Questioning life? Read these 10 pearls of wisdom from Russian writers

Hands writing on old typewriter over wooden table background

Hands writing on old typewriter over wooden table background

Vostock-Photo
Whenever you find yourself in an incomprehensible situation, turn to Russian literature. There you will find answers to all your problems, as well as advice for almost anything that may befall you in life.

1) “If your wife has been unfaithful to you, be happy that she was unfaithful to you and not the fatherland.”

(This phrase belongs to master of the short story, playwright and novelist Anton Chekhov, who in his writing was able to fathom human nature with the help of laughter through tears)

Anton Chekhov. Source: TASSAnton Chekhov. Source: TASS

2) “Going to Paris with your wife is the same thing as going to Tula with your samovar.”

(Anton Chekhov)

N.B.: Samovars are produced in Tula

3) “Everything good in life is either indecent or makes you fat.”

(Kozma Prutkov, author of this and many other funny and topical aphorisms such as, "You can't incubate one egg twice" or "Even an oyster has enemies," is actually a collective pseudonym used by Alexei Tolstoy and the Zhemchuzhnikov brothers in the middle of the 19th century)

Kozma Prutkov. Fictional portrait by L. M. Zhemchuzhnikov, A. E. Beideman and L. F. Lagorio (1853 or 1854) / Open sourcesKozma Prutkov. Fictional portrait by L. M. Zhemchuzhnikov, A. E. Beideman and L. F. Lagorio (1853 or 1854) / Open sources

4) “Go to Contexeville. Cure your kidneys.” “But I have no problems with them.” “Don't be so la-di-da! If you're so conscientious, walk around the restaurants, drink some champagne, I'm serious, in two weeks nothing will remain of your kidneys.”

(This is a dialogue from the short story The Dead Season by Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya, who wrote under the pseudonym Teffi. She was one of the first Russian female humorists and satirists. A collection of her stories and memoirs has been translated into English)

Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya (Teffi). Source: AFP / East NewsNadezhda Lokhvitskaya (Teffi). Source: AFP / East News

5) “He loved and suffered. He loved money and suffered when he didn’t have it.”

(This is how Ostap Bender described himself. He is the protagonist of Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov's adventure novels The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf. Ilf and Petrov were Soviet humorists from Odessa, a city known for its humor and humorists since the times of the Russian Empire. In the 1930s the joint authors traveled across America and wrote about the trip in Little Golden America)

Ilya Ilf (R) and Yevgeny Petrov. Source: TASSIlya Ilf (R) and Yevgeny Petrov. Source: TASS

6) “Life is too transient for one to establish himself in it so firmly, so seriously.”

(Humorist and playwright Mikhail Zoshchenko was incredibly popular in the 1920-30s. He wrote novellas, children stories, screenplays, but for his story The Adventures of a Monkey, the Communist Party practically prohibited publishers from taking on his works. "Zoshchenko describes the Soviet order and the Soviet people in a monstrously caricatural form," said the Central Committee directive. Considered inappropriate for Soviet society, the writer was persecuted and died in poverty)

Mikhail Zoshchenko. Source: Open sourcesMikhail Zoshchenko. Source: Open sources

7) “I had read so much about the harmfulness of alcohol! So I decided to stop…. reading.”

(An entire article can be dedicated to Russian-American writer Sergei Dovlatov. In his autobiographical works he mocks the profession of journalist (The Compromise), Soviet life (The Suitcase) and life in the provinces (Pushkin Hills))

Sergei Dovlatov in the office of 'The New American' newspaper, 1980. Source: Archive photoSergei Dovlatov in the office of 'The New American' newspaper, 1980. Source: Archive photo

8) “Physical education prolongs life by five years, but these five years have to be spent in a gym.

(Another Odessan on our list – the living classic writer and satirist Mikhail Zhvanetsky. He is famous for his political satire, monologues, oral genre and for hosting the Duty Officer around the Country TV program)

Mikhail Zhvanetsky. Source: Press photo / Ukrainian Film FestivalMikhail Zhvanetsky. Source: Press photo / Ukrainian Film Festival

9) “If a person knows what he wants, he either knows a lot or does not want much.”

(Mikhail Zhvanetsky)

10) “Alcohol in small doses is harmless in any quantity.”

(Mikhail Zhvanetsky)

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