Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip
March 16, 2011
In 1935, two Russian journalists for the paper Pravda came to this country and wrote a travelogue of America. Ilf and Petrov were the "Borat" of their time, taking a biased look at Depression era America and making their observations with a lot of sarcasm and communist ideology. The authors' trip started near San Francisco and took them on a long circle through the country. They passed through Kansas City on their way.
The authors also took a lot of pictures which were published in the Soviet equivalent of Time magazine, as well as appearing in their book, Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip. The book has pictures of cowboys, Indians, skyscrapers and ordinary cities, as well as people in many life situations.
Of course, the author’s job was to show the excesses of Western culture. But as they travelled, they could not help but also marvel at the accomplishments of the country they were sent to disparage. "We didn't hear a single gunshot in New York" they write. They stopped at Hannibal, saw a museum there, and called the stories of Tom Sawyer - "The dearest and jolliest adventures that ever existed in world literature".
Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip is available at the Dearborn Branch. Looking through this book is like looking at a time capsule of the United States, assembled by someone who did not fully appreciate the artifacts they gathered. Some of the most striking parts of the book are what the authors got right without understanding why. People have been enjoying this book for several generations. It’s a fun book to either read or browse.