Zavist’. Roman, s risunkami Natana Al’tman [Envy. A novel, with drawings by Nathan Altman].

Moscow-Leningrad, “Zemlia Fabrika, [1928].

8vo, pp. 144, with two full-page illustrations by Nathan Altman printed on a green background and highlighted in pink; a very good copy, uncut, a few pages opened roughly, in the original illustrated wrappers by Altman, slightly skewed; in a folding cloth box.


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Zavist’. Roman, s risunkami Natana Al’tman [Envy. A novel, with drawings by Nathan Altman].

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First edition of this famous short satirical novel which ‘catapulted Olesha into the first rank of Soviet writers’ (Terras). It was fêted by both Soviet and émigré critics and established the young writer’s reputation almost overnight. Olesha later adapted it as a play, Zagovor chuvstv (The Conspiracy of Feelings) in 1929.

‘Envy deals with the conflict between new Soviet men, dedicated yet practical, and ineffectual dreamers who have preserved vestiges of an outmoded bourgeois mentality. Each side is represented by two generations, the fortyish and the young. The conflict is staged with masterful ambiguity. While “Soviet man” is obviously winning, his success is viewed through the eyes of the envious losers, with whom the reader may very well identify, and his positive image is undercut by cleverly planted subliminal detail. Even today Envy remains the most “modernist” of all Russian novels’ (Cambridge History of Russian Literature).

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