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THE FUR HAT by Vladimir Voinovich
Translated by Susan Brownsberger
Had Gogol been alive today, I’m willing to bet a fair few dead souls that he’d have been a fan of Vladimir Voinovich. Scathing in his satire and hilarious in his delivery, Voinovich spoke truth to power in the way only the best court jesters can. The Fur Hat shows him in fine form, and makes a perfect entry point for his riotous oeuvre. Sitting comfortably alongside classic Gogol tales like The Nose and The Overcoat, this tale of minor absurdity gone awry makes for the perfect snapshot of Soviet Russia before its collapse.
Yefim is a literary hack who has written Party-pleasing drivel for years. It has afforded him numerous privileges, which he routinely lords over his colleagues in the Writer’s Union. So when it is announced that writers will be receiving new hats - the fur quality of which will be commensurate with their importance - he expects the best. Instead, he is assigned lowly cat fur. It is an insult of immense proportions. What follows is the most hilarious unraveling of a man, crashing and burning through the bureaucratic structure, that I can remember reading. And to think this is only considered one of Voinovich’s minor works!
The Fur Hat by Vladimir Voinovich (Tr. Susan Brownsberger)
Harcourt Brace Javonovich, 1989