Translation by Steven Volynets

Ilya Ilf, born Iehiel-Leyb Arnoldovich Faynzilberg, was a Soviet literary icon famous for two satirical novels, The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf, all co-authored with Yevgeniy Petrov (Yevgeniy Kataev). They are among the most widely read and quoted books in the Russian language. Before teaming up with Petrov, Ilf wrote hundreds of his own short stories, essays, editorials, and war dispatches. Most remain obscure and untranslated. Ilf was born in Odessa in 1897 and died in 1937.

When thinking about the onset of literary modernism, the name Ilya Ilf is unlikely to come up. In fact, "Fisherman of the Glass Battalion" and his countless other stories remain mostly obscure even to his Russian-language readers. That's because most of Ilf's work would eventually be eclipsed by the success of those two satirical novels. Another reason is that Ilf, a believer in Leninist vision, also explored themes of Jewish mysticism, which made some of his work too ideologically subjective once Stalin took the reigns of the USSR.   

Posted on February 25, 2016 .