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Who is the real author of the novels "The Twelve Chairs" and "The Golden Calf", and were Ilf and Petrov "literary slaves"
Who is the real author of the novels "The Twelve Chairs" and "The Golden Calf", and were Ilf and Petrov "literary slaves"

The ideas that the famous dilogy about the son of a Turkish citizen was written not by Ilf and Petrov, but by someone else, over the years since the novels were published, have developed into an independent, almost detective story. Most recently, it was embodied in a research book, where it is quite categorically stated: "Twelve Chairs" and "Golden Calf" were created not by the one who appears on the cover.

How Ilf and Petrov were "literary slaves"

The first edition of "The Twelve Chairs" in the magazine "Thirty Days"

By the time the first chapters of The Twelve Chairs were printed, Ilya Ilf was thirty, and Evgeny Petrov was twenty-five years old. The story of the appearance of the plot about the treasures hidden in a chair was told by the authors themselves and looks like this. himself, to feel like a Dumas-father, putting his signature on the creations of "literary slaves". The choice fell on the staff of the newspaper "Gudok" - Yevgeny Kataev's own younger brother (who took the pseudonym Petrov) and Ilya Ilf, and they were invited to write a work about the search for treasures in an old typeface. These two young people recently, in the summer of 1927, returned from a business trip to the Crimea and the Caucasus, during which they had already begun to make plans for a joint literary project.

Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov

The idea came to the liking of the newly minted creative tandem, and in three months in the fall of 1927 the novel "The Twelve Chairs" was written. At first, Ilf and Petrov consulted Dumas-Kataev on the text, but seeing that things were going well, he completely entrusted the content of the book to his “literary slaves,” indicating only that he wanted to receive initiation on the first page of the future work, and from the first fee - a gold cigarette case as a gift. These requirements were met. The book was written together, arguing over each phrase. Where there was no dispute, they lingered especially - they believed that such an automatic coincidence of opinions meant that the phrase was too much on the surface. Nevertheless, the result of the work was achieved very quickly, and the publication was decided even faster: already in January 1928, the first chapters of The Twelve Chairs appeared in the journal Thirty Days, which was very atypical for that time, censorship usually checked manuscripts by several weeks or even months. It is believed that the publication of the text was accelerated by the personal guarantee of Valentin Kataev, as well as the patronage of Vladimir Narbut, a poet and writer who headed the editorial board of Thirty Days.

Vladimir Narbut

In the same 1928, a separate book was published, and Ilf and Petrov, inspired by their success, after some time continued to create joint works. The Golden Calf, where the "resurrected" Ostap continued his adventures, was born with much more difficulty than the first part of the dilogy. The novel was started in 1929, but it was completed only in 1931, and, according to the authors, it was hard for them.

Oddities and blind spots in the history of the creation of a dilogy

In 2013, a book by Irina Amlinski was published, who called herself a reader-digger.Having spent 12 years on a thorough study of the texts of Ilf and Petrov, their biography, as well as the works and in general the literary reality of Soviet Russia in the twenties and thirties of the last century, she came to the firm conviction that "The Twelve Chairs" and "The Golden Calf" had a different author, and the creative tandem only gave the works a name under which the publication of books was possible. Amlinsky relied in her reasoning primarily on the analysis of the phrases that made up the text of the dilogy, finding in their structure and lexical composition a clear similarity with the works of another writer. But how could this adventure be accomplished?

Valentin Petrovich Kataev

Central in the history of the appearance of the "Twelve Chairs" was the figure of Valentin Petrovich Kataev. This talented and promising writer, hero of socialist labor and the owner of many state awards and prizes, had not only great influence in literary and political circles, but also an ambiguous past. Part of his young years came to serve in Denikin's army during the Civil War, and in 1920, while in Odessa, which constantly changed hands in battles, Kataev, along with his brother, was imprisoned on charges of an anti-Soviet conspiracy.

The Kataev brothers with their father

Eugene at that time was 18 years old, but on the advice of his older brother, he named 1903 as his date of birth - in the hope that softer measures would be applied to the minor. Despite the fact that some of the participants in the conspiracy were shot, the Kataev brothers were released. Eugene did not mention this fact from his past, even getting a job in the Odessa Criminal Investigation Department - at the same time he went through a "purge" and proved himself well in the service. In 1923, Kataev Jr. moved to Moscow, where his older brother Valentin already lived. A number of literary scholars and historians, and with them Irina Amlinski, believe that Valentin and Yevgeny Kataevs could carry out assignments for the Cheka, and therefore were protected from trouble. As a work for the benefit of the existing regime, the elder Kataev was asked to organize the writing of a satirical novel directed against Trotskyism and generally supporting the existing ideology. Perhaps this explains the requirement for a dedication text: this is how Kataev designated his involvement in the novel.

