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The Twelve Chairs (Ostap Bender #1)

4.42  ·  Rating Details ·  15,070 Ratings  ·  264 Reviews
Winner, 2012 Northern California Book Award for Fiction in Translation

More faithful to the original text and its deeply resonant humor, this new translation of The Twelve Chairs brings Ilf and Petrov’s Russian classic fully to life. The novel’s iconic hero, Ostap Bender, an unemployed con artist living by his wits, joins forces with Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a form
Paperback, 574 pages
Published October 30th 2011 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1927)
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Jun 01, 2012 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012

Good fun. It feels a bit dated, but that may be due to me being a Romanian and reading a 1960 English translation of a 1927 Russian text, and losing some of the original flavor along the way. Still, it is easy to see why Twelve Chairs is considered a classic, both inside and outside the Soviet space. At the first glance, it is an extremely sharp satire of the times in which the talented duo from Odessa were both witnesses and actors, as seen in the chapters about the editor of a Moscow newspap
I'm almost ashamed for not enjoying this book a lot more, but I suppose I've read it too late.
The beginning was one of the funniest I've come across in a long time, there were hilarious moments when I laughed out loud, the plot was really well crafted at times and it had some interesting insights into Russian social and political climate around 1920's. I was amazed to discover that some of the observations are valid even today - some things never change, it seems.
Yet, the language was a little
Harry Kane
Jun 08, 2012 Harry Kane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All my life this was the funniest book I have ever read. Once a year or two I would revisit it and double up instantly in helpless mirth. Because of this book I can pinpoint with accuracy the year I matured - it was the year I reread the book and realized that in spite of it playfull wittiness, it described a crushingly depressive vision of humanity. The last time I reread this book I didn't laugh once. I only cringed and groaned. Still brilliant, but suddenly not so lighthearted at all.
Good thi
Jan 05, 2013 Ints rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
„Varbūt tu vēl gribi atslēgas no dzīvokļa, kur atrodas nauda?”. Krieviski gan, manuprāt, šī frāze izklausās vēl labāk, tomēr tieši ar šo frāzi man asociējas šis romāns. Šo tekstu es zināju jau no pamatskolas vecuma. Grāmatu pirmo reizi izlasīju, kad man bija kādi desmit gadi. Iepatikās, pēc pāris gadiem izlasīju vēlreiz. Pirms kādiem pieciem gadiem kādā grāmatnīcā ieraudzīju jaunizdotu uzlaboto divpadsmit krēslu variantu krievu valodā. Ilgi domāju iegādāt vai ne, bet lasāmā vēl bija diezgan, un ...more
Jun 04, 2017 Caterina rated it really liked it
Recommended to Caterina by: Tatiana
According to a twenty-something friend who recently immigrated to the U.S. from Russia, this 1927 satirical-comic novel is still so popular in Russia that not only has everyone read it (on their own—not in school!) but everyone quotes from it in their everyday speech. The only thing remotely comparable I can think of in America is cult classic movie quotes.

Life is quite absurd, and that’s the final word*

Or at least that’s the view from the cheap seats in early Soviet Russia. Yet somehow this c
Aug 09, 2015 Mikheil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
ძალიან ვიკაიფე ამ წიგნით.
მთავარი ხაზის, განძის ძიების მიღმა თუ გავიხედებით, აღმოვაჩენთ რომ ხალხის დაბოლების მასტერკლასებს ატარებს ბატონი ბენდერი. ამ წიგნის კითხვისას კიდევ ერთხელ დავინახავთ თუ როგორ გვაჭმევენ გაიძვერა, მოხერხებული ავანტურისტები გონებაჩლუნგ საზოგადოებას აბსურდულ იმედებს - ოსტაპ ბენდერი თავისი ჭადრაკის საპლანეტათშორისო კონგრესით ერთ კუანა ქალაქში და დიდი სიკეთის მთესველი "მახვილისა და სახნისის კავშირით", სააკაშვილი ლაზიკათი და სხვა ქარიზმატული და უიმედო წამოწყებებით, ბიძო "უფასო ფ
May 29, 2017 Skip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in the 1920s, this is not your typical Russian fare. Filled with humor, this book examines Russian society in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov was a nobleman and, on her deathbed, his mother-in-law reveals she hid all of her jewels in one of the twelve dining room chairs. Off he goes to find out what happened to his property, but quickly discovers that she also told her priest, who secretly longs to be a factory owner. Having no idea how to locate ...more
Well, I've read this book for about 3 or 4 times so far and listened once to a radio dramatisation. All in Russian, of course. The first acquaintance with the book occurred when I was just a little boy, of about 10. Knowing very little about USSR's grievous past, about uneasy 20s or new economical policy (NEP) introduced by Lenin, about hardships of a newly born communist empire and so forth, all these being a setting for the novel in question, I enjoyed it much nonetheless.

