al héroe de un libro hay que aceptarlo tal cual es; no puede uno echarlo por la ventana. Aunque los hijos ajenos tal vez sean mejores, más listos, eso no impide que queramos más al propio, precisamente por eso, porque es nuestro.

Absolutamente genial. ¡Qué gran descubrimiento!
(Ni el maestro Gila podría haberme hecho reír tanto)
Profile Image for Namrirru.
267 reviews
July 13, 2007
Yikes! How does this have such a bad "rating?" This book is hilarious! Every sentence and every page is tickle your tummy funny. Voinovich channels Gogol's anti-hero Chichikov in Chonkin, a petty soldier sent to guard a broken down airplane in the middle of nowhere. His troubles start with a cow... and get more and more ridiculous!
Profile Image for Michael Scott.
725 reviews138 followers
March 14, 2011
Vladimir Voinovich's Chonkin is a good foray into the Russian muzhik's (commoner's) psyche. Born and raised a farmer in Stalin's time, Ivan gets called to the army, where he embarks first unbeknowingly then unwillingly into an adventure that will change (spoiler: and end) his life. Chronicling this journey, the author gets to talk about the "joys" of real-Communism: indoctrination of simple people who can barely speak (not to mention write), formation of cliques for sharing the little local power, propagation of meaningless orders from the top, the "wireless phone"---lossy or faulty transmission of messages through human chains---, obliteration of personal opinion, etc. Unlike Solzhenitsyn, Voinovich adopts a cynical, tragicomical tone; thus, this story can be seen as a Russian take on Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War. Poorly educated and easily dumbfounded, Chonkin is perhaps a less lovable character than Svejk; it is perhaps because of this that Voinovich makes his story take surreal and oneiric turns. What I disliked about this work is the rather thin story---much thinner than in Moscow 2042, by the same author---, the lack of powerful characters---a characteristic of Voinovich's work, as far as I can tell---, and the often rough wording---Voinovich is no Russian classic. Overall, a nice read but overall not inspiring.
Profile Image for Josh.
306 reviews160 followers
June 26, 2020
This was brilliant and hilarious.

One of the best satires of Russian life under Stalin and really made fun of his cult of personality in a way that is unmatched.

Definitely going to track down Book 2 and perhaps Book 3.

Recommended for those who have a vague sense of Stalin's collectivization ideals and for those who like Vonnegut.
Profile Image for Chuck LoPresti.
164 reviews79 followers
March 15, 2013
Private Chonkin is breezy and hilarious read about a quixotic failure of a hero that serves as a compendium of communist dunderheads, snollygosters, lickspittles, boozers and bedpressers. A more complete catalog of nincompoopery – I am not familiar with. Voinovich’s piss-take on communist society should leave no attentive reader with a straight face. There’s little gravity in the style of Voinovich’s writing as he’s obviously focused on mockery. But style aside – unseating the power of communist oppression shouldn't be a laughing matter but something tells me that the day Voinovich learned of his loss of Russian citizenship there was probably more than a few laughs in his house. The character development is a bit sparse around the periphery but that’s not an impediment to the appreciation of this brief read. The prose is breezy but not plain and anything not serving to advocate laughter is presented in almost apologetic tones. Judgment and mockery are doled out in equal measures and for a change it’s only the two main women – Chonkins’ love and a home brewing granny that are both pained in mainly positive tones but even their graces pale in comparison to a pig and a horse.
So add Gogol’s wit, Swift’s social criticism, Zoschenko’s humor in the face of oppression that is shared by Orkeny and you’ll get something very much like Voinovich. V. should be sainted for his assistance in bringing Grossman’s Life and Fate to print and his sense of humor places him properly at the right hand of Groucho. I've seen some less than glowing reviews of this book and I’m not sure who wouldn't appreciate this other than those that might have approached it by force or without any appreciation of political satire. Concise, hilarious and loads of fun – this qualifies as a classic in my opinion at least. This shares a space on my shelf next to Moscow to the End of the Line as the most hilariously entertaining Russian books I've read. One spoiler: do not drink every home brew you are offered.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,138 reviews151 followers
March 24, 2016
I didn’t laugh until the Molotov cocktails started flying. This book probably wouldn’t mean anything to those who don’t know the history of the USSR. The absurdity of life brilliantly portrayed in this book is founded on the evil reality of the socialist system. Innocent people executed, anonymous condemnation to “The Institution”, paranoia, redistribution of possessions of anyone who has more than someone else. What I had on my mind throughout was the realization that few today understand the scourge of this system of government. In fact, we find many now treating “communists” as cute, unique, interesting. Today Cuba is chic, Venezuela is courageous, China should be emulated. Of course, those advocating don’t intend to live there.

