The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
|The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin|
|Original title||Жизнь и необычайные приключения солдата Ивана Чонкина|
The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin ("Жизнь и необычайные приключения солдата Ивана Чонкина", Zhizn i neobïchaynïe priklyucheniya soldata Ivana Chonkina, 1969-1975) and its sequels, Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin ("Претендент на престол", 1979), and Displaced Person ("Перемещённое лицо", Peremyeshyonnoye litso, 2007), constitute the magnum opus of a Soviet dissident writer Vladimir Voinovich.
The first book is set in the Red Army during World War II, satirically exposing the daily absurdities of the totalitarian Soviet regime. It was rejected by Novy Mir, circulated by samizdat, and first printed by an emigre magazine in West Germany, allegedly without author's consent, after which Voinovich was banned from publishing his books in the Soviet Union.
Book 1: Plot summary
On the eve of World War II, Ivan Chonkin, the most dispensable soldier, was sent to guard a disabled military plane that crash landed on a kolkhoz (collective farm). Forgotten by his command, he earns favors of a nearby kolkhoznik woman Nyura and moves in with her. Nyura's cow eats the patch of experimental tomato-potato hybrids of the local mad genius agronomist Gladyshev, and in a retaliation the latter sends an anonymous note to NKVD that Chonkin is a deserter.
When NKVDists come to arrest Chonkin, he, being a Good Soldier, refuses to leave the post, and arrests the NKVDists himself. Only after several days the fact of missing secret police is noticed, and the raion Party leader is told via phone that they have been arrested by "Chonkin and his baba (woman)", which he mishears as "Chonkin and his banda (gang)".
A regiment is sent against "Chonkin's gang", but Chonkin successfully fends them off until they use artillery. When general Drynov incredulously learns that Chonkin single-handedly (with his baba) was holding off the whole regiment, he declares Chonkin a hero and awards him an order taken off his own chest. When the NKVD lieutenant shows the order for Chonkin's arrest, Drynov shrugs and tells them to carry out their duty at which point Chonkin is arrested and carried off in the back of the truck to the "Right Place", leaving Nyura on her knees on the road weeping after Chonkin as the scene closes and the book ends. The book ends with the joke on Gladyshev, whose misunderstanding of evolution (that monkeys became man through labor and intelligence) has been thoroughly dissettled by Chonkin's question why horses do not become men if they work harder than men do, finds a note attached to the bottom of a hoof of his dead horse which had earlier disappeared. Supposing the horse had evolved and written the note, he is spooked and crosses himself.
In 1994, the book was made into a Russian-language film of the same title (Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin/ Жизнь и необычайные приключения солдата Ивана Чонкина) by the famous Czech director Jiří Menzel. The film's Czech title is Život a neobyčejná dobrodružství vojáka Ivana Čonkina.
- Gennady Nazarov – Ivan Chonkin
- Zoya Buryak – Nyura
- Vladimir Ilyin – Golubev
- Aleksei Zharkov – Gladishev
- Valery Zolotukhin – Kilin
- Zinovy Gerdt – Moisei Stalin
- Sergei Garmash – Milyaga
- Maria Vinogradova – Granny Dunia
- Yuri Dubrovin – Volkov
- Marián Labuda – Opalikov
- Aleksandr Garin – Svintsov
- Voinovich, Vladimir The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
- Plot summary from SovLit.net (English)
- Full text at voinovich.ru (Russian)
- 1994 film at the Internet Movie Database