In the cultural-historical complex "Cyrillic Yard" of the Bulgarian city of Pliska, a sculpture of I. Ilf and his co-author E. Petrov, by Alexander Mironov, is installed.
Ilf graduated from a technical school of apprentices in 1913.
From 1914, Ilf held jobs in a draftsman’s office, an aviation plant, and a hand-grenade factory before beginning his literary career as a writer and editor for the local humorous journal "Sindektikon."
Ilf moved to Moscow in 1923, where he contributed humorous pieces to newspapers and satirical magazines. He particularly went to work at the railway journal "Gudok," where he shared a place to sleep with Yuri Olesha. He started out as a librarian and soon he became a literary collaborator. He dealt with the letters of the so-called rabkors, the workers-correspondents, not only correcting them but turning them into short epigrammatic pieces. In those years "Gudok" was a stepping stone for budding talents, the most famous (besides Ilf and Petrov) being Mikhail Bulgakov and Yuri Olesha.
Ilf met his future collaborator, Evgeny Petrov, real name Evgeny Katayev, in 1925 in the offices of "Gudok." According to Petrov, his collaboration with Ilf began at his casual suggestion that the pair write an adventure novel concerning the search for a set of chairs in which diamonds are hidden. Within six months the two had completed "The Twelve Chairs," which became an immediate success and sealed their collaboration for the next ten years. The partnership proved one of the most fruitful in Soviet letters, and critics praised the harmony and consistency of style that the pair achieved in their writings.
In 1928, Ilya Ilf was dismissed from the newspaper because of the reduction of the staff of the satirical department, followed by Evgeny Petrov. They continued writing together and published their novellas and the short story cycles, becoming soon employees of the new weekly magazine “Chudak.” During 1929, they began writing "Zolotoy Telyonok" ("The Little Golden Calf"), which initially was to be called "Velikiy Kombinator."
In the 1930s, Illya Ilf became fond of photography. However, his works were found only many years after his death by his daughter, Alexandra.
In 1930, Ilf and Petrov travelled together with Soviet and foreign journalists to the opening of the Turksib railway, the railway connecting Siberia with Central Asia which was to play a central role in the last part of "The Little Golden Calf." They completed the novel in the autumn of 1930 and by November 1930 they had already signed a contract for an English translation.
Starting in 1932, Ilf and Petrov began writing pieces for major publications such as "Pravda," "Literaturnaya Gazeta," and "Krokodil."
In August 1933, Ilf and Petrov travelled with a group of writers to the construction sites of the White Sea Canal, which was being built by prisoners, both 'political' prisoners ('kulaks', 'saboteurs') and 'real' criminals. The conditions were extremely harsh. Many important writers of the day were present: Gorki, Alexey Tolstoy, Zoschchenko, Valentin Katayev. The result of the trip was a book. Ilf and Petrov were the only ones to refuse to write a contribution.
In 1933-1934, the newspaper "Pravda" presented them with the opportunity to take a trip abroad. They travelled by boat via Istanbul and Athens to Naples. From there they travelled to Rome, Venice, Vienna, Paris and back via Warsaw. They had planned to write a book about the journey, but the fruits, in terms of publications, remained restricted to two sketches.
In the winter of 1935-1936 Ilf and Petrov travelled to America: via Le Havre, then by boat (the famous Normandie) to New York, and then by car to San Francisco, Los Angeles and back to New York. Their trip would lead to their third and last major work: "Odnoyetazhnaya Amerika" ("One-Storied America"), a witty account of their automobile trip across that country. In large part an exposé of the materialistic and uncultured character of American life, the work nevertheless indicates that many aspects of capitalist society appealed to the authors. A kind of sequel to this work was the long story "Tonya" (1937), which portrays with appropriate satirical touches the life of Soviet people compelled to live in a capitalist society.
Shortly after returning from the USA, Ilya Ilf died of tuberculosis. Petrov continued his literary work, writing for the newspaper "Literaturnaya Gazeta" ("Literary Newspaper") and the magazine "Ogonyok" ("Little Light"). He died in 1942, when the airplane by which he was traveling from Sevastopol to Moscow crashed.
Ilf and Petrov also wrote for film and the theatre. The best known of their works in this respect is "Pod Kupolom Cyrka", written in cooperation with Valentin Katayev for the music hall, where it enjoyed great success in 1934-1935. Later they adapted it, converting it into a film scenario. The film "Cyrk" became one of the most popular Soviet films of the Thirties, but during production, the scenario was changed to such an extent that the three famous writers did not want their names to appear in the credits - they thought the changes were too extensive, and not to the good.
Ilf was a member of the Odessa Union of Poets and the Writers' Union of the USSR.
Physical Characteristics: Ilf had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in the 1920s. He thought it was in remission, but he was diagnosed with it again during his trip to America, and he died not long after returning.
In 1924, Ilf married Maria Tarasenko from Odessa. The couple gave birth to one daughter, Alexandra.