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Envy

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,785 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews

First published in 1927, this brilliant satire of the Soviet system presents three comic characters, Nikolai Kavalerov and the Babichev brothers, bumbling their way through the bureaucracy. Translated by the renowned Robert Payne.
Paperback, 200 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Green Integer (first published 1927)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Buck
Sep 29, 2008 Buck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russians
Ever stopped to look at a dried-up turd in a field? I mean, really looked at the thing, hunkering down to admire the dessicated swirl of it, treasuring up the perception as one more radiant gift in life's lavish plenitude? Um, no, me either, actually. But Yuri Olesha apparently has. There's an amazing passage in Envy where a character is crossing a vacant lot and listing all the detritus he sees, in a mock-epic catalogue that takes in, among other things, a bottle, a shoe and a shred of bandage, ...more
Josh
Apr 11, 2008 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me realize the way that satire, if taken to a linguistic (if not necessarily logical) extreme, can actually turn inside out and become a form of praise. Olesha's narrator keeps talking about how much he hates, but his language is so lively that eventually you come to see him as a creature posessed, not by anger, but by a strange and uncontrollable joy. He's a Mozart of hate: so excellent at it that the simple practice of his gift makes him smile despite himself. The record of his ...more
Hadrian
Feb 21, 2013 Hadrian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, fiction
Here's a question for you: What do you get when you cross Dostoyevsky's underground man, Gogol's wicked satire, a Nabokovian gift for metaphor, and place them in early Soviet Russia?

Unfortunately, something less than the sum of its parts.

Envy is set in 1920s Soviet Russia, with a drunken loser, Kavalerov, living in the home of a porcine official sausage-maker, Babichev, who is beloved by all. Kavalerov hates Babichev's guts, and writes a letter full of bile against him. Soon after, there's some
...more
David Lentz
Jun 20, 2011 David Lentz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lately, I have found myself on a bit of a reading jag with the Russian literary novelists who were effectively repressed and, thus, went sadly unread during their lifetimes. There is a strange kind of bitter sweetness to the writing as well as power, wit, satire and illumination with a markedly Soviet flare. Because Soviet censorship and cultural repression were ultimately death knells to Russian writers, you have to admire their persistance amid the hopelessness of their culture for their publi ...more
Adam Dalva
A tale of two books (interestingly, with the same structure as Master and Margarita), with an absolutely fantastic 5 star first half that gets sucked into a jumble in Part Two. The sections have little in common besides character (first person vs third; modest surreality vs complete absurdity; recognizable characters vs dreams), and the allegory at play in the latter part of the book is frustratingly opaque. That's not Olesha's fault, of course, given the situation in the 20's, but it's undeniab ...more
Greg Heaney
Apr 28, 2016 Greg Heaney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
Envy captures the single greatest hallmark of Russian literature: ambiguity. It is the same sense of confusion that leaves true lovers of Flannery O’Conner saying to themselves “I know this was important… but why?” Olesha’s novel concerns itself with one of the most important ideas in the newly formed USSR, the “New Soviet Man.” Rejecting the alcoholic, bored, womanizing, unorganized model of a true man that used to be famous, Lenin wanted to glorify the youth, virility, equality, and mechanic d ...more
lisa_emily
Oct 22, 2008 lisa_emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: underground notists
Shelves: russian-lit, nyrb
Again, another random find while running my finger along bookspines in the public library, I suppose the cover’s design made itself familiar to me: NYRB.
It was a short novel and it had a Russian author, I decided to give it a try.

It begins with a blast, as though you have woken up to see the character in question. By the end of the first chapter you are introduced to the players: Kavalerov, the narrator and Andrei Babichev, the object of disdain.

The blurbs put this book in the same category as N
...more
Sooz
May 16, 2012 Sooz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star
wow. the first couple of pages just blow me away. every single sentence is like a gem. is it possible that Olesha has sustained this blend of imaginative language, wit and absurdism, and just all round fabulous story telling, throughout the course of the book? is that even possible? if he has this book is a treasure!

now, on page 40, i can read no more ... at least for now. i think all readers have those books they couldn't put down and all things -even sleep- must wait and we dwell within the r
...more
Darya Conmigo
For me, this novel really works in tandem with The Three Fat Men. Anyone who knows a little about the author will recognize him in Nikolai Kavalerov, the protagonist of the Envy story. Just as Yury Olesha himself, Kavalerov feels capable of great deeds and, at the same time, unable to find his place or accomplish anything in the new Soviet Russia. These are the "sausage makers" like Andrey Babichev that the country needs, not poets and philosophers.

