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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Old Genie Hottabych (The)
by Lazar Lagin
Age Range: 9-11
This classic Russian fairy tale is often called the Russian One Thousand and One nights. One day twelve-year-old Volka, a young Soviet schoolboy, finds a lamp in an ancient vessel at the bottom of the river. This is no ordinary lamp, however, like the Arabian tale, it too has a genie residing inside. The genie is called Hottabych and as a reward for liberating him after thousands and thousands of years of captivity he promises to serve Volka but the genie struggles to adapt to modern life and all the technological advancements such as television, telephone and cinema.
Instead of proving helpful to Volka, Hottabych creates all sorts of unfortunate, unpredictable and embarrassing situations! When the old genie tries to help Volka at school with his geography lesson and test, his prompting has the opposite effect as the information he gives the boy is out-of-date.
Russian author Lazar Yosifovych Lagin was the pen name for Lazar Ginzburg (1903-1979), a Soviet author of children’s and science fiction books. He is best known for his popular books Starik Hottabych written in 1938. The first English translation by Fainna Solasko was published in 1960. It is a book full of humour and populated with absurd situations that readers will find irresistible, highly amusing and entertaining. A Soviet fantasy film Old Khattabych directed by Gennadi Kazansky with the script written by the author was made in 1956. It was released with English sub-titles under the name Flying Carpet by Arkhino Pictures Inc. in 1960. A full free English e-book version can be downloaded by searching ‘full English text of the Old Genie Hottabych’.