Letters from Nowhere: a mystical story from the life of the author of "The Twelve Chairs" Yevgeny Petrov
Letters from Nowhere: a mystical story from the life of the author of "The Twelve Chairs" Yevgeny Petrov
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Evgeny Petrovich Petrov (Kataev)

Have writer Evgeny Petrov (real name - Kataev) was a strange hobby: he sent letters to different countries of the world at non-existent addresses, and then waited for their return back. Once such an innocent entertainment ended very sadly: he received an answer from a fictional addressee, which became a bad omen of the tragic events in his life.

Evgeny Petrov and Ilya Ilf

In April 1939, Petrov sent a letter to New Zealand addressed to Meryl Ojin Wesley, at an assumed address: Hydebirdville, 7 Reitbeach Street. He wrote: “Dear Meryl! Please accept our sincere condolences on the passing of Uncle Pete. Be strong, old man. Forgive me for not writing for a long time. Hope Ingrid is okay. Kiss my daughter for me. She's probably already quite big. Your Eugene."

Foreign Postmarked Letters - Writer's Collectible

He waited for the letter to return, just like all the previous ones, with many postmarks and the seal: "The addressee not found." But this time the letter did not return for a long time. The writer had already forgotten about him, when suddenly, two months later, an answer came to his address from … Meryl Wesley. An unknown person wrote: “Dear Eugene! Thanks for the condolences. Uncle Pete's ridiculous death unsettled us for six months. I hope you will forgive the delay in the letter. Ingrid and I often remember those two days that you were with us. Gloria is very big and will go to the 2nd grade in the fall. She still keeps the bear that you brought her from Russia."

Evgeny Petrov and Ilya Ilf Famous Soviet writer Evgeny Petrov

Evgeny Petrov had never been to New Zealand and did not know anyone who could write such lines. Attached to the letter was a photograph in which he himself stood next to a stranger, and on the back of the photo was indicated the date October 9, 1938. Petrov felt uneasy: on that day he was hospitalized with pneumonia and was unconscious. He wrote a reply, but then World War II began, and he never got a second letter.

Evgeny Petrovich Petrov (Kataev)

During the war, Yevgeny Petrov worked as a war correspondent. In 1942, he flew from Sevastopol to Moscow, and the plane crashed in the Rostov region. The writer died, although the other passengers survived. On the same day, he received a letter from New Zealand, in which Meryl Wesley wrote: “Remember, Eugene, I got scared when you started swimming in the lake. The water was very cold. But you said you were destined to crash on a plane, not drown. Please, be careful - fly as little as possible."

Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov Co-author of Ilya Ilf Evgeny Petrov

Of course, the story sounds incredible and implausible. However, like many mysterious facts from the life of a writer prone to mystification. For example, the possibility of sending letters to different countries of the world in the 1930s raises questions. from the USSR. Even more doubtful is the lack of documentary evidence of these events, because all these envelopes and letters should have been preserved. What is this - a literary tale, a skillfully played hoax or someone's prank? The source of information was the BBC radio program, which in turn referred to the wartime Guardian newspaper. And this story formed the basis for the plot of the short film "Envelope" directed by Alexei Nuzhny, with Kevin Spacey in the title role. At the beginning of the film, it is indicated: "Based on real events", although the action for some reason was postponed to 1985.

Kevin Spacey in The Envelope, 2012

Ilya Ilf was Evgeny Petrov's co-author. Notes from his working notebook are no less interesting than literary works: thoughts about everything in the world of the caustic satirist Ilya Ilf

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