Il'f and Petrov and the Soviet Culture of Collected Works

Anne Fisher, University of Michigan

In this paper I present part of my work on the reconstruction and analysis of the publication history of the two Soviet editions of collected works of the popular Soviet authors Il'ia Il'f (1897-1937) and Evgenii Petrov (1903-1942). The two Soviet editions of Il'f and Petrov’s collected works were published in 1938-39 and in 1961. The first, produced when Petrov was still alive, is an example of a collected works published during the author’s lifetime under authorial supervision, while the second is an example of a posthumous collected works. These two categories, I argue, are distinct: they are characterized by different functions for authors and publishers; they are subject to different sets of expectations from various kinds of readers; and they reveal different aspects of a given culture’s literary process. Of necessity, then, my work has been threefold: first, I have tried to usefully define these differences, in order to have some context for understanding how representative Il'f and Petrov’s two editions might be; second, I have put together the fullest possible story of the production of these editions based on archival documentation, publication data, publishing statistics, and other information; and finally, I have compared the specific editions to their contexts. Since this is more than twenty minutes worth of information, I will focus in this paper on the editors, negotiations during the production of the second collected works of 1961, (still) widely regarded as the canonical edition of Il'f and Petrov’s oeuvre. My goal is to help better understand the processes governing the formation of the Soviet canon and the constitution of the Soviet author in the post-Stalin period.