Sentimental Tales

Mikhail Zoshchenko. Translated by Boris Dralyuk

Columbia University Press

Sentimental Tales

Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231183796

240 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $14.95£11.99

Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231183789

240 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231545150

240 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $13.99£10.99

Sentimental Tales

Mikhail Zoshchenko. Translated by Boris Dralyuk

Columbia University Press

Mikhail Zoshchenko’s Sentimental Tales are satirical portraits of small-town characters on the fringes of Soviet society in the first decade of Bolshevik rule. The tales are narrated by one Kolenkorov, who is anything but a model Soviet author: not only is he still attached to the era of the old regime, he is also, quite simply, not a very good writer. Shaped by Zoshchenko’s masterful hands—he takes credit for editing the tales in a series of comic prefaces—Kolenkorov’s prose is beautifully mangled, full of stylistic infelicities, overloaded flights of metaphor, tortured cliché, and misused bureaucratese, in the tradition of Gogol.

Yet beneath Kolenkorov’s intrusive narration and sublime blathering, the stories are genuinely moving. They tell tales of unrequited love and amorous misadventures among down-on-their-luck musicians, provincial damsels, aspiring poets, and liberal aristocrats hopelessly out of place in the new Russia, against a backdrop of overcrowded apartments, scheming, and daydreaming. Zoshchenko’s deadpan style and sly ventriloquy mask a biting critique of Soviet life—and perhaps life in general. An original perspective on Soviet society in the 1920s and simply uproariously funny, Sentimental Tales at last shows Anglophone readers why Zoshchenko is considered among the greatest humorists of the Soviet era.
In the face of ideological pressure to produce heroic forms, Zoshchenko’s playful, sly, gallows-humored Sentimental Tales responds with superfluous men. If life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel, Zoshchenko gives us comedy silhouetted in unspoken tragedy. This many-layered pleasure is brought closer to the contemporary reader by a nimble translation by Boris Dralyuk. Janet Fitch, author of The Revolution of Marina M. and Paint It Black
I know of no satirist more angry, more warlike than Mikhail Zoshchenko. Yet I love him not for his anger, I love him for his astonishing irony—for the fact that it is sometimes difficult to determine the target of his mockery: is it his characters, his readers, himself? This new translation preserves Zoshchenko’s irony in all its force. Andrey Kurkov, author of Death and the Penguin
Mikhail Zoshchenko is one of Russia’s great humorists, not only of the Soviet era but of all time. Boris Dralyuk’s translation of Sentimental Tales reads beautifully, and the English language work is a real tour de force. It transmits Zoshchenko’s quirky style while still maintaining a natural, easy flow, with well-judged rhythms and cadences that echo Zoshchenko’s own. Lesley Milne, University of Nottingham
Zoshchenko is the wittiest and most perceptive of Soviet satirists. Boris Dralyuk is the first translator to succeed in bringing his wit into English. Comedy is largely a matter of timing, and Dralyuk, like Zoshchenko himself, has an impeccable sense of rhythm. Robert Chandler, translator of Vasily Grossman, Andrei Platonov, Teffi, and many others
Zoshchenko’s satirical prowess brought him fame in the Soviet Union, and these Sentimental Tales, with their dark humor and sharp parody, rank among his best writings. Boris Dralyuk’s fine translations succeed wonderfully in conveying the innovative style and unique narrative voice of the originals. Barry Scherr, Dartmouth College
A book that would make Gogol guffaw. Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Mikhail Zoshchenko (1894–1958) was a leading Soviet satirist. His stories of the 1920s made him enormously popular with readers. In 1946 he was expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union. He never recovered from this trauma and died of heart failure in 1958.

Boris Dralyuk is the editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution (2016) and coeditor of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (2015).