Scamapalooza 63: The Little Golden Calf with Maya Vinokour
If I told you that “the cafeteria is permanently closed for the schnitzel inventory.” what would you think I was saying?
If your Russian, the chances are you’d know exactly what I was getting at.
The novel The Little Golden Calf is the story of Ostap Bender a con artist trying to become a millionaire in 1920s Soviet Russia, a time when millionaires aren’t supposed to exist.
Little read in the rest of the world, the book is a classic in Russia. It’s taught in schools, there are multiple movie and TV adaptions, statues of the main characters can be found in towns across the country, and lines from the book have made their way into usage,
Face with anything that’s not all it's cracked up to be, a Russian might say “No, this is not Rio de Janeiro.”. Dodgy enterprises are labelled “horns and hoods” or “Children of Lt. Schmidt”.
On this episode, I talk to Maya Vinokour from the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU about the book, its history and what it can tell us about Putin, Trump, and 21st-century satire.