Didn’t find this book as humorous as I expected. But there were some good lines. Perfect description of the party boss:

He was always oppressed by freedom of choice. He suffered unbearably when pondering which shirt to wear that day, the green or the blue, or which boots, the old or the new.

A common warning to the kolkhoz chairmen by the District Commissioner:

”Remember, you are under constant surveillance.”

Chilling to think that how true this warning would be if they had the technology we have today.

3 Stars

Profile Image for Jim.
2,098 reviews700 followers
July 17, 2015
The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin is perhaps the funniest book I have read all year. It tells the tale of a simpleton Russian soldier named Ivan Chonkin who is sent to guard a plane that came down in the village of Krasnoye. As the Germans picked this time to invade Russia, Chonkin is forgotten. He begins a relationship with the local postmistress and all seems well...

...until his neighbor whose plants were destroyed by the postmistress's cow turns him in as a deserter. A detachment of NKVD -- the predecessors of the KGB -- is sent to arrest him, and is arrested in turn by Chonkin. More and more people from headquarters start showing up.

The end is a hilarious confrontation when the imprisoned NKVD officer is in turn imprisoned by the Russian army, who mistake him for a German. The NKVD officer plays along, yelling "Heil Hitler! Stalin kaputt!"

Vladimir Voinovich has, in Chonkin created a classic of humor comparable to Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk. In many ways, Voinovich's novel is even better.
Profile Image for Баясгалан Батсуурь.
Author 9 books126 followers
August 5, 2016
Сталин 1956 онд үхсэн. Харин цэрэг Чонкины намтар 1961-1963 рны хооронд бичигдсэн гэхээр Сталины тахин шүтэгдэлийг эсэргүүцэн гарч ирсэн Хрушевийн үеийн зохиол юм уу даа. Сталины үед бол эхний догол мөрөөсөө л зохиогчоо цаазлуулах ялд унагачих бүрэн чадалтай энэ хоржоонт романыг Войнович бичиж зүрхэлсэн нь нэгт Сталин үхсэн, хоёрт Хрушев Сталиныг хурцаар шүүмжилж гарч ирснийх болов уу. Тиймдээ ч нөхөр Сталиныг гахай болгож махыг нь зооглох, эсвэл эм хүн, ижил хүйстэн болгох зэрэг аймшиггүй бичлэгүүд амилсан биз. Гэвч Сталиныг егөөдсөн Войновичийн хурц бичлэг дотор коммунистуудыг хонгоноос нь ирсэн, социалист нийгмийн алдаа дутагдлыг илчилсэн хур санаа явж буй. "Хурал цуглаан гэдэг бүгдээрээ нэг дор цуглаад зарим нь бодож буйгаа хэлэхгүй байх, зарим нь хэлж буйгаа бодохгүй ярихын нэр" гэдэг ч юм уу. Ухаалаг, цэцэн, элэг хөшим роман байлаа. Ж.Нэргүйн монгол орчуулга супер.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,532 reviews1 follower
September 30, 2014
Private Chonkin has frequently been called the Schweik of Stalinist Russia. Like Schweik he uses his extraordinary stupidity to outwit his persecutors. Unfortunately, for Chonkin Stalin's communist apparatchiks were far more skilled persecutors than Franz Joseph's Imperial bureaucrats. Whereas Schweik survives and prospers, Chonkin inevitably is dispatched to the Gulag.

