Zoshchenko, Mikhail Mikhaylovich.
Zoshchenko, Mikhail Mikhaylovich (b. July 29 [Aug. 10, New Style], 1895, Poltava, Ukraine, Russian Empire--d. July 22, 1958, Leningrad, Russian S.F.S.R., U.S.S.R. [now St. Petersburg, Russia])
Soviet satirist whose short stories and sketches are among the best comic literature of the Soviet period.
Zoshchenko studied law and then in 1915 joined the army. Between 1917 and 1920 he lived in many different cities and worked at a variety of odd jobs and trades. In 1921 he joined the Serapion Brothers literary group. Zoshchenko's tales are primarily satires on contemporary Soviet life. One of his main targets was bureaucratic red tape and corruption, which he attacked with tongue-in-cheek wit, using artificial language and malapropisms that make his works virtually untranslatable.
Beginning in the 1930s, Zoshchenko was subjected to increasingly severe criticism from officialdom. He tried to conform to the requirements of Socialist Realism--notably in Istoriya odnoy zhizhni (1935; "The Story of One Life"), dealing with the construction, by forced labor, of the White Sea-Baltic Waterway--but with little success.
In 1946 Zoshchenko published the short story "Priklyucheniya obezyany" ("The Adventures of a Monkey") in the literary magazine Zvezda. The work was condemned by Communist critics as malicious and insulting to the Soviet people. He was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers, which meant the virtual end of his literary career.
After his death the Soviet press tended to ignore him; but some of his works were reissued, and their prompt sale indicated his continuing popularity.