Then I read this boo
Jan 12, 2017 Betül rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thousand kind of people are living in this book. Rich, poor, old, young, crafty, deceived, brave, coward, intellectual, ignorant... But the thing that brings them together is the same: pursuit of money. Ilf and Petrov succesfully and colorfully portrays one of the most important passions of mankind, "getting rich". Their depiction of "a thousand kind of" people with humorous language (this kind of humour created laughter storms in my home every night!) makes you wanna go to U.S.S.R of 1920's a ...more
Aug 21, 2007 Molly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian Lit People
Shelves: russian
When you hear me say: "Don't tell me how to live," you hear me quotethis book. You might need to know a little about Russian history to enjoy this, or not. Times were tough, money was scarce, and Moscow was having a housing crisis. You're prepared. Go read it.
Jan 12, 2015 Emina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ilk 150 sayfasını okudum ve çoook eğlenceli buldum kitabı. Rus yazar hayranlığım bu kitapla daha da artti.

Kitap bittikten sonra gelen duzeltme: Rus edebiyatını sevmenin verdiği rahatlıkla çok eğlenerek ve keyifle okudum ama itiraf etmeliyim ki kitabın eğlenceli yani haliyle biraz eski moda. Ve hiç beklemediğim bir sonla bittiği için de kitabın yazarlarına ( evet iki ayrı yazar) ayrıca kızgınım.
Ah ne okusam şu yaz günü diyenler için gayet iyi bir kitap.
Rusça dan çeviri diyince aklımda yazar adı
All the time it was going so nice, so funny, but then the ending...!!!

OMG! First I thought I've misunderstood something, after third time rereading all I can say: F you Ilya Ilf, F you! I still cant believe it! Not Bender! Please!

But I can't give it less than 5 (though i have to try to forget 'THE ENDING'), pure humour, loved it.
Jan 10, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Russian satire from the late imperial and early Soviet period. It's basically a picaresque - Ostap Bender is a rogue who knows Soviet society so deeply and truly that he can exploit it for his own gain. Voryobaninov is dragged along (well, mostly :-) and everyone else is basically a caricature - but what brilliant caricatures! I&P do for the Soviet period what Gogol did for the Imperial - basically, show that nothing's changed.
I read this in Russian years ago. While it's absolutely hilarious in its native language, the translation works just fine, too. To really appreciate, however, you'll need to have a decent grasp of Russian culture and humor, specifically during the Soviet era.

