Kangaroo. [Rare signed / Inscribed]
New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986. Octavo. 278 pages. Original Hardcover with original dustjacket in protective collector’s mylar. First edition in English of the first work of Aleshkovsky to be translated into English, a work which tells the story of a Comrade Etcetera, a professional pickpocket who is summoned to KGB headquaters and charged with a crime more heinous than any mere man could devise. He will be tried “for the vicious rape and murder of an aged kangaroo in the Moscow Zoo on a night between July 14, 1789 and January 9, 1905.” Aleshkovsky’s best known work. This copy signed / inscribed by the author on the front endpaper. A fine copy in dust jacket.
Iosif Efimovich Aleshkovsky (known as Yuz Aleshkovsky, born September 21, 1929 – ), is a modern Russian writer, poet, playwright and performer of his own songs. Yuz Aleshkovsky was born in Krasnoyarsk in 1929, when his family resided there briefly for his father’s business. Three months later his family returned to Moscow. His high school studies were interrupted due to his family’s evacuation during the Second World War.
In 1949 Aleshkovsky was drafted into the Soviet Navy, but because of breaking the disciplinary code, he had to serve four years in jail (1950–1953). After serving the term, Aleshkovsky moved back to Moscow and began writing books for children.
Aleshkovsky also wrote songs and performed them. Some, especially [Comrade Stalin, you are a great scholar] and [Little cigarette butt], became extremely popular in the Soviet Union and are considered folk classics. Aleshkovsky also wrote screenplays for movies and television and was accepted into the Writers Union.
From the very beginning of his career, Aleshkovsky did not compromise his writing to conform to official Soviet doctrine, and for this reason his novellas and novels were available only in samizdat. Some of his songs were included in the subversive self-published almanac Metropol (1979).
With no hope of being published officially in the Soviet Union, Aleshkovsky emigrated to the West in 1979 and waited for his entry visa to United States in France and Austria. The following year, he was invited to the United States by Wesleyan University and settled in Middletown, Connecticut, where he presently lives and serves as a Visiting Russian Emigre Writer in Wesleyan’s Russian Department. In 1987 he was awarded Guggenheim Prize for fiction. In 2002 Aleshkovsky won the Pushkin Prize.
Aleshkovsky has a distinct style of writing – a combination of skaz and satire of Soviet social or scientific experiments. The majority of his writings are profoundly witty. The novella “Nikolai Nikolaevich” mocks Soviet stupidity in pseudoscientific biological experiments. His novel Kenguru [Kangaroo] tells the story of an old thief and his ordeals during the Stalinist era trials; Stalin himself is a character. Another essential element of Aleshkovsky’s style is fantasy and the grotesque. His novel Ruka [The hand] defines Soviet communist doctrine as a modern representation of absolute evil.
[The book of last words] deals with an essential theme of Russian literature, “the problem of the little man” – the difficulty of the social existence of a simple but honest man. The theme was begun by Nikolai Gogol, and further enhanced and dramatized by Fyodor Dostoevsky, among others. Yuz Aleshkovsky was one of the first to use expletives in his writing. His best-known and most appreciated works are his anti-Stalinist songs, which have become part of an urban folk tradition in the Soviet Union and are even mistakenly considered by some to be anonymous. (Wikipedia)