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Yuri Olyesha

Translated from the Russian by Robert Payne

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Yuri Olyesha
Series No.: 191
ISBN: 978-1-931243-12-4, Pages: 200
Russian Literature, Fiction

Born in southern Russia in 1899, Yuri Olyesha is one of the major 20th century Soviet authors, best known for his fiction, Envy, first published in 1927. Its three comic characters--Nikolay Kavalerov and the brothers Ivan and Andrey Babichev--blunder through the Communist system somewhat like figures out of Gogol or even Samuel Beckett, creating chaos in their wake.

Picked up one night in a drunken stupor by Andrey, Nikolay is given a bed, food, and work by the seemingly magnanimous food-industry mogul -- until the return of the young soccer player Volodya Makarov, whereupon Nikolay is displaced, now filled with envy and hate for his former benefactor. Ultimately Nikolay takes up with Andrey's brother Ivan, who equally suffers being ignored and scorned by his successful brother. Together the two cook up various schemes of revenge, without much success, as they come to recognize that their system of supposed equality is based on those who have and those who have not.

Oleysha also wrote several short stories and the popular fairy tale, The Three Fat Men. But in the 1930s and 1940s he found it increasingly difficult to publish his work because of Soviet censorship. He died of heart failure in 1960.

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