In the editorial office of the newspaper

Amlinsky notes that among the entire literary heritage of Ilf and Petrov - and it amounts to no less than five volumes - there is not a single work whose success would at least a little resemble the recognition that the dilogy received. "One-story America", perhaps the most famous thing besides Bender's adventures, was written as if with the other hand, as if there was nothing in common between its authors and the creator of "The Twelve Chairs." to a certain master, and gave the right to be named authors to his younger brother and his editorial colleague? Then who is this man who wrote a brilliant work and voluntarily remained in the shadows?

Valentin Kataev, Yuri Olesha, Mikhail Bulgakov

The author is Mikhail Bulgakov?

In those years, there was only one genius writer in the Soviet Union, he created works that received recognition, and it was he who, by the time of writing The Twelve Chairs, was under the special attention of the Chekists. A frequent guest of the Gudok editorial office, who wrote feuilletons for the newspaper, Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov. Bulgakov worked at night, his works were created quickly, and the version that The Twelve Chairs appeared in a couple of months without the knowledge of his wife seems quite plausible. Much more believable than the amazing coherence with which the very young writers Ilf and Petrov allegedly created together a masterpiece of Soviet literature. It is also interesting that immediately after the publication of the novel, Mikhail Bulgakov received a three-room apartment in Moscow and his manuscripts, seized by the GPU a year earlier.

M.A. Bulgakov

Probably, after reading "The Master and Margarita", everyone caught himself thinking that this book is surprisingly similar in syllable to the novels about the adventures of Ostap Bender. According to Bulgakov's biography, this novel of his began in 1928, and the third wife of the writer, Elena Sergeevna, completed its editing and design after the death of the writer. Comparing the texts of the tandem Ilf-Petrov and Bulgakov, one can see obvious similarities and parallels: "Hercules" and Massolit, Voronya Slobodka and a bad apartment, descriptions of a psychiatric hospital in both works. In the idea of ​​the children of Lieutenant Schmidt, something Bulgakov can also be traced, as well as in the rhythm of phrases disassembled and examined from different angles and showing the coincidence of the writing styles of all three works. "" ("12 chairs"). "" ("The Master and Margarita") In these two phrases, experts find a complete coincidence of music, rhythm of phrases. In turn, the literary language of Ilf and Petrov meant short, "chopped" sentences, devoid of the musicality that is characteristic of the "Twelve Chairs" - they rather used the language of journalists, who, in fact, they were.

Ilya Ilf

Bulgakov, who may have created a satirical work, outwardly directed against the opponents of the regime, but in fact parodying the entire Soviet reality, did not in any way reveal the secrets of his authorship in relation to The Twelve Chairs. The testimonies of the participants in the events themselves could shed light on what is happening - but Ilf died in 1937, and Vladimir Narbut, who took the most active part in the publication of the novel, was declared an enemy of the people and shot, and mentioning his name anywhere could bring trouble … Petrov himself died in 1942 in a plane crash. Ultimately, in 1949, the dilogy was declared harmful and banned from publication and distribution.

Evgeny Petrov

No manuscripts of novels about Bender were found that could fill in the blank spots in the question of the origin of these works - only the notebooks of Ilya Ilf have survived. At first glance, sensational, the theory of Bulgakov's authorship nevertheless has every right to exist and has not been refuted by experts in any way, at least among those who admit or support this version of the creation of a dilogy, there are quite trustworthy literary critics and philologists: Dmitry Galkovsky, Yuri Basin, Igor Sukhikh, Lazar Freudheim, Vladimir Kozarovetsky.

From the movie

Irina Amlinski's version captivates by the fact that it does not look like the pursuit of a quick and cheap sensation - but among specialists it has become additional material for thought. The secret of the identity of the author of the dilogy will probably remain a matter of faith, except that from the depths of the secret state archives, documents suddenly emerge confirming one point of view or another. And readers who want to look into the "encyclopedia of Soviet life" can enjoy these three great novels - "The Twelve Chairs", "The Golden Calf" and "The Master and Margarita". Or even try to find those buildings in which all the described events allegedly took place.

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