Now out of print, and in large part superseded, this remains, at least for the time being, the only source of any part of Platonov’s novel ‘Chevengur’ in English translation, and is in any case a handy introduction to Platonov and his written works.
The ‘Chevengur’ extracts are Chapters 1, 20 and 22. They extend, in total, to 86 pages, about 23,500 words. As the compiler and co-translator Robert Chandler explains in his valuable introduction, Chevengur is a fictional town in the Soviet Union in which the local apparatchiks are eager to establish communism without delay – but without really understanding what communism and socialism are. Each has his own idea, and all amount to an unattainable ideal; the world becoming a better place, even to the extent of the earth becoming brighter and the sky bluer. Murdering the bourgeoisie, followed by the sub-bourgeoisie, and physically moving all the houses in town on a regular basis as steps on the road to communism disappoint in their results.
A set of poems by Angela Livingstone included at the back of the volume, mainly based on passages from ‘Chevengur’, but also from ‘The Foundation Pit’, highlights the natural poetry in Platonov’s prose.
Platonov is commonly thought of as the finest Russian prose-writer of this century. This volume, published on the centenary of his birth, presents many aspects of his extraordinary work: the play, "Fourteen Little Red Huts", a viciously satirical blend of Brecht and Beckett written in the early thirties; three chapters of 'Chevengur', Platonov's great 'lyrico-satirical' novel about a misguided attempt to set up Communism in a remote town in the steppe; 'Among Animals and Plants', a moving story about a railway worker in the North of Russia who imagines that utopia has been realized in the Soviet Union - everywhere except in his own remote hamlet; previously unpublished excerpts from the short novel 'The Foundation Pit'; and two fine adaptations of Russian folk-tales written in 1946, when Platonov was no longer able to publish original work.
Really pleased I came across this and would recommend it to all who have experienced this author. Do recommend to anyone who has not read Platonove before. Robert Chandler has done a really good job in presenting these works.