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Yury Olesha
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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,328 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
One of the delights of Russian literature, a tour de force that has been compared to the best of Nabokov and Bulgakov, Yuri Olesha's novella Envy brings together cutting social satire, slapstick humor, and a wild visionary streak. Andrei is a model Soviet citizen, a swaggeringly self-satisfied mogul of the food industry who intends to revolutionize modern life with mass-pr ...more
Published (first published 1927)
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Sep 12, 2008 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
Bill  Kerwin
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novella

Soviet writers Yury Olesha really pulled something off with Envy (1927): he published a scathing satire of the pomposity and limited intellectual vision of a typical Soviet official, a satire which was favorably—and enthusiastically—reviewed by Pravda. How did he accomplish such a feat? By satirizing even more viciously the reactionary opponents of that official, demonstrating how a romantic self-conception may distort a person’s vision of achievement, until he is filled with nothing but a poiso
Apr 11, 2008 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
"Envy" is a social satire, published in 1927, during the early years of the Soviet New Economic Policy, a confusing time when the Communist society adopted some Capitalistic policies. The book shows the strengths and flaws of both the new era and the old era. The destitute Nikolai Kavalerov is taken in by the successful businessman Andrei Babichev. Kavalerov envies the success and respect that Babichev receives, but also feels contempt for him. Kavalerov has a poetic soul and wants to have a mor ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This starts off well: Mornings he sings on the toilet.

It’s an observation made by Nikolai Kavalerov, our narrator, of Andrei Babichev. Andrei has managed to play the Soviet game and has done quite well for himself, well enough anyhow to sing on the toilet in the morning. It was Nikolai whom Andrei found drunk in the gutter one day and rescued, sort of, taking him into his household and giving him a gopher kind of job. But Nikolai will turn ingrate, as anti-heroes often do. He’s spends his time l
Sep 22, 2011 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
David Lentz
Jun 20, 2011 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
Oct 20, 2008 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
May 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Greg Heaney
Jun 03, 2009 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
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Discovering Russi...: * Envy by Yuri Olesha 12 86 Sep 02, 2016 06:47PM  
NYRB Classics: Envy, by Yuri Olesha 1 7 Oct 22, 2013 09:26PM  
  • The Queue
  • The Foundation Pit
  • The Letter Killers Club
  • Forever Flowing
  • The Case of Comrade Tulayev
  • White Walls: Collected Stories
  • Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings
  • Moscow to the End of the Line
  • The Galosh
  • The Petty Demon
  • The Dream Life of Sukhanov
  • The Golovlyov Family
  • The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
  • Generations of Winter
  • Red Cavalry
  • Petersburg
  • The Compromise
  • Cursed Days: Diary of a Revolution
Yury Karlovich Olesha (Russian: Юрий Карлович Олеша), Soviet author of fiction, plays and satires best known for his 1927 novel Envy (Russian: Зависть). He is considered one of the greatest Russian novelists of the 20th century, one of the few to have succeeded in writing works of lasting artistic value despite the stifling censorship of the era. His works are delicate balancing-acts that superfic ...more
More about Yury Olesha...
“…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…”
“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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