The Steel Flea by Nikolay Leskov
An uproarious and alcohol-soaked shaggy-dog story from one of Russia's great comic masters.
A clever, amusing little tale of patriotism, one-up a ship, and the everyday man, The Steel Flea is impressive in quite how much of a story is given to us in fifty pages.
Each page felt entirely bonkers, with the reader having to interpret what's going on, and decipher the words being used. Once used to this, however, it becomes thoroughly entertaining and comic. Leskov's humour is subtle, yet endearing, and I'm sure I would have been even more tickled had I even the smallest ounce of knowledge on the political climate at the time.
Although a good place to start investigating Leskov's political commentary, I wouldn't say it's a great place to start in Russian literature; I've definitely read better. What's wonderful about it, though, is the commentary on the relations between Russia and England at the time, and the incredible showcasing of the underdog and his fate.