Russian Literature is Hilarious!

What does a forgotten novel originally published in 1863, a collection of stories from the early Soviet era, and a multi-genre collection of condensed, vivid contemporary work have in common? Aside from being published in English translation for our Russian Library series, each of these works uses humor to take a stark look at the society in which they were written.

Today we continue our month long feature for National Translation Month by highlighting three titles from our Russian Library series. As part of this week’s Russian Library focus we are raffling off an entire set of the titles published thus far in the series. If you are a fan of Russian literature, be sure to enter the drawing before it closes on Friday, September 21st at 1:00 pm for a chance to win.

• • • • • •

City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, translated by Nora Seligman Favorov

Sofia Khvoshchinskaya and her sisters, Nadezhda and Praskovya, are often compared to their British contemporaries, the Brontë sisters. An Austen-esque comedy of manners, City Folk and Country Folk offers a unique portrait of a crucial moment in Russian history and literature. As Columbia PhD student Elaine Wilson wrote previously for our blog, much of the comedy in the book comes from one of the male characters’ multiple frustrated attempts to ingratiate himself with the main female characters. A topic that translator Nora Seligman Favorov took up last month for Women in Translation Month in the post “A Nineteenth-Century #MeToo Moment?”

Find out more about the Khvoshchinskaya Sisters and the era in which the book was writter in Hilde Hoogenboom’s introduction to the book.


Read an excerpt from the novel.


• • • • • •

Sentimental Tales by Mikhail Zoshchenko, translated by Boris Dralyuk

Mikhail Zoshchenko is considered one of the greatest humorists of the Soviet era. In a review of the book The Economist said:

The only thing harder than cracking jokes may be translating them. Perhaps this is why Mikhail Zoshchenko remains a lesser-known Russian writer among English-language readers, despite being one of the Soviet Union’s most beloved humorists, a satirist in the best traditions of Gogol. Boris Dralyuk’s new translation of Sentimental Tales, a collection of Zoshchenko’s stories from the 1920s, is a delight that brings the author’s wit to life.

Boris Dralyuk, the translator of Sentimental Tales, wrote about the challenge of translating humor in a July post, likening it to “dancing about architecture.”

Find out more Mikhail Zoshchenko in Boris Dralyuk’s introduction.


Read an excerpt from Sentimental Tales.


• • • • • •


Found Life: Poems, Stories, Comics, a Play, and an Interview by Linor Goralik. Edited by Ainsley Morse, Maria Vassileva, and Maya Vinokour

Goralik came of age after the fall of the Soviet Union and at the dawn of the internet, making a name for herself online. She is known for her condensed, vivid prose—conversational in tone, often conjuring the absurdities of everyday life with wry humor. Found Life collects Goralik’s work across different genres, making them available for the first time in English. Kirkus Reviews called the book “quietly subversive” and “gritty,” making comparisons to Hemingway and Bulgakov.

Find out more about Linor Goralik in Stephanie Sandler’s introduction to Found Life.


Below is a comic excerpted from the book. It comes from her series “Bunnypuss” and is translated by Giulia Dossi and Abigail Weil. You can read an excerpt of some of the short-short stories from the book in the literary magazine Music & Literature.

Leave a Reply