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Introduction to Envy
Written by Yuri Olesha and first published in 1927, in newly established Soviet Union. The 1920s brought great change for Russia as Tsar’s regime was thrown out and Communism was brought in. However, during the 20s, the Soviet Union went back to a quasi-capitalist system under the New Economic Policy. The New Economic Policy allowed citizens to own small businesses, one of the themes Olesha addresses in the novel. Through Andrei Babichev, Olesha portrays the new man created as a result of the New Economic Policy and places him in contrast with the older society. This is a period of confusion and hypocrisy, as a Communist society adopts Capitalistic policies. To show this confusion, Olesha presents a bleak depiction of society in this deeply psychological work.
The Novel's Title
Nikolai Kavalerov Nikolai Kavalerov is the central focus of the novel as well as the narrator of Part 1. He is a young man of 28 years old. Kavalerov's live is by no means bright and cheerful. He craves to matter in life and desires to have a meaningful existance. However, he is outcast from society and left to wander the streets in a drunken haze. This is his condition at the start of the novel as he is taken in off the street by Andrei Babichev, a middle aged businessman. During his stay at Babichev's, Kavalerov becomes increasingly envious of Babichev's success and position in society to the point where he thoroughly hates Babichev. As the novel progresses, his narration provides a deep psychological profile into his warped state of mind.
Andrei Babichev Andrei Petrovich Babichev is a middle aged man who runs a sausage buisness called Two Bits. He is rather bland and uninteresting, yet he is still successful and respected in society. Through Kavalerov's narration, a grotesque description of Babichev's physical appearence is given. He is over weight and a slob. He also represents the "new man" that emerged out of the New Economic Policy. Despite living in a supposed communist society, he runs a private business and is successful.