Books: Kievstone Cops

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...

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