Unfortunately, I seem to be making a habit of having these posts begin with a “I haven’t blogged in a while” note. But once again, I’ll try and get back off the wagon (or is it on the wagon?).
As a much longer aside, the inspiration from the title comes from Ostap Bender, the star of Ilf and Petrov’s The Twelve Chairs. There is actually a chess connection with that book, with a few chess remarks sprinkled in before the Interplanetary Chess Tournament episode.
I think I first heard of the book after taking a class in 19th century Russian Literature at UC Berkeley; the natural follow-up was the 20th century class, and while I don’t think this was on the syllabus, I was digging around to find some good books. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere – not on Amazon, Addall (a formerly great way to find used books), the campus library, and the old stalwarts in Berkeley of Cody’s or Moe’s. I only got the book after asking around at Moe’s, when one of the staff overheard my question about it – he seemed to be the only one there who knew of it. Anyway, he said he had read it a few times already, and he’d give me the book for free!
I’ve read it a few times since then, and each time, I learn a little more about the book, picking up on some more subtle cues and hints that managed to dupe the censors into letting it get published. It’s since been well surpassed in critical acclaim by the proper release of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, but I can’t say I really get that book. So it goes.