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YURI OLESHA (1899-1960) might well have become Russia’s 20th century Nikolai Gogol, but just as his literary talent was blooming, it was plowed under by the socialist Thermidor. Outwardly, his works conformed to Soviet orthodoxy, but beneath the surface they share the subtlety, rich characterization and wry humor of Ilf & Petrov or Isaac Babel, which is not surprising, since all sprang from the rich milieu that was early twentieth century Odessa. After his public statement for an independent literature in 1934, Olesha’s work was stifled by censorship, and he largely disappeared from public view. Yet he survived both the Purges and the War, working quietly on stage dramatizations of others’ works.