I've read Envy right after finishing The Three
...more
Rebecka
May 22, 2013 Rebecka rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_in_russian
If it were not for the first 50% of this more or less being a normal book (and an interesting one, too!), I would have given this 1 star. The first 50% - 4 stars, the last - 0 to 1. Perhaps I just don't get Russian literature. What's wrong with having an actual narrative? What's with this need to make everything absurd to get whatever obscure point you're interested in across? (I didn't get the point, AT ALL.) There's an obnoxious drunk (again Russia, what's with the unlikeable main characters?) ...more
Justin Evans
May 01, 2015 Justin Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I feared for a second that this would end up being another liberal's wet-dream of Soviet satire, in which the Great Evil is pilloried by the upstanding individual etc etc... But no! It's much, much more, and everyone comes out looking like a jackass. Nikolai is very much in the tradition of Dostoevsky's underground man, whom you might identify as a romantic hero rebelling against the evils of his society etc., but who is actually, at best, a symptom of that society and, at worst, more or less a ...more
El
I love when a book is compared to the writing of Bulgakov and Nabokov. I know I'm in for a treat when I see that. And talk about unreliable narrators!

The description on the back of the book says it best: "Nikolai is a loser." He's not a very good Communist and seriously, he's a real louse. He's taken in by Andrei who is the complete opposite of Nikolai - he's successful, a proper Soviet citizen, upstanding. Nikolai is consumed by envy of Andrei; he does not believe that which Andrei believes, bu
...more
Lobstergirl
Jun 30, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Helen Dragas
Shelves: covers, nyrb, fiction, russia
Clever, disgusting, and very avant garde. I wasn't quite in the mood for its avant-ness at this precise moment in time. There is a description of a mole that is possibly unrivalled.

Tags: satire, soccer, Soviets, sausage, communal living, unreliable narration, acrobat legs, magnificent groins

He's carrying around six poods. Recently, walking down the stairs somewhere, he noticed his breasts bouncing in time to his steps. So he decided to add a new set of calisthenics.

He's stripped to the waist, w
...more
Sini
Aug 24, 2015 Sini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Afgunst" geldt als een van de hoogtepunten in de Russische literatuur van de jaren '20, maar ik had er nog nooit van gehoord. Het werd echter door Dubravka Ugresic in "Europa in sepia" onlangs zo aanstekelijk bejubeld dat ik het meteen kocht (tweedehands, want het is niet meer in de handel). Welnu, Ugresic heeft volgens mij helemaal gelijk: "Afgunst" is inderdaad een geweldige en heerlijk ongrijpbare roman, een even burleske als poëtische satire die helemaal doordrenkt is van een ongelofelijk o ...more
Nick
Sep 25, 2012 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Startling and HIlarious; a sort-of parody, it seems to me, of Dostoevsky's underground man, saturated with images and actions more dream-like and let's just say "beautiful" than a reader might expect from a novel published in the new Soviet Union, in 1927.
Jim
Jan 13, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, russia
Yuri Olesha wrote Envy in 1927, at a time when many of his contemporary writers were either shot or trundled off to the Gulag. My guess is that the GPU (predecessor to the KGB) couldn't quite understand Olesha's humor, and I tend to sympathize with them.

Envy is divided into two parts. The first part is fairly straightforward: A lowlife drunk named Nikolai Kavalerov is "adopted" by a party apparatchik by the name of Andrei Babichev. We see Babichev as a self-important buffoon, who sees his role
...more
Niklas
Oct 04, 2015 Niklas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the strangest books I've read so far this year. Part one reads like Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground but with more modernist and sometimes experimental prose. In part two the book suddenly goes off the rails and almost delves into the surreal. We go from the coldness and industrialisation of early Soviet life in part one to strange magical realism centred around an ambiguous kind of Doomsday device.

A strange and unique book, check it out if you get the chance.
Jake Danishevsky
Apr 03, 2016 Jake Danishevsky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who like classics
Shelves: own
Envy is a very interesting book, a very interesting and compelling book. If you like Bulgakov, Platonov and perhaps Zamaytin, and their styles of writing, you will definitely like Envy by Yuri Olesha.

The book is not big, but has two parts. In the first part, to my opinion the author explores the envy and in a way if it is justifiable by Kavalerov, who is the main character in the novel. I personally think that in here the author goes into the area of describing that envy is reality of any situat
...more
Catalina
Jun 25, 2015 Catalina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book grew on me, I admit I had problems grasping at least a seed of meaning. I was remembering to have heard of it while reading Helmut Schoeck's Envy and was expecting something covering the envy aspect. Therefore I was taken completely by surprise by the surrealism and all the socialist/communist elements. But slowly everything made sens and I started to quite enjoy it. It did remind me of Bulgakov but not that much of Nabokov.
Now, to even begin to understand this book you need to have a
...more
Matt
Nov 30, 2013 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Başak Çolular
Sovyet düzenin metaforunun yansıtıldığı bir kitap olarak öne çıkan Kıskançlık'ta, kurgu ve insan psikolojisinin ele alınış biçimi daha çok ilgimi çekti. Yer yer kafamı karıştıran bölümler, olayları kopuklaştıran anlatımlar beni biraz yordu. ( Bir de Rus isimleriyle ciddi sorunlarım var.) Nabakov ve Bulgakov gibi yazarlarla karşılaştırılan bir yazar olduğu için Oleşa'nın kitabını çok sevmememin nedenini kendi kıt anlayışıma verip içimi rahatlatıyorum.
Richard Stuart
Jun 27, 2015 Richard Stuart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the brilliant opening sentence to the degrading, yet defining ending scene, Olesha's novel is superb in it's satire and poetry.

