Soviet Adventures in the Land of the Capitalists: Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip

Cambridge Univ. Apr. 2024. 295p. ISBN 9781316518465. $39.99. HIST
The travels of humorist/satirical writing duo Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov showcase the United States and its relationship with the Soviet Union in the mid-1930s in a new way. The two Soviets took a road trip from New York to Hollywood and back and wrote about it in a popular travelogue. There’s evidence that shows the story they told, however, was not entirely accurate, and the true stories of their travels are worth learning. Award winner Kirschenbaum (International Communism and the Spanish Civil War) weaves in her own journey traveling Ilf and Petrov’s route across the United States with the archival resources she found along the way, along with journals and other versions of the duo’s travelogue. The interests that the Soviet Union had in American industry and entertainment are particularly enlightening.
VERDICT This book traces the elisions and obfuscations in Ilf and Petrov’s story and the political and humorous motivations they may have had for doing so. Questions of politics, art, commerce, identity, and how Soviet citizens perceived themselves in relation to Americans make for a fascinating story. It’s somewhat academic, but this book is a must for readers interested in Soviet, American, or Jewish history and radical politics.
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