Soviet Union. Late 1930s. A boy finds a magic lamp with a genie trapped inside. Hilarity ensues.
"Old Man Hottabych", a novel by Lazar Lagin, has forever entered Russian lore. The titular genie, obviously confused with Soviet society, still transcends to this day. So what that the genie's founder, a good Soviet youth, rejects all the riches that were thrown at him? (The same riches that Russian children today would gladly grab...) It was a novel for its time.
Or was it?
After its initial release, the novel was heavily edited, with whole chapters added and removed. But it's not the genie's ever-growing embrace of the Soviet system that bothers us most; it's the removal of his Jewish roots.
Researchers believe that Lagin, birth name Lazar Ginzburg, Jew, based the genie on his grandfather. But there is more. Hottabych claims to have been in service of Suleyman ibn Daud — that's not-even-thinly-disguised Solomon, son of David. More damningly, in one scene, Hottabych chants an incantation that at closer look is actually a Jewish prayer. Newer revisions of the novel removed those words.
And we can understand the removals. Can you imagine millions of Russians coming to the realization that yet another of their favorite childhood characters is a Jew? Talk about hilarity...