The beartrap of envy: once closed, its teeth grinding into you like a pumpkin's smile; the mirror of your self-importance cracked, spilling drunk blood, watered down and swept away into the gutter; above all, your heart-dreams riotously murdered red by revolution... time's automatic and mechanical bootstep marching over the redacted face of Jesus.


Envy this book.
En
...more
Janet
Sep 29, 2009 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
This little book is growing on me, opening up. It started out as an orgy of self-humiliation, painfully Gogolesque, painfully Doestoyevskian, that kind of humor--but it's developing layers of ideas and richness--it's only 125 pages! Just finished a passage where a very appealing second character extols the virtues of strong feeling and their vanishing with the modern era--and it's not just Communism, it's the loss of humanity and eccentricity and passion. Broad strokes and lots of ranting, but t ...more
Gizem
Nov 30, 2015 Gizem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Sacha
I may just be naive about the permissibility of early Soviet culture, but the fact that this was popular and even publicly applauded for even a few short years is amazing. Never mind the scatological opening that would've had people in America screaming obscenity (US vs. Ulysses didn't happen til '33), Envy checks off pretty much every box that got a writer condemned: placing form over function, depicting authorities in a negative light, overtly sympathizing with western ideals... it doesn't eve ...more
Sunjay
Nov 24, 2014 Sunjay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dense and complex, not for the faint of heart! I expected a light story given the jacket summary and slim volume. Boy was I wrong. Hallucinations, multiple story lines added and dropped at will, it's heavy modernist fare on offer here. In the end, I'm not really even sure what this book was about, apart from the obvious title...
Marc Gerstein
Sep 25, 2015 Marc Gerstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
My gut reaction to “Envy” was to think of it as “Master and Margarita Lite,” but after checking Olesha’s biography and realizing he knew and worked with Bulgakov and finished “Envy” just before Bulgakov got started on “Master,” it seems more accurate to refer to the latter as “Envy, Heavy.” Both books satirize the so-called new Soviet order through wildly devilish tricksters who seek to disrupt the system with all sorts of slapstick-like chaos.

Looking at “Envy” based purely on the text and igno
...more
Andy
Oct 08, 2015 Andy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fall-2015
150 pages of nothing much happening. Thank god it was short because this book was not good. Very irritating characters.
Vampire Who Baked
Book I is hilarious! Never imagine it would be so much fun reading a man's internal monologue as he complains and whines and complains some more and harbours such simmering resentment towards someone who would otherwise have been expected to be his guardian angel, his benefactor, someone who took him in and sheltered him and put him back on his feet when he was at a low point in life. But the complicated relationship that exists between the benefactor and the beneficiary really subverts all trop ...more
Peony
Dec 17, 2015 Peony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ussr, russia
A story about the young Soviet Union in the early stages of its journey to the total fullfillment of socialist utopia, and about a guy named Nikolai who finds it difficult leaving the "old times" behind for the arrival of the new socialist future, where people work together like a clockwork, machines will produce food and wellfare for everybody. But still there will always be hierarchy, people above people..and envy. The writer has really worked hard to subtly critisize couple of things that mig ...more
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Discovering Russi...: * Envy by Yuri Olesha 11 56 Nov 04, 2015 07:03AM  
NYRB Classics: Envy, by Yuri Olesha 1 6 Oct 22, 2013 09:26PM  
  • The Foundation Pit
  • The Queue
  • The Letter Killers Club
  • Forever Flowing
  • The Galosh
  • Moscow to the End of the Line
  • The Golovlyov Family
  • Red Cavalry
  • The Slynx
  • The Case of Comrade Tulayev
  • The Petty Demon
  • The Dream Life of Sukhanov
  • Petersburg
  • Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings
  • The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
  • Generations of Winter

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“…you know, sometimes an electric lightbulb goes out all of a sudden. Fizzles, you say. And this burned-out bulb, if you shake it, it flashes again and it’ll burn a little longer. Inside the bulb it’s a disaster. The wolfram filaments are breaking up, and when the fragments touch, life returns to the bulb. A brief, unnatural, undeniably doomed life—a fever, a too-bright incandescence, a flash. The comes the darkness, life never returns, and in the darkness the dead, incinerated filaments are just going to rattle around. Are you following me? But the brief flash is magnificent!

“I want to shake…

“I want to shake the heart of a fizzled era. The lightbulb of the heart, so that the broken pieces touch…

“…and produce a beautiful, momentary flash…”
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“Human life is insignificant. What’s ominous is the movement of the spheres. When I settled here, a sun speck sat on the doorjamb at two in the afternoon. Thirty-six days passed. The speck jumped to the next room. The earth had completed another leg of its journey. The little sun speck, a child’s plaything, reminds us of eternity.” 7 likes
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