Gogol and Bulgakov are the only two Russian writers that I am aware of who possess the same level of talent in comic writing as Voinovich. This book is great fun and highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in Stalin's Russia.
Profile Image for Vilis.
608 reviews95 followers
June 3, 2015
Tik asu satīru par 2. pasaules karu vēl nebiju lasījis. Smieklu koeficients arī labs, lai gan diezgan liela daļa grāmatas ir atkāpes dažādās smieklīguma/sasaistes pakāpēs. Uzzināju arī, kāpēc zirgi nekļuva par cilvēkiem.
Profile Image for Érika.
6 reviews
April 30, 2012
It's one of the funniest and wittiest books I've ever read!
Profile Image for Robyn Latchford.
54 reviews8 followers
March 26, 2016
A witty, fun Soviet Satire. Only 311 pages and not too intimidating, I inhaled this book and enjoyed it a lot. If you like The Master and Margarita you will also like this book!
Profile Image for Kirkirvarpa.
153 reviews15 followers
September 7, 2020
Ne pirma pažintis su šiuo rašytojų. Prieš kokius 15 metų teko klausyti audioknygos Maskva 2042. Nepamenu jau tiksliai, kaip rutuliojasi įvykiai toje satyrinėje antiutopijoje, bet knyga pasirodė labai drąsi ir paliko gerą įspūdį.
Nors liko geri prisiminimai, bet nesitikėjau, kad ir ši knyga vėl taip pat lengvai pagaus savo stiliumi. Labai gyva kalba ir smagus dėstymas, lyg knyga būtų parašyta paaugliams. Tik va, vidinė teksto pusė labai nepaaugliška. Beveik kiekvienoje pastraipoje kandama santvarkai, kolūkiams, kariuomenei, slaptosioms tarnyboms ir net draugui Stalinui. Viskam, su kuo mes siejam Sovietų Sąjungą.
Na ir pagrindinis veikėjas, kareivukas Čonkinas. Visai neatitinka pasitempusio tautos gynėjo įvaizdžio. Pasmurgęs kareivukas. Lyg ir svajojantis apie aukštą skrydi, bet net per karą atsiduriantis toli nuo karinių veiksmų, mažame kaimelyje šalies gilumoje. Nežinau, kaip būsimose knygose - Čonkino nuotykių yra ir daugiau - bet šioje didelių žygių jis nenuveikia. O jei ir nuveikia, tai visa tai jam gaunasi netyčia, per klaidą. Ne vieną situacija priverčia šyptelti. Apskritai, stilius ir lengvumas yra dideli šios knygos pliusai.
Žinau, kad knyga yra lyginama su Šauniojo kareivio Šveiko nuotykiais, bet aš lyginti jų negaliu, nes Hašeko romano iki šiol neteko skaityti
Profile Image for Núria.
530 reviews585 followers
May 23, 2016
Si entro en una librería y veo un libro cuyo autor tiene un exótico apellido ruso que no he oído en mi vida podéis estar seguros que acabaré sucumbiendo. Leo la contraportada. Pero esto es un puro trámite. Sé que diga lo que diga la contraportada acabaré comprándolo. Y es que en esta ocasión no sólo el autor tenía un exótico nombre ruso, sino que encima en el título había otro: 'Vida e insólitas aventuras del soldado Iván Chonkin'. Ivan Chonkin. Vladímir Voinóvich. ¿No me digáis que no suena bien, eh?
Profile Image for Kobe Bryant.
1,040 reviews143 followers
April 17, 2013
Very good book with a lot of cool moments like people having dreams about animals turning into people, the guy who was crossbreeding potatoes and tomatoes and made manure vodka, the old Jewish guy whose last name was Stalin, etc
829 reviews
October 12, 2015
Algul tundus täiesti mõttetu, kuigi tuleb tunnistada, väga ladusalt kirja pandud sõnamulinana. Mida aga edasi seda huvitamaks see jutuveeretamine muutus ja olgugi et väljareklaamitud "vene Švejkist" oli asi ikka väga kaugel, hakkas üha enam ja enam halastamatut ja varjamatut antisovetšinat välja joonistuma. Irvitati kõige üle, niivõrd kuivõrd 1941. aastal kui kogu hiigelriik ägises NKVD raudses haardes üldse millegi üle irvitada sai. Aga sai, näiteks kui umbes kolmveerand raamatust oli mul parimal juhul kerge poolmuie, siis lõpuosas näiteks õnnetu kapten Miljaga oma "Heil, tovaarišš Hitler'iga" pani ikka juba laginal naerma.
Algul mõtlesin et loen läbi, võtan teadmiseks ja unustan, aga vaevalt läbi saadud kui juba sai raamatukogust just-just ilmunud teine osa laenutatud. Eks seegi näita miskit. Tugev "neli".
Profile Image for César Carranza.
284 reviews58 followers
November 25, 2015
Me pareció bien, pero creo que el error fue mío, esperaba mucho de él, es una novela que inició muy bien, muy divertida, pero fue decayendo, creo que Chonkin es un poco irritante, se encuentra en un límite entre la estupidez y la astucia, pero no a la manera de Svejk (personaje con el que es comparado) que lleva al limite la obediencia militar pasando por el ridículo, mas bien es un lento, sin mucha gracias y en algunos puntos un poco pretencioso, creo le falta consistencia a nuestro héroe, por otro lado creo que como sátira me parece le hizo falta mordacidad, en fin, no es mala, pero no creo que sea un gran libro.
Profile Image for Darren.
899 reviews55 followers
November 4, 2021
Wonderful satire on Russian communist society, set at the start of WW2, seeing the might of the Stalinist war machine (such as it was!) pitted against one man (Chonkin) and his girlfriend (Nyura). Just a joy to read, as storytelling, characterisation and humour all blend perfectly.
Profile Image for Nikita Mihaylov.
86 reviews
November 9, 2022
Дурак, сознавшийся, что он дурак, есть уже не дурак!
©️ Достоевский, Униженные и оскорбленные