I loved this enough that let's put it this way... I have a cat named Ostap. :D
Samson Martirosyan
Это просто гениальная книга, сатира реконструктивного периода советского союза, когда классовая борьба прошла успешно и случилась революция, не стало больше царской России, дворянства, начали коллективно строить социализм, все дела. Не удивительно, что книга была запрещена в свое время.
Но удивительно то, что у меня этой книги не было ни в каких списках, то есть как это так, выходит, что я все это время не имел наслаждения читать эту гениальную книгу. Странно еще то, что мы и в школе ее не читали
Ilf and Petrov started off writing short humourous pieces for Soviet newspapers. The quest plot of The Twelve Chairs gave them a loose format that allowed them to write it as a series of fairly short comic incidents. (My favourite of these has the lead character posing as Chess Grand Master and challenging an entire chess club to simultaneous matches). This isn't unique, Three Men in a Boat, Diary of a Nobody and The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War all take much the same app ...more
A sure sign of a great novel is its ability to enthrall and entertain the reader over and over again, withstanding multiple rereads over the years. Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov is such a novel for me. I can probably turn the last page and immediately crack the book open again at the beginning, perpetually submerged in the adventures of former bourgeois Kisa Vorobyaninov and the legendary conman Ostap Bender as they throw themselves into a breakneck hunt for the coveted chair with heirloom dia ...more
Oct 21, 2016 Bbrown rated it really liked it
Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, formerly a wealthy noble before the Russian Revolution and now a midlevel government bureaucrat, learns from his mother-in-law on her deathbed that she hid a fortune in jewels in one of a set of twelve chairs that were confiscated and redistributed following the Revolution. Vorobyaninov goes out in search of these twelve chairs, quickly teaming up with a conman named Ostap Bender, and together they go after the hidden jewels.

That is a heck of an intriguing plot,
Anna Kļaviņa
Is this one of the works that are untranslatable like Eugene Onegin, I'm not sure. Could be.

Ostap Bender is now one of my favourite characters. I've suspicion he might be a sociopath, someone you would wish to avoid in real life but as fictional character it's hard not to like him. He is very charming.

Osip Shor (Осип Шор) - the prototype of Ostap Bender. Interesting personality.

Free audiobook available here. Password:
Mar 15, 2016 Bjorn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, soviet
OK, now that was just plain old... fun.

A bit dated, sure. But it's very easy to see why it's become a classic; not only is it laugh-out-loud-in-public funny, but with some brilliant settings and character work too, all circling around a huckster character who'll sell people any get-rich-quick scheme or political/philosophical utopia with the same bravado. Almost as if there wasn't really a huge difference between appealing to Mammon or Lenin when it comes to getting people to think they're doing
Mar 21, 2016 Elena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Лёд тронулся, господа присяжные заседатели! Лёд тронулся! Не могу не вставить сюда эту ставшую крылатой фразу, так как в свои 22 23 года я таки вышла из стыдливого клуба не читавших сие творение знаменитого тандема Ильфа и Петрова. В конце концов, неприлично щеголять цитатами из «12 стульев» (коих оказалось огрооомное количество, роман буквально на них «растаскан»), «стульев» этих самых не читая. О том, что первоисточником большинства этих фраз является роман, я и понятия не имела. Что ж, будем ...more
Feb 07, 2012 Olga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Наверно я единстенная, но я не смотрела фильм и не читала книгу "Двенадцать стульев" до сегодняшего дня, т.е. до моих 25 лет. А тут неожиданный и такой приятный подарок от подруги на Новый Год - "Двенадцать стульев" и "Золотой теленок" Ильфа и Петрова в необычном издании. Чтение началось с "Двенадцати стульев", как перовго совместого произведения этих писателей, которое сделало их легендами.
Я даже представить себе не могла, что столько фраз в нашей повседневной жизни было заимствовано именно из
Feb 18, 2016 Marta rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Tā kā vispirms biju redzējusi Jaunā Rīgas teātra izrādi, informēta par saturu biju. Tomēr domāju, ka labāk būtu bijis sākt ar grāmatu, kurā ir tik daudz pietiekami nozīmīgu detaļu, ka izrāde vienīgi piešķirtu lasītajam attēlu. Tēli prātā vizualizējās kā no izrādes, taču par to biju tikai priecīga - izrāde ir izcila.
Interesanti bija lasīt par to, kā kāre pēc bagātībām spēj iedvesmot vienkāršus cilvēkus rīkoties, izmantojot absurdas metodes, doties (burtiski) smieklīgi lielus attālumus, meklējot,
I read this book many years ago when I was in college—loved it! Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov had been a nobleman in Russia before the revolution. Some of his family’s jewels had been hidden inside the seats of a set of chairs which were confiscated by authorities. With the help of a con artist named Ostap Bender, Ippolit sets out to find them. This satire of the early Soviet system had me, at times, laughing out loud at the escapades of the two men as they travelled the country in search of ...more
Jul 08, 2011 Grifonus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Сейчас в очередной раз перечитываю, всё так же получаю удовольствие.
Всё таки в экранизации много не вошло(хотя они и неплохи). Чего стоит одна история о гусаре, который решил стать отшельником, и искал смысл жизни и смешно и поучительно. Собственно, то же самое можно сказать о всей книге.
Jun 11, 2012 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Carey Coombe

