The Fur Hat

Vladimir Voinovich, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $17.95 (122p) ISBN 978-0-15-139100-4
In this sly parody of Gogol's The Overcoat , emigre author Voinovich ( The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin ) has chosen a target he is all too familiar with: the arbitrary, oppressive practices of the Soviet Writers' Union. The novel's protagonist, Yefim Rakhlin, is an adventure story writer whose work, although popular, is not critically well received. When the Writers' Union announces that it is distributing fur hats to all its authors--assigned according to rank--Rakhlin puts in for one. To his mortification, he discovers that he merits the lowest category: one made of cat fur. Rakhlin, who suspects that his Jewish origins may be part of the problem, is so incensed that he petitions various high-ranking officials to get his hat upgraded. By the end of the novel, taken up by the West as a cause celebre but disgraced in his own country, he suffers a serious heart attack and is hospitalized. Shortly before his death, he finally receives his wish, but it is a bittersweet, Pyrrhic victory. Voinovich's deadpan humor and impeccable timing make his latest satirical look at the Soviet Union particularly engaging; the novel also somberly points out the discriminations to which Jewish intellectuals are still subjected. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1989
Release date: 11/01/1989
Paperback - 132 pages - 978-0-15-634030-4
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