Читал я её раза 3 точно.
Сказать что эта книга смешная значит не сказать ничего. Она уморительная просто охуительно. Не сказал бы что меня просто рассмешить (юмор Вудхауза мне не нравится), но тут и я капитулировал. Не все репризы удачные, но много весьма и весьма колких. Честно признаюсь, когда на похоронах капитана Миляги из гроба вывалился череп лошади, у меня слеза предательски поползла по щеке.

Диву даюсь, как текст ещё не растащили на афоризмы. "Митинг, это когда одни говорят не то что думают, а другие думают то что не говорят". "И началась обычная пьянка, свойственная всем русским людям, включая евреев". "Для исправления таких ошибок у нас есть исправительные лагеря". Красота!

Вообще, книга говорит с читателем на серьёзные темы, задаёт вопросы на которые непросто ответить.

Председатель Голубев и прокурор Евпраксеин, это, грубо говоря, совесть и оппортунизм. До каких пределов можно творить безобразия, пересиливая себя? Для каждого из них, дилемма разрешается довольно грустно.

Или, скажем, бремя власти, представленное через товарища Кобу и артиста Миловани. Когда всесильный диктатор супердержавы оказывается заложником своего положения. Словно хвост влияет собакой, система начинает управлять своим хозяином. И, вырвавшись из неё однажды, он уже никогда не захочет вернуться в Кунцево.

Такого в книге полно, отдельно выделю "collateral damage" в мировоззрении чекистов (и отца Нюры) и существования двух параллельных реальностей, на примере главреда Долговской газеты. Всё это разворачивается как-бы на заднем плане, пока Кузьма Гладышев - мичуринец/лысенковец - поит Ваню самогоном из говна. На эпохальном полотне отечественной истории - трудодни, карточки и сигареты "Дели", НКВДшники и ликер из тормозухи, партийцы, зеки, американцы, военные, депортации, побеги и ордена. Есть даже интересный генеологический твист. Нет только самой войны, но её отсутствие едва ли заметно.

Если меня ночью поднять и спросить, какую книгу я посоветую прочесть, сомнений у меня не возникнет.
Profile Image for Atreju.
193 reviews6 followers
March 30, 2022
E pensare che è solo il primo di una fortunata trilogia... quando vedremo tradotti i restanti due capitoli?
Si tratta di una grande satira sull'esercito sovietico alla soglia del secondo conflitto mondiale o - per essere più precisi - alla vigilia dell'invasione tedesca dell'URSS.
Ivan Čonkin è un soldato semplice dell'armata rossa. Ivan lo scemo, praticamente. Per certo versi ricalca il buon soldato Sc'vèik di Hašek, a cui è certamente ispirato. La differenza è che Ivan è un po' meno scemo di Sc'vèik e che i vertici dell'esercito sovietico sono più scemi di quelli dell'esercito austroungarico.

