Read The Life And Extraordinary Adventures Of Private Ivan Chonkin by Vladimir Voinovich Free Online
Book Title: The Life And Extraordinary Adventures Of Private Ivan Chonkin|
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Reader ratings: 6.9
The author of the book: Vladimir Voinovich
Edition: Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth U.K.
Date of issue: September 28th 1978
ISBN 13: 9780140046694
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 885 KB
City - Country: No data
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Short, bowlegged, big red ears, field shirt sticking out over his belt, Private Ivan Chonkin, the hero of Vladimir Voinovich’s novel, has been likened to Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk, and for good reason – like Švejk, Chonkin is an everyman forever at war with the forces - political, military, social, whatever - that use the iron fist of power in an attempt to obliterate a person’s unique individuality and humanity.
Squarely in the great tradition of satire and the absurdist fiction of Gogol, Kharms and Zabolotsky, with The Life & Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin Vladimir Voinovich served up enough anti-Soviet zingers to contribute to his eventually getting kicked out of the country and stripped of his citizenship.
The storyline is simple: a pilot of a Soviet aircraft makes a forced landing in the farming village of Krasnoye near his Air Force base. Private Ivan Chonkin is sent to guard the military’s property.
I so much enjoyed the novel’s narrator telling readers directly how he amassed information on the subject of Chonkin and the village and added a little something of his own. And how he would have taken a tall, well built, disciplined military hero for his main character but all those crack students of military and political theory where already taken up and all he was left with was Chonkin. However, he urges us to treat his novel’s hero (Chonkin) as we would our very own child since when we have a child we get what we get and don’t throw the kid out the window.
Likewise, I relished the Mikhail Bulgakovesque dream sequences that gave Mr. Voinovich the opportunity to flex his creative imagination. Chonkin has his first dream when he’s sleeping in bed with Nyurka, his new girlfriend from the village. He watches as none other than Comrade Stalin slowly descends from the sky holding his rifle and wearing a woman’s dress. Stalin tells the sergeant in charge that Private Chonkin abandoned his post guarding the aircraft, lost his combat weapon and therefore deserves to be shot.
In our hero’s second dream, he attends a wedding reception where the groom and all the guests turn out to be not humans but pigs. Oh, no, he's been duped! Chonkin realizes he has blurted out a classified military secret to the first person (actually a pig) he ran into at the table. And one of the dire consequences of his fatal mistake? Humanork is on the menu! A tray bearing naked Comrade Stalin holding his famous pipe, all garnished with onions and green peas. Stalin grins slyly to himself behind his mustache.
The third dream is another doozy. This time the dreamer is Gladishev, one of the villagers who is a prototypical Soviet “new” man of science. In Gladishev’s dream his horse Osya informs him in plain Russian that he is no longer a horse but a human being. Gladishev says if Osya is a true Soviet human he would go to the front to fight the Germans. Osya replies that Gladishev is the dumbest person in the world since he should know a horse doesn’t have fingers to pull a trigger.
These are but snatches catching several colorful, hilarious bits. What's noteworthy is the way these dreams reinforce a major theme running throughout the novel: the prevailing Soviet system is a complete misreading of the rhythms of nature and life. Such an inept, ass-backwards system will lead men like Gladishev to do such things as fill his house with shit, even eat shit and drink water mixed with shit, based on scientific and materialistic calculations that all life is nourished by shit.
Such a misreading has its effect on all areas of Soviet life and community. For instance, at one village meeting the chairman of the local kolkhoz (collective farm) chastises members who fail to work the minimum number of workdays. Among the Comrades singled out for a tongue lashing is Zhikin, one of those who flaunts his age and illnesses. The chairman goes on: “Of course I realize that Zhikin is a disabled Civil War veteran and has not legs. But now he’s cashing in on those legs of his. . . Let him sit himself down in a furrow and crawl from bush to bush at his own speed, weeding as he goes and thereby fulfilling the minimum workday requirements.”
The chairman also is vocal when the village learns of the German offensive against their country: “The war will write everything off. The main thing’s to get to the front as fast as possible; there either you get a chest full of metals or a head full of bullets, but either way, at least you can live like an honest man.”
Such Soviet wisdom peppers every page. This is a very funny book. But as you are laughing, Comrades, you will be brought face-to-face with life on a community farm and in the military that is downright cruel and brutalizing.
One last example that really tickled my funny-bone. The narrator relays a rapid change of chairmen over at another village. The first chairman was put in jail for stealing, the second for seducing minors, and the third took to drinking and kept on drinking until he drank up everything he owned and all the kolkhoz funds. Things got so bad he hanged himself but left a one world suicide note – “Ech” with three exclamation points. The narrator tells us nobody figured out what that “Ech!!!” was supposed to mean. Actually, even as an American in 2018 I have a pretty good idea what he was getting at with his “Ech!!!” --- I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANY MORE!!!
Having read The Fur Hat and Moscow 2042 I wanted to treat myself to Vladimir Voinovich’s classic earlier work. I’m glad I did. I enjoy laughing and this novel provided ample opportunities. I can see why Ivan Chonkin is now a widely known figure in Russian popular culture.
Vladimir Voinovich, Born 1932
"Kuzma Gladishev was known as a learned man not only in Krasnoye but in the entire area. One of the many proofs of his erudition was the wooden outhouse in his garden, on which was written in large black letters, in English, WATER CLOSET." - Vladimir Voinovich, The Life & Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
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Read information about the authorVladimir Voinovich (rus. 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 does not forgo real people in favor of the grand scheme of things.
Satiric fiction has never been popular under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. Voinovich's writing and political activity (dissident) led to his expulsion from the Writer's Union (194), emigration to Germany (1980), and loss of USSR citizenship (1981; restored 10 years later).
Voinovich is a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Department of Language and Literature.