THE LIFE AND EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF PRIVATE IVAN CHONKIN
by VLADIMIR VOINOVICH, translated by RICHARD LOURIE
316 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $10.
Private Ivan Chonkin bears a Slavic resemblance to Jaroslav Haśek's The Good Soldier Schweik. But where Schweik was a shrewd operator in the Austro-Czech army of World War I, Good Soldier Chonkin belongs to an older tradition. He is the wise fool, the slow-witted peasant who mulishly plows a straight furrow through a devious world. Chonkin even looks as if he had plodded from the pages of folklore, "his field shirt hanging...