Mandato in un remoto paesino di campagna, giusto per il piacere di non averlo tra i piedi, il nostro Ivan pensa bene di accasarsi e metter su famiglia. Mangia, beve, dorme e copula con gran gusto. Si fa temere quel tanto che basta dal capo del kolchoz, per poter vivere tranquillo e trova anche il tempo per porsi domande fondamentali del tipo: ma se il lavoro ha fatto evolvere la scimmia in uomo, perché il cavallo non ha ancora fatto il passo evolutivo conseguente? Con il suo modo di fare scatena tuttavia grande allarme tra vertici militari, perché viene scambiato per il leader di una banda di nazisti, infiltrati per agevolare l'invasione nemica. Da qui scene sempre più folli e surreali, fino all'epilogo, che rimane ovviamente aperto.

L'occasione è buona, per l'autore, anche per prendere di mira altre manie e ossessioni demagogico-ideologiche del regime sovietico, quale la dottrina mičuriniana nei termini in cui volle appropriarsene Trofim Lysenko per distruggere la genetica classica mendeliana (e perseguitare tanti uomini e donne di scienza, tra tutti Nikolaj Vavilov).

Curiosità: anche in questo romanzo, così come in Mosca 2042, si parla di merda. Viene addirittura usata per distillare vodka di qualità e proposta come alimento base per la popolazione (bando alla schifiltosità!).
Profile Image for Jos.
68 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2020
Voinovich haalt op een grappige manier het stalinisme onderuit met een paar geweldige figuren, zoals buurman Gladysjev die een combinatie van aardappels en tomaten probeert te kweken om zijn kolchoz productiever te maken. Op het eind werd het allemaal teveel een comedy of errors om nog spannend te blijven. Er zitten ook teveel droomsequenties in. De vertaling (uit 1977) is oubollig en onhandig. Waarschijnlijk dat het boek daarom tien jaar later een nieuwe vertaling heeft gekregen. Er zitten nogal wat spelfouten in de tekst, zoals het consequent gebruik van "handvaten".
355 reviews6 followers
July 11, 2023
Een satirische roman waarin een nogal domme soldaat - zonder dat hij dat zo bedoelt - de idiotie achter de militaire en economische bureaucratie van de Sovjetdictatuur blootlegt. Misverstanden, dolle fratsen, verwisselde identiteiten en nachtmerries over dieren die in mensen veranderen. Typisch voor het genre, zeker geen uitschieter maar ik lees zoiets wel graag. Kafka versus 'Allo 'Allo?

"Een en al stof, een gore tronie. Dat is geen soldaat uit het Rode Leger, maar een misverstand."

"En hij nam zich heilig voor om van nu af aan nooit van zijn leven meer een vraag te stellen, want dat draait toch alleen maar op rottigheid uit."
110 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2020
I came across this book browsing around Goodreads, and thought it sounded alright. In fact, it's more than alright, it's a classic of the ridiculous humour found in the best East European novels. The Red Army doesn't come out of it very well, so it's no surprise it wasn't published in the USSR! I'll say no more, to avoid spoiling the denouement for prospective readers! Strongly recommended!
Profile Image for Fernando Pestana da Costa.
516 reviews15 followers
October 28, 2019
This is a modern classic written in the 1960s and it is likely to be the best known of all Voinovich's books. Right before the start of German's invasion of the USSR the not too clever soldier Ivan Vasilyevich Chonkin is given the mission of guarding an old biplane that had made an emergency landing in a somewhat remote village of the Russian countryside. Scheduled to last just one week, Chonkin's mission is prolonged by several weeks and then, with the start of the war, Chonkin is all but abandoned by his regiment leaving for the front. Chonkin gradually becomes part of the village and of its kolkhoz life. Then, after an ugly wrangle with one of his neighbors, Chonkin is denounced to the political police (the "Institution", as it is called in the book) as a deserter and a spy. From that moment on a series of misunderstandings led to the final dramatic denouement. The book is a funny critique of Soviet life, with a good number of very hilarious situations, some of them very unexpected, as when Chonkin discovers his neighbor gives him to drink one of his home made brews (made out of a very peculiar ingredient!), others widely unlikely, as the scene of the interrogation by Captain Milyaga of the "Institution" of an old Jew with an improbable name. Still others are a lot subtler, as when Captain Milyaga, believing to think "logically", commits a typical logical error. Like these there are many very funny situations that make this book, originally written as a critique of the Soviet regime, still very much worth reading today, almost half century after it was first published, in 1969, in Russian by a West German publisher.
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