Life Behind the Iron Curtain

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
By Vladimir Voinovich (1969)

Most Soviet satires feature a protagonist of (at least) average intelligence who can comment on the inadequacies of the communist system. But Ivan Chonkin is more of an Ivan the Fool, the archetype of Russian folklore. When the Red Army deploys him to the countryside to guard a downed plane and then forgets about him, the bowlegged soldier must fend for himself. But Chonkin, determined to fulfill his one and only order, eventually becomes the target of the (equally inept) secret police. First circulated in samizdat, “Ivan Chonkin” criticizes Stalinist Russia’s most sacred institutions, prime among them the Red Army and the secret police. In the novel an ex-prisoner exalts labor camps as a better alternative to regular life: “Movies, amateur shows, a bath every ten days. The amateur shows are better than we’ve got in the city. We had one People’s Artist in the camp and two Honored Artists and I didn’t keep track of how many plain regular ones.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)