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The literary partnership lasted for ten years, until 1937, when Ilya Ilf died of tuberculosis. Yevgeny Petrov was killed in 1942 during the siege of Sebastopol. It was Ostap speaking; he was fiddling with the receipt. Anyone familiar with Soviet press and literature knows one of their most depressing features-the emphasis on the pompous and the weighty, and the almost total absence of the light touch. The chairs came up for auction again, but this time in lots. The USSR has a single Russian journal of humour and satire, Krokodil, which is seldom amusing. "They're selling the chairs separately, that's what. We should do well to read more of Gogol, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Chekhov (the short stories and the one-act plays) and-among Soviet authors-to read Mikhail Zoshchenko and Ilf and Petrov. Thus, in its modest way, the present volume-though outwardly not very "serious" should contribute to our better understanding of Russia and the Russians and aid us in facing the perils of peaceful coexistence. " Ostap had soon regained his former power of decision and sang-froid. Don't miss a single one." Ostap had thought of a plan-the only one possible under the difficult circumstances facing them. If writers were to be judged not by the reception accorded to them by literary critics but by their popularity with the reading public, there could be no doubt that the late team of Ilf and Petrov would have few peers among Soviet men of letters. "You stay here, you ladies' favourite, and don't go away. He hurried out into the Petrovka, made for the nearest asphalt vat, and had a businesslike conversation with some waifs. Together with another humorist, the recently deceased Mikhail Zoshchenko, for many years they baffled and outraged Soviet editors and delighted Soviet readers. Five minutes later he was back as promised with the waifs waiting ready at the entrance to the auction rooms.
In their joint "autobiography" Ilf and Petrov wrote : It is very difficult to write together. After all, they were brothers, while we are not even related to each other. And even of different nationalities; while one is a Russian (the enigmatic Russian soul), the other is a Jew (the enigmatic Jewish soul). There is a very funny man in the Soviet circus, Oleg Popov, but he is a clown and seldom talks. " "Comrade Bender," Vorobyaninov implored, "Comrade Bender! And don't come back to Ivanopulo's because I'll throw you out." Ostap did not turn around again. At the present time, among the 4,801 full-time Soviet writers there is not a single talented humorist. " "Yes." Ostap went up close to Vorobyaninov and, having looked around, hit the marshal a quick, hard, and unobserved blow in the side. That's for the high price of chairs for working people of all countries. That's for being a dirty old man." Ippolit Matveyevich took his punishment without a sound. Something was going on in the hall which interested him so much that he opened the glass door slightly and began listening. Naturally, we each resent the other side's unjust opinions and ascribe them, respectively, to the malice of capitalist or Communist propaganda. Our national literatures; or, more exactly, those portions of them which are read. Since few Americans know people of the Soviet Union from personal experience, and vice versa, we both depend to a great extent on information gathered from the printed page.