The Foundation Pit (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 4 Nov 2010
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"startlingly prophetic novel ... As a foretaste of the horrors of the gulag, that's pretty hard to beat"--Mail on Sunday
"While earlier efforts to render The Foundation Pit in English made perhaps too much sense of Platonov's classic, the new translation by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Meerson, which was first published by the visionaries at New York Review Books, preserves all the ambiguities and woodenness of Platonov's Russian prose"--Artforum
"Andrey Platonov is one of Russia's greatest modernist scribes. Like his fellow science-fiction writer Yevgeny Zamyatin - author of the astonishing futurist novel We, published in the 20s - he was also among that tortured country's most prescient literary artists...The Foundation Pit, written in 1930 and now published for the first time in English, is his most striking attempt to convey the extreme estrangement suffered by ordinary people as collectivisation in agriculture proceeded across the USSR...one of the most prophetic nihilistic tales of this ruined century."--The West Australian
"Completed in 1930 but unpublished during his lifetime, Platonov's masterpiece, a scathing satire of the Soviet attempt to build a workers' utopia, gauges the vast human tragedy of Stalinism, portraying a society organized and regimented around a monstrous lie, and thus bereft of meaning, hope, integrity, humanity...His dark parable is a great dirge for Mother Russia as well as a savage analysis of the split consciousness fostered by an oppressive system. Platonov's books are still being unearthed in Russia decades after his death."--Publishers Weekly
"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."--The Irish Times
"These books are indescribable. The power of devastation they inflict upon their subject matter exceeds by far any demands of social criticism and should be measured in units that have very little to do with literature as such."--Joseph Brodsky
“A 20th-century Russian masterpiece... The Foundation Pit is a savage satire on collectivisation, a nightmarish vision of humanity trapped by the infernal machinery of totalitarianism... Platonov's grimly comic vision of a brave new world is as universal in its implications as any other account of a hellish utopia our century has produced... the dance of madness in The Foundation Pit is articulated as the suppression of anything human - sorrow and joy, hope and despair."--The Sydney Morning Herald
"Like Candide, Platonov's novel is a plotless allegory of human striving...The forced industrialisation of Russia, which began in 1928 and is the historical background of The Foundation Pit, left an estimated 15.2m dead. Even if one considers Platonov's masterpiece merely as a conte philosophique, one may note that his model universe was more amply observed than Voltaire's. He was also a writer perhaps the only writer to have advanced Russian prose beyond what had been achieved by Chekhov..."--The Times
"Brilliant...Obviously a masterpiece."--Paul Theroux
“Among the greatest Russian prose writers of this century.”--New York Times
“In Russia it is Platonov who is increasingly described as the best writer of the post-revolutionary epoch.”--Times Literary Supplement
New translation of this powerful political satire set in Stalinist RussiaSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Whilst not being of the `daily bread' (like Tolstoy or Dostoyevski) ilk of literature, Platonov's prose is like unleavened bread: it is dense, poetic, didactic and precise. More philosophical than political, the words seem to be sourced from a truly sacred place. The syntax is startlingly original and almost makes you read in a completely different frame of mind, savouring all of the idiosyncracies and subtle nuances that the author evokes. Indeed, some of the images contained in this work are brilliant, beautiful, resounding and really compelling. The poetic touches, such as when he describes the snow which does not melt, falling on a mare's head is a touch of the sublime! Even the minute details of the landscape - the frost, the burdock, the congealing coldness of rivers - are laden with such positive descriptive elements as to leap into your mind as live images.
This is certainly the work of a philosopher, if not a mystic. Truth is the reason and the goal for such writing and Platonov makes not bones about hiding such aims and intentions.Read more ›
The plot of The Foundation Pit is, quite frankly, as threadbare as the plot of one of these cartoons, although it is built around a satisfyingly satirical idea. A group of workers are engaged in digging the foundation pit of the title, upon which is to be erected a house that will be inhabited by the whole of the proletariat. Chortle. The primary concern of the novel is the tension between one's desires as an individual and one's responsibility to the whole state. Collectivisation, a kind of pooling of agricultural resources, which involved an order for farmers to give up the best of their possessions, features heavily.
It is worth bearing in mind that Platonov was writing this stuff whilst it was actually happening, not after the event, and he ought to be admired for his bravery. But bravery does not make a masterpiece, otherwise Ivan Denisovich would be one, so what then earns The Foundation Pit those 5 stars? The prose. His style, in this novel in particular, is exhilarating, is so odd and uniquely his own that many criticise the translation, believing an inept translator to be the only reasonable explanation for their own struggles with the text.Read more ›