Ilf and Petrov
|Born||Odessa, Russian Empire|
|Died||Moscow, Soviet Union (Ilf)|
Rostov Oblast, Soviet Union (Petrov)
|Occupation||Novelists, short story writers|
|Notable works||The Twelve Chairs|
The Little Golden Calf
Ilya Ilf (Ilya Arnoldovich Feinsilberg) (Russian: Илья Арнольдович Файнзильберг, 1897–1937) and Yevgeny Petrov (Yevgeniy Petrovich Katayev or Russian: Евгений Петрович Катаев, 1902–1942) were two Ukrainian prose authors of the 1920s and 1930s. They did much of their writing together, and are almost always referred to as "Ilf and Petrov". They were natives of Odessa.
Ilf and Petrov gained a high profile for their two satirical novels: The Twelve Chairs (1928) and its sequel, The Little Golden Calf (1931). The two texts are connected by their main character, Ostap Bender, a con man in pursuit of elusive riches. Both books follow exploits of Bender and his associates looking for treasure amidst the contemporary Soviet reality. They were written and are set in the relatively liberal era in Soviet history, the New Economic Policy of the 1920s. The main characters generally avoid contact with the apparently lax law enforcement. Their position outside the organized, goal-driven, productive Soviet society is emphasized. It also gives the authors a convenient platform from which to look at this society and to make fun of its less attractive and less Socialist aspects. These are among the most widely read and quoted books in Russian culture. The Twelve Chairs was adapted for ca. twenty movies, in the USSR (by Leonid Gaidai and by Mark Zakharov), in the US (in particular by Mel Brooks), and in other countries.
From the late 1920s to 1937, the co-authors wrote several theatrical plays and screenplays, as well as many humorous short stories and satirical articles in the magazines: Chudak, 30 days, Krokodil, Ogoniok, the newspapers: Pravda, Literaturnaya Gazeta. In the first years of joint creativity Ilf and Petrov published their stories and satirical under parodic pseudonyms: Tolstoevsky (composed of the names of writers Tolstoy and Dostoevsky), Don Busilio (from Don Basilio, character in the opera The Barber of Seville, and the Russian verb busa – scandal, noise), Cold philosopher and others.
The two writers also traveled across the Great Depression-era United States. Ilf took many pictures throughout the journey, and the authors produced a photo essay entitled "American Photographs", published in Ogoniok magazine. Shortly after that they published the book Одноэтажная Америка (literally: "One-storied America"), translated as Little Golden America (an allusion to The Little Golden Calf). The first edition of the book did not include Ilf's photographs. Both the photo essay and the book document their adventures with their characteristic humor and playfulness. Notably, Ilf and Petrov were not afraid to praise many aspects of the American lifestyle in these works while being highly critical about others. The title comes from the following description.
America is primarily a one-and two-storey country. The majority of the American population lives in small towns of three thousand, maybe five, nine, or fifteen thousand inhabitants.
Vladimir Nabokov considered them to be "wonderfully gifted writers".
Ilf died of tuberculosis a few months after their return from the USA. Petrov became a front line correspondent during the war, and, after covering the fighting in Sevastopol, was killed when the airplane he was travelling back to Moscow in crashed while flying low to avoid anti-aircraft fire.
The minor planet 3668 Ilfpetrov, discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina in 1982, is named after them.