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The Twelve Chairs (Ostap Bender #1)

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  9,864 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Winner of 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 fo
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Paperback, 574 pages
Published October 30th 2011 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1927)
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Algernon

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
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Borys
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
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Ema
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
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Jan-Maat
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
Harry Kane
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
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Mark
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.
Agnese
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.
Katinki
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
Grifonus
Классика.
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.
Molly
Jul 24, 2010 Molly rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Alta
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
Anna  Matsuyama
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: Bibe.ru.
Olga
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
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Guna
Lai gan mucā gluži augusi neesmu, jāatzīst, ka vēl nesen par Divpadsmit krēsliem neko nebiju dzirdējusi. Ostapa Bendera vārdu gan zināju, bet nekad necentos noskaidrot, kas tas par putnu. Nu tad beidzot es zinu!
Pirms lasīšanas, apskatot recenzijas, nopratu, ka būs daudz jāsmejas. Nu, laikam nebiju pareizajā stāvoklī, jo pārāk bieži nesmējos, lai gan romāns nudien ir asprātīgs, man drīzāk bija slinkums smieties. Taču nodaļa par dzejnieku Luņķi man šķita absolūti ģeniāla, un es smējos nepieklājīgi
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Arnis
Tomēr aizmocīju līdz galam.
Pirmo smaidu grāmata izvilināja tikai 309. lapaspusē. Humors tomēr noveco. Paskaidrojumi gan sakrita uz nerviem. Piemēram, 31. nodaļā paskaidrojumu teksts ir tikpat vai pat garāks par pašu grāmatas nodaļu.
Ja kādu interesē, tad 166. lapaspusē var atrast avotu no kurienes nāca slavenais Putina izteiciens par "sprāguša ēzeļa ausīm" Abrenes kontekstā. Redz' kā lasot klasikas grāmatas var iemācīties labāk izprast mūsdienu Pasauli!
Lielos vilcienos - no paskaidrojumiem maz jē
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Sabine
I chose this because it was classic. And most of the time, you can never go wrong with classics. I was a bit wrong. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't brilliant either. Something in the middle, nothing that stays in memory for a long time.
After reading Remarque (which I absolutely love), then "Sh*t my dad says" (gorgeous, for sure), this was just "eh, nothing special". Maybe if I'd read it in different circumstances, I'd love it! That's why I'm going to re-read it some day.
I thought that the humor was
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LemonLinda
From other reviews I had anticipated that this would be a short, funny light read. At least for me none of that turned out as planned. It was not short as I was not drawn to it and reading was more of a task. The humor was more of a slapstick variety which is not always so funny for me. And it was not light as it was for me rather disjointed and without a smooth and easy flow.

It was, however, a glimpse into the life of the Soviet society in the late 1920s. The Revolutionary era had passed and t
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Tanya Prikazchikova
Before reading this book I had got the good reviews about the Russian film based on the book from my mother. Also when I was looking for something to read on summer holiday I found the site where this book was recomended.
Ok, now about the plot of "The twelve chairs". It is totally fabulous book. There are hilarious moments that elate me and plenty of things making me to think about. Also I was fond of severel discriptio which are so truly now days! Buses we are waiting for, doors which are clos
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Galina Derevyanko
The funniest Russian book of 20th century, must have for all Russians. Unfortunately the translation could be better, but it's only one available.
michael spencer
So far, whatever comes of high recommendedation by Sir Joe of Bergesen, I am correspondingly finding of high enjoyment. So, on the list it goes.
Maureen
A Soviet literature classic that you probably never heard of. Must be read in Russian to fully appreciate, but very good still in English.
Elena
ah fabulous, its an early soviet satire, very uplifting
Siyuan
Russian humor at its best
Tessyohnka
So I was telling Tatyana, a Russian manicurist who is now more of a friend than a service provider, that I was reading The Twelve Chairs. She frowned at me and said "i don't think you will enjoy it, you have to have a Russian... a Russian..." Together we found the word "sensibility." After our vocabulary success, she said "If you want to read something by a Russian, read Anna Karenina." She orders me around pretty regularly.
Then I noticed that at some point, the book had been made into a movie
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Teressa
I seldom read/like russian books, for a (surprisingly) greatly different cultural background (or is it just my lack of understanding for "broad russian soul"?) makes it difficult for me to fully understand and therefore enjoy works of russian authors. Never the less, i picked this one while on holiday (out of sheer boredom) and I must say, it is a considerable time since I last had such fun with a book. Masterful, lovingly sarcastic writing, nicely exaggerated characters, and absurdity of commun ...more
Mima
For some reason, I wanted this to be my new favorite book. I was going through the pages as manically as Ostap and his comrade were looking for the chairs, and much like them I was constantly lured by the notion that some luminous jewels may materialize themselves at any given moment. But by the end, both the protagonists and myself have been cheated out of that experience.
This is a book with the potential of a masterpiece, but it never really becomes one. It will leave you feeling like you've
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Jenny
I swear I already reviewed this! Ah well. Typically cryptic Russian behavior and humor overlaid with atypically written plot. The motives of the two men who end up chasing down a scattered set of chairs in the hopes of finding the jewels hidden inside one of them are pure greed. The creative ways in which they manage to survive the Russian political landscape, financial distress, as well as each other, kept me reaching for this nearly endless book. I don't think I'm giving away the plot here, as ...more
Al.
Aug 06, 2014 Al. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is my most favourite book ever. I've read it about 10 times and at different ages. The best part about the book is that it's untranslateable. Well, I mean it can be directly translated, but I don't think someone who's not a native russian will fall in love with it. You got to learn the russian language and soviet history in order to see those loads of sarcasm and self-irony skillfully injected in-between the lines. The book is amazing.
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Discovering Russi...: 2013 Group Read: The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf 5 79 Apr 21, 2014 07:01AM  
Latvija: ĀRZEMJU-aprīlis-Divpadsmit krēsli 6 66 Apr 25, 2013 11:56AM  
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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 Yevgeni Petrov. See Ilf and Petrov for more info.

Ilya Ilf died from tuberculosis.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilf_and_...
More about Ilya Ilf...
Golden Calf Двенадцать стульев. Золотой теленок Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip: The 1935 Travelogue of Two Soviet Writers 1001 день, или Новая Шахерезада Необыкновенные истории из жизни города Колоколамска. 1001 день, или Новая Шахерезада

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“Он любил и страдал. Он любил деньги и страдал от их недостатка.” 37 likes
“Время, которое мы имеем, - это деньги, которых мы не имеем.” 15 likes
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