Olesha, Iurii

Olesha, Iurii Karlovich


Born Feb. 19 (Mar. 3), 1899, in Elizavetgrad, present-day Kirovograd; died May 10, 1960, in Moscow. Soviet Russian writer.

Olesha studied law at Novorossiia University from 1916 to 1918. His first works were published in 1918. In 1922, Olesha settled in Moscow, where from 1923 to 1929 he wrote feuilletons in verse for the newspaper Gudok under the pen name Zubilo. In 1924, Olesha wrote the fairy-tale novel Three Fat Men (film of the same name, 1967). His novel Envy, which made his reputation as a novelist, mirrors the turbulent epoch of the breakdown of the old society and the creation of a new one. Olesha was preoccupied with the question of whether the “industrial” age would impoverish man’s intellectual life.

In 1931, Olesha’s collection Cherry Pit, which incorporated short stories of various years, was published and his play A List of Blessings was premiered at the V. E. Meyerhold Theater. In 1934, Olesha completed the screenplay The Strict Youth. He also published articles on literary themes, as well as essays and memoirs. In 1958 the E. Vakhtangov Theater staged his adaptation of F. M. Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot.

Olesha’s posthumously published Not a Day Without a Line (1961; 2nd ed., 1965) is a blend of diary and autobiography. Olesha himself conceived the book as a novel about his life, and entire sections are devoted to literary themes. Olesha’s narrative style is marked by vivid, imaginative descriptions and unexpected associations and comparisons. His works have been translated into many foreign languages.


Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1936.
Izbr. soch. [Foreword by V. Pertsov.] Moscow, 1956.
Povesti i rasskazy. [Foreword by B. Galanov.] Moscow, 1965.
P’esy. Stat’i o teatre i dramaturgii. [Introductory article by P. Markov.] Moscow, 1968.


Lunacharskii, A. “Zagovor chuvstv.” In A. V. Lunacharskii o teatre i dramaturgii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1958.
Chudakova, M. Masterstvo Iuriia Oleshi. Moscow, 1972.
Russkie sovetskie pisateli-prozaiki: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’, vol. 3. Leningrad, 1964.