web servers don’t fill up: the Great Russian Novel (unfinished)

As a young child, I remember pondering with my brothers the idea of digging a hole to China. We considered this to be possible. After all, we understood that the earth was round like a ball. But we figured that digging a hole to China would be too much work. We settled on digging a swimming pool. We dug a small hole that filled with muddy water after a rain.

In 1994, concerned about economic reforms in Russia, I decided to write a Russian novel. Russian popular culture, it seemed to me, lacked hugely popular literary masterpieces like Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, and Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I imagined writing something like Ilf and Petrov’s The Twelve Chairs, but updated to reflect subsequent insights from economic history.

You can’t swim in that hole we dug. But, if you can read Russian, you can now read the chapters that I wrote of my Russian novel. These chapters won’t contribute much to Russian economic success. But perhaps some Russian schoolchildren might find them amusing. Here’s the English translation of the title and the first paragraph:

The Way to Wealth

Chapter 1

Several years ago in Saint Petersburg I met an American. A lot of those foreigners are running around now, talking with everyone, and no one follows them. I met this American in that new restaurant Pizza Hut. He was sitting next to me, and I noticed that he had on his pizza green peppers, onions, and broccoli. On my pizza was sausage. [more in Russian]

Technical notes: Because I wanted this work to be culturally authentic, I chose to type it using the KOI8-R character encoding. I’m grateful to Petko Yotov’s Universal Cyrillic decoder for converting it to CP 1251, an encoding easier to use with MS Windows computers. Babelfish offers Russian-to-English machine translation, but the results in this case are quite bad. So if you don’t read Russian, you’ll probably have to wait for machine translation technology to improve in order to appreciate this unfinished literary masterpiece.

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