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The Foundation Pit
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New translation of this powerful political satire set in Stalinist Russia

About the Author

Andrey Platonovich Platonov (1899-1951) was the son of a railway-worker. The eldest of eleven children, he began work at the age of thirteen, eventually becoming an engine-driver's assistant. He began publishing poems and articles in 1918, while studying engineering. Throughout much of the twenties Platonov worked as a land reclamation expert, draining swamps, digging wells and also building three small power stations. Between 1927 and 1932 he wrote his most politically controversial works, some of them first published in the Soviet Union only in the late 1980s. Other stories were published but subjected to vicious criticism. Stalin is reputed to have written "scum" in the margin of the story "For Future Use," and to have said to Fadeyev (later to be secretary of the Writers' Union), "Give him a good belting-for future use!" During the thirties Platonov made several public confessions of error but went on writing stories only marginally more acceptable to the authorities. His son was sent to the Gulag in 1938, aged fifteen; he was released three years later, only to die of the tuberculosis he had contracted there. From September 1942, after being recommended to the chief editor of Red Star by his friend Vasily Grossman, Platonov worked as a war correspondent and managed to publish several volumes of stories; after the war, however, he was again almost unable to publish. He died in 1951, of tuberculosis caught from his son. Happy Moscow, one of his finest short novels, was first published in 1991; a complete text of Soul was first published only in 1999; letters, notebook entries and unfinished stories continue to appear.

Reviews

"Andrey Platonov is the most exciting Russian writer to be rediscovered since the end of the Soviet Union. Born in 1899, one of a railway worker's 10 children, he was an engineer, a party member and a model proletarian writer before doubts about Communism, and his literary imagination, landed him in trouble with Stalin. His work stopped being published in the early 1930s and only resurfaced 40 years after his death in 1951...The Foundation Pit will stand out as his masterpiece" * Independent *
"Platonov managed to make the miseries of forced industrialization into a story as gripping as anything in Dickens, as moving and as artful" -- John Bayley * Times Literary Supplement *
"Andrey Platonov's absurdist parable The Foundation Pit is a masterly achievement...Much of the genius of The Foundation Pit lies in Platonov's objective style and the lively invariably abusive dialogue, contrasting with oddly moving, isolated asides of brittle beauty. It is a Russian Waiting for Godot crossed with Lewis Carroll and Maxim Gorky - there is even a bear working as an apprentice blacksmith, frantically making horseshoes as if there were no tomorrow. And in this book, there isn't. According to the late Joseph Brodsky, Platonov 'simply had a tendency to see his words to their logical - that is absurd, that is totally paralyzing end. In other words, like no other Russian writer before or after him Platonov was able to reveal a self destructive, eschatological element within the language itself.' The Foundation Pit is extraordinary: strange, almost abrupt, a hallucinatory, nightmarish parable of hysterical laughter and terrifying silences" * Irish Times *
"The Chandlers have brilliantly dealt with the challenges of rendering into readable English the extraordinary quality of Platonov's prose... Overall it is hard to see how we could get a better English version of Platonov's prose-nor one more likely to win him the readers he deserves" -- Orlando Figes * New York Review of Books *
"He has been described as the greatest Russian writer of the 20th century, but some of his most controversial works, written between 1927 and 1932, were not published in the Soviet Union until the 1980s. Platonov's The Foundation Pit is a satirical response to Stalin's programme of crash industrialisation and collectivisation" * Guardian *

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