In Plain Russian



by Vladimir Voinovich.Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $10.00.
The author of The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin demonstrates, in this collection of tales, that his skill is not confined to fantastic comedy. Most of these stories are about ordinary Soviet citizens going about the ordinary business of life. They work, serve in the army, get married, or die, and Mr. Voinovich describes these proceedings with an artless sympathy which is totally and mischievously fake, for what he presents as ordinary life is a morass of incompetence, stupidity, alcoholism, and lawlessness. It is no wonder that Soviet literary authorities find the man a nuisance. He is as wily a satirist as has ever tormented a solemn bureaucracy. Translated by Richard Lourie.