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Ilya Ilf, pseudonym of Iehiel-Leyb Arnoldovich Faynzilberg (Russian: Илья Арнольдович Файнзильберг) (October 15 [O.S. October 3] 1897 in Odessa – April 13, 1937, Moscow), was a popular Soviet journalist and writer of Jewish origin who usually worked in collaboration with Yevgeni Petrov during the 1920s and 1930s. Their duo was known simply as Ilf and Petrov. Together they published two popular comedy novels The Twelve Chairs (1928) and The Little Golden Calf (1931), as well as a satirical book Odnoetazhnaya Amerika (often translated as Little Golden America) that documented their journey through the United States between 1935 and 1936.
His father was a Jewish bank clerk. He graduated from a technical school in 1913 and held various positions, including time at the telephone company and a military plant. After the Revolution, he began working as a journalist, editing several humor magazines, and joined the Odessa Union of Poets.
In 1923, he relocated to Moscow and took employment at the newspaper Gudok (roughly "Beep", also a type of stringed instrument), a publication for railway workers. His contributions consisted mostly of satirical pieces. It was there that he met his writing partner, Petrov. In 1928, they were both let go, due to staff reductions, but they were able to find work at Chudak, a literary journal that provided a start for many Soviet writers and artists. From 1932 to 1937, they also wrote pieces for major publications such as Pravda, Literaturnaya Gazeta and Krokodil. Ilf also had a passion for photography, but this was not fully appreciated until years after his death, when his daughter discovered his photograph albums.
Sickness and death
Ilf had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in the 1920s. He thought it was in remission, but he was diagnosed with it again during his trip to America, and he died not long after returning. Days later, a Nazi propaganda newspaper, Der Angriff, published an article claiming that Ilf committed suicide following a scathing critique from the Soviet government during a writers' convention. Petrov immediately published a denial in Pravda called "An Answer to Fascist Slanderers", pointing out that his death was caused by illness and that nothing extraordinary happened during the convention, with a full transcript of the proceedings. However, the suicide version is still used by some Western biographers.
- "ДЕТИ ЛЕЙТЕНАНТА ИЛЬФА ПОЯВИЛИСЬ ПО ЛИЧНОМУ УКАЗАНИЮ СТАЛИНА"
- Yakov Lurie. In the Land of Unfrightened Idiots. A Book About Ilf and Petrov. Paris: La Presse libre, 1983; Saint Petersburg: European University at Saint Petersburg, 2005. ISBN 5-94380-044-1
- Ilf et Petrov. Lettres d'Amérique (Parangon, Paris, 2004 ed.). Avant-propos de J-J. Marie.
- Ilf and Petrov - SovLit.net - Encyclopedia of Soviet Authors
- Works by or about Ilya Ilf at Internet Archive
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