Director: Mel Brooks

Ron Moody ... Ippolit Vorobyaninov
Frank Langella ... Ostap Bender
Dom DeLuise ... Father Fyodor
Andréas Voutsinas ... Nikolai Sestrin
Diana Coupland ... Madame Bruns
Claudia Serbanescu
Rusia sovietica a anului 1927 satirizata cu un haz incontestabil. Alegeti versiunea necenzurata, editata de Polirom in 2012, deoarece diferenta este semnificativa fata de versiunile anterioare.…/...
The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, and its sequel, The Golden Calf, have enjoyed an immense popularity in Russia and Eastern Europe. I had read (and greatly enjoyed) The Golden Calf many years ago in Romanian, and as a consequence, I was very excited by the recent publication of a new English translation of The Twelve Chairs (Northwestern, 2011, translated from the Russian by Anne O. Fisher). I wondered, however, whether a satirical Russian novel set in 1927 and published a year la ...more
Слави Ганев
Гаврила чете за столове дванайсет,
Гаврила книгата прочете...
- из "Гаврилиада"

Хумористичната литература винаги ми е убягвала... не била достатъчно задълбочена, нямала интересен стил, смехът всъщност липсвал...

... а иначе имам някакво чувство за хумор.

... оказа се, че е било така защото съм чел предимно западни хумористи, които са твърде далеч от предпочитанията ми. Падам си по истински български хумор. Не обаче по онзи гнусен балканизъм, който се развива в днешното ни изкуство, а по тънките и до
Aslan Qiyaslı
Sep 19, 2016 Aslan Qiyaslı rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dahi kombinator Ostap Benderin siyasi-ictimai məsələlərlə bağlı elə özünəxas dahiıiklə etdiyi çıxış :D

-Vətəndaşlar - deyə Ostap iclası açaraq diləndi - Həyat öz qanunlarını diktə edir, öz amansız qanunlarını. Mən yığıncağımızın məqsədi barədə danışmayacam - o sizə bəllidir. Məqsəd müqəddəsdir. Biz hər tərəfdən iniltilər eşidirik. Geniş ölkəmizin hər tərəfindən köməyə çağırırlar. Biz kömək əlimizi uzatmalıyıq və biz onu uzadacağıq. Sizdən biri işləyir və yağ yaxmacı yeyir, digəri mövsümi işlə məş
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Latvija: ĀRZEMJU-aprīlis-Divpadsmit krēsli 7 87 Feb 01, 2015 04:14AM  
Discovering Russi...: Group Read: The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf 5 92 Apr 21, 2014 07:01AM  
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Илья Ильф (Iehiel-Leyb (Ilya) Arnoldovich Faynzilberg; 15 October 1897 in Odessa – 13 April 1937) was an extremely popular Soviet author of the 1920s and 1930s, who worked in collaboration with Eugene Petrov. Ilya Ilf died from tuberculosis.

See also

More about Ilya Ilf...

Other Books in the Series

Ostap Bender (2 books)
  • Golden Calf

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“Он любил и страдал. Он любил деньги и страдал от их недостатка.” 53 likes
“Время, которое мы имеем, - это деньги, которых мы не имеем.” 19 likes
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