The Fur Hat by Vladimir Voinovich
I read Vladimir Voinovichs short comic masterpiece back in 1989 when first published in English and read it three more times over the years, including this past week. One thing has remained consistent – I laughed out loud on nearly each page. This is a very funny book.
Hardly a whopping surprise since the author is famous for his satire and wit in the dozens of works he’s written - essays, short stories, novels, the most famous The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin and Moscow 2042.
Born in 1932, Mr. Voinovich knew political dissent from an early age as his father spent five years in prison for anti-Soviet agitation. A human rights activist himself, the author and his family were forced to emigrate in 1980 where he settled in Munich, West Germany. Mikhail Gorbachev restored his Soviet citizenship in 1990 and since that date Vladimir Voinovich has spent most of his time in Russia. Even at the advanced age of eighty-five, his writing, as acerbic as ever, continued to flow.
In The Fur Hat we follow one Yefim Semyonovich Rakhlin through the eyes of a friend and fellow Writers’ Union member. Rakhlin is a staunch, longtime member of the Union and author of eleven adventure novels featuring fearless, decent people – geologists, explorers, polar researchers, et al. – courageously fighting an uphill battle against harsh conditions in remote terrain. Although other writers see Rahkllin’s books for what they are – inflated, mawkish drivel (think of a poorly written Reader’s Digest article expanded to novel length), Rakhlin himself judges his writing on the level of Anton Chekhov; well, if truth be told, his own is a little better.
Why not? After all, before turning to fiction, Yefim was a dedicated staff writer for the journal Geology and Mineralogy and his five room apartment is stuffed with foreign imports, things like a Czech Piano, Japanese television, Finnish refrigerator, mostly from monies when his novels were taken up by media people and turned into plays, films and television shows. Chekhov never came close to that!
Besides, the reviews have always been glowing. True, geologists and the like, not literary critics, have done the reviewing, but when has true genius ever been recognized by the so called experts? However, as the narrator is quick to point out: “The reviews – I suspect Yefim wrote them himself – were all similar and had titles like “A Needed Book,” “”Useful Reading,” or “A Fact Everyone Should Know.””
Then the fateful day arrives: Yefim is in his den diligently at work on his next novel, Operation!, when the phone rings. It is Writers’ Union writer Kostya, his closest friend, informing Yefim the Literary Fund’s board of directors decided to distribute hats for writers based on their importance: reindeer fawn for the foremost writers, muskrat for leading writers, marmot for outstanding writers. Kostya goes on to say members of the Writers’ Union, such as “you and me” will be given something like rabbit.
Rabbit! They dare even think of such a low-grade fur! Don’t they know Yefim Semyonovich Rakhlin is the author of eleven novels? Yefim sets out to discover exactly what kind of fur hat he has been given. At the office of a leading official he receives the news: tomcat. Tomcat! Even worse than rabbit - what a blow to Yefim’s self-esteem. Will meek, passive, milquetoast Rakhlin tolerate such injustice? He will not. For readers, the fun has just begun - from this point forward its little man versus big bureaucracy in the tradition of clerk Akaky Akakievich from Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat.
On one level The Fur Hat can be taken as offering a moral lesson: the dire consequences when a person equates self-worth with reputation and status, that is, when one places oneself entirely in the hands of others’ opinions. But as we all know, much easier to give rather than take such advice.
Lets look at a hypothetical example: the Goodreads people announce mugs will be sent to those reviewers who have written many reviews over the years. The mug will display the photo of an animal that, in the opinion of the judges, accurately represents the quality of the reviewer’s writing - a snow leopard for the best reviewers, a tiger for very fine reviewers, a wolf for good solid reviewers and so forth. They even include a list with a number of the best reviewers, many names I recognize: Manny, Fionnuala, Dolors, Jeffrey, Michael, Lyn, Lisa, Cheri, Robert, Paul, Brian, Seemita, Cheryl, Lynne, Steven, Kal, Zoey, David, Tony, among others.
A week later I receive my Goodreads mug in the mail. By the little black eyes, sharp ears, whiskers, grey hair and long slimy tail, there’s no mistake – I was given a rat. Not exactly what I was expecting. I immediately send an email off with a link to a couple of my favorite reviews and ask if I may have a clarification or if there was perhaps a mistake or mix-up. Shortly thereafter I receive a reply: “No mistake, Glen, the judges don’t have to read any more of those reviews to know you rate rat.”
Very well. At least I have my answer. I’ll let it go. I wouldn’t want to be taken for the Yefim Semyonovich Rakhlin of the twenty-first century. But I’d be fibbing if I didn’t picture a face-to-face with said judges - for starters I’d note how they misspelled my name. All of a sudden I have renewed appreciation for The Fur Hat.
The writing, as always, was abominable. But I saw in Yefims eyes such a desperate desire to hear praise that my heart quailed.
Vladimir Voinovich, The Fur Hat
Learn Russian While You Sleep 😀 Most Important Russian Phrases and Words 😀 English/Russian (8 Hours)
An alternative is to bend the flaps back and tie them behind the head, which is called " ski -style" — this offers less protection from the elements, but much better visibility, essential for high-speed skiing. The dense fur also offers some protection against blunt impacts to the head.
056 – How to say ‘I like’ in Russian
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My apologies, sir! The origin is not as important as the basic fact that listen up, now there is no such Russian word. According to bourgeois reference books on hard-to-translate words, it means the feeling of lost love. And judging from the immense quantity of links Google returns when given the corresponding query, the entire world knows about it. Well, except for us, the bearers of the language. And then your organism gets all razblyuto.
The Hats of Languagehat
Jump to navigation. The Hat is a game for a big friendly company where everyone can play. Players take turn in trying to explain, show or draw a word or phrase while the others try to guess what it is. The one who guessed correctly and the player showing receive points. Sometimes you need to explain more than one word while time is short.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat. Galahad Threepwood, in P. A Baltimore man recently broke a longtime mental record when a forty-year-long thought he was having came to an end. He added that possibly it had something to do with his hat. Because the bodies were so filled with bodies they sprouted heads then needed to sleep and when their heads woke.
As a child of German reunification living in the former East Germany, the Russian language held a kind of secondary status for me: though it was always around my grandparents, parents and older brothers learned it in school , for me Russian was somehow a thing of the GDR past — the future, I believed, was clearly French. Somehow the language that rolled off her tongue was totally different from the Russian that I had known — probably due to the fact that I had only heard Russian spoken as a second language or in Hollywood films in which real Russians were never cast. With each word my classmate spoke, I became increasingly aware that I had never really heard the language spoken properly. Real Russian was different: to my German ears it sounded clear and straightforward — not hard, rough and angry, but powerful and serious. So I fell in love — not with my classmate, but with the Russian language.