Ivan Chonkin is a simple, bumbling peasant who has been drafted into the Red Army. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he is sent to an obscure village with one week's ration of canned meat and orders to guard a downed plane. Apparently forgotten by his unit, Chonkin resumes his life as a peasant and passes the war tending the village postmistress's garden. Just after the German invasion, the secret police discover this mysterious soldier lurking behind the front line. Their pursuit of Chonkin and his determined resistance lead to wild skirmishes and slapstick encounters.
"This extremely funny story is subversive because it illustrates what Marx never understood: that even under socialism human nature remains an unregenerate constant." —Time
"[It] cries out to be read and enjoyed by millions of ordinary readers. It has the potential to become one of the most popular Russian classics, for its humor is international, and its human meaning as profound and touching as what we have come to expect from Solzhenitsyn." —Times Literary Supplement