Russians can't believe it when you tell them Andrei Platonov gets translated into English. He was a true innovator with language, deliberately writing awkward, clunky, childlike sentences. His stories are peopled with gentle, poetic souls, who often have no idea why they do what they do, repeating utopian socialist rhetoric in confused, perfunctory fashion amidst lives of dread poverty, which got up the noses of Stalin and his minions and led to him being censored. But Platonov, a working-class writer, started off as a hopeful communist. It was after his work as an engineer in the far-flung places of the Soviet Union, where he saw the crushing grind of daily life amongst "Stalin's children" that he first became disappointed. Such a terrain inspires "Soul," about a young engineer who after graduating goes back in search of the Dzhan, his people, marsh-dwelling peasants dying in the wastes around the Aral Sea, having been instructed by the Party to bring communism to them. It is a desolate, beguiling, comical and absurd tale and Platonov is arguably the strangest writer to have ever lived on this planet. He creates eternities, and often seems (annoyingly to some) more concerned with abstractions than with character and plot. You feel like you are taking part in an unending moment when you read his work rather than a conventionally-dramatic narrative structure. It's alien and otherworldly and plaintive, with a great tenderness for the natural world. And the characters are frequently ridiculous, and, well... there's no other word for it - cute! Robert Chandler and his colleagues are the best translators.