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The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin (Private Chonkin #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  1,549 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
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 peacefully tending the village postmistress's gar ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published November 1st 1982 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1969)
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Feb 25, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, russian
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, i
Charming slapstick comedy about a dopey Ivan-the-Fool and his adventures in the Soviet Union right before the German invasion in 1941.

I laughed at the extreme situations that our Ivan finds himself in (view spoiler) but just the little throw away details are funny too. I laughed at the man in the beginning who has bread so hard and stiff he could cut things with it, and the very naughty ru
Jul 12, 2007 Namrirru rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
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!
Chuck LoPresti
Mar 15, 2013 Chuck LoPresti rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jul 16, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, russia, fiction
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 deserte
Баясгалан Батсуурь
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 бичлэ ...more
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 s ...more
Jun 03, 2015 Vilis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kobe Bryant
Apr 16, 2013 Kobe Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2015 Lauri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 parim ...more
Robyn Latchford
Mar 26, 2016 Robyn Latchford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Apr 29, 2012 Érika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's one of the funniest and wittiest books I've ever read!
Michael Scott
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 powe ...more
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 things 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. Alas the craziness of the world ensures that things rapidly
Juan Hidalgo
Jan 20, 2014 Juan Hidalgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una estupenda historia en la que el soldado Iván Chonkin resulta que no es tan tonto como parecía en principio, y cuyas peripecias nos harán sonreír y hasta carcajearnos en alguna ocasión, al tropezar con la inefable burocracia rusa y la rigidez del sistema stalinista.

A su autor, este libro le supuso la expulsión de la sociedad de escritores de la Unión Soviética y más tarde la pérdida de su nacionalidad, y es que, aunque habían transcurrido 21 años desde la desaparición de Iosef Stalin, critica
Marcia Estima
Pelo início do livro, pensei que fosse ser mais hilariante. A parte final foi a mais engraçada, quase que terminava de uma forma positiva, mas uma reviravolta final desiludiu-me, embora tenha percebido a intenção do autor: a sátira ao regime totalitário da União Soviética da época da 2ª guerra.
César Carranza
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 ...more
Czarny Pies
Sep 30, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in the era of Stalin
Recommended to Czarny by: Robert Service
Shelves: russian-lit
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
Josh Trapani
Apr 14, 2014 Josh Trapani rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I wonder if Voinovich has been ill-served by his translators, because I've now read two of his - Monumental Propaganda and this one - and found them not nearly as entertaining as the book blurbs promise. Entertaining, yes. But deliciously hilarious and razor sharp witty? I'm sorry to say no. Here I was expecting something like a Soviet Catch-22 and this was not like that at all. This is not to say, by the way, that the book falls completely flat. After what struck me as quite a slow set-up, the ...more
Dec 16, 2015 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Russian Good Soldier Svejk. Gets extra marks because the author smuggled Life and Fate out of the Soviet Union.
Vitaly Belman
Jan 09, 2015 Vitaly Belman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is among the funniest books I've read. You do need some background knowledge about the political situation of Russia in 1940 to appreciate the humor, but if you have general interest and understanding of the Soviet era, I recommend this book highly. As a comparison, to a much more popular "12 chairs" book, I found this one a lot funnier.
It must be that the language of the original cannot really be translated into English. Or else you have to be a lot more familiar with Russian history and individual politicians/soldiers to understand who is being parodied. I found this amusing but not as devastatingly funny and cutting as other reviews have stated.
Yesenia Pumarada Cruz
Mar 18, 2015 Yesenia Pumarada Cruz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian, humor
this book was one of the best reads ever. hilarious and touching, almost at all moments. i did not even mind the fact that it is quite long (i hate long books, and i usually only read them if i do not know that they are long, i.e., in a digital format).

it is a must-read for anybody who can read.
Dmitry Klekovkin
Первые 2 части прочитались на одном дыхании. В третьей части сюжет к Ченкину возращается в самом конце. На мой взгляд автор переборщил с гротесском на тему Сталина и лошади, порой бывало скучно. Настоящая антисоветчина. С какой-то стороны актуальна и по сей день.
Dan Richter
Sep 19, 2016 Dan Richter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wenn man nach langer Zeit wieder einmal eine russische Humoreske zur Hand nimmt, muss man sich wieder an den genüsslich-weitschweifigen Stil gewöhnen. Aber überraschend schnell nimmt der Roman an Fahrt auf. Was zunächst wie eine russisch-dörfliche Klamotte beginnt, wird zu einem drastisch-mutigen Umschreiben der Geschichte. Uderzo lässt die Römer verdreschen, Tarantino tötet im Nachhinein Hitler, und bei Woinowitsch bekommen NKWD und Rote Armee ihr Fett weg.
Die Leichtigkeit, mit der sich am Ende
Nov 13, 2007 Mike marked it as to-read
Shelves: humor
I started this and laughed...for some reason never finished it. Need to go back.
Honza Prchal
Oct 20, 2015 Honza Prchal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is one of the few books which was improved by the film version (which changed some of the plot points), it is a very good book, even for those unfamiliar with Communism or Russia. It contains a number of jokes that weren't carried over into the film, some wisely on principle, others wisely because of the format, and some which i regret didn't make it to the silver screen.
I've a weakness for foolish but basically decent protagonists, whose decency is a source of strength. Chonkin certa
Li'l Vishnu
“Many people maintained that you could wake Gladishev up at midnight and pose him any question and that without even stopping to think, he would give a very detailed reply and would explain any natural phenomenon from the point of view of modern science without bringing in any otherworldly, divine forces...

“Though this would be difficult to verify now, it is said that it was actually Gladishev who, long before Professor Shklovsky, was the first to propound the theory that the satellites of Mars
Sovyet Edebiyatı’nın muhalif yazarlarından Voynoviç’in ‘Er İvan Çonkin’in Yaşamı ve Olağanüstü Serüvenleri’ 1974’de ilk kez Batı Almanya’da yayınlanıp kitap samizdat yoluyla Rusya’da çoğaltılınca yazarın kitapları ülkesinde yasaklandı.1966’dan bu yana insan haklarının ateşli bir savunucusu olan Voynoviç Soljentsin’i desteklediği gerekçesiyle Yazarlar Birliği’nden atıldı. Ömrünün sonuna doğru Putin’e övgüler düzen Soljentsin’in aksine, yakın zamanda dilimize kazandırılan Yaşam ve Yazgı’nın yayın ...more
Snafu Warrior
Nov 25, 2012 Snafu Warrior rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, war-books
Mislim da ću formirati kompletno mišljenje o ovoj knjizi tek kad završim i ostale dve knjige(prvo moram naći i treći deo, s obzirom da ga nema u lokalnoj biblioteci) ali i sada mogu reći da je barem ovaj prvi deo prijatno osveženje.
Za razliku od prethodnih knjiga o WW2 koje su bile depresivno- ozbiljne, prikazujući surovost rata i snalaženje čoveka u tom haosu, ova knjiga okreće novu stranu, njen ton je šaljiv, satiričan uz izvrsno pripovedanje o Sovjetskom režimu nazad u danu, o rupama koje su
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Vladimir Voinovich (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 d
More about Vladimir Voinovich...

Other Books in the Series

Private Chonkin (3 books)
  • Pretender to the Throne: Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
  • A Displaced Person: The Later Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin

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“A meeting is that measure whereby a large number of people gather and some say things that they don't think and others think things that they don't say.” 7 likes
“-Little girl whom do you love more, mama or papa?
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