Andrei Platonov

andrei_platonovI’m becoming very interested in Andrei Platonov, a Stalin period Soviet writer who remained relatively unknown until recently. Most consider his masterpiece to be The Foundation Pit, quoted some time ago on this blog. I like that book, but am more deeply affected by another, Soul, quoted in the previous post. I think it has a lot to do with abstraction of the Pollock-Fontana-Wols variety, which tries to access a base level of existence. The day I read the middle part of Soul I was devastated, but by the time I finished a couple of days later was wondering if the work was at least partly a satire. The conclusion of the book is that all one needs is a good meal, and everything will turn out right. In this case, to turn out right is to leave the level of bare existence and simply carry on obliviously like everyone does—but then the truth found in moments of extremity disappears like dust. His ironies are profound. For example, take the concluding sentence of the quote in the previous post. That “and time goes by” is a real kick in the solar plexus. What are they waiting for after all, a chance to go shopping? We’ve pacified the earth to the degree that everything in it appears as a good, in both meanings of the word, as a piece of our property and as something good in itself. All of life is good, so poverty and misery are human creations. The destitute of Platonov’s novel are all suffering from the civilization inside them, if not for that they would find their environment abundant. Another quote: “Slave labour, exhaustion and exploitation never just use up a man’s physical strength, never just his hands and arms. No, what they appropriate is the entire mind and heart; first the soul gets eaten away, then the body fades, and then a man hides away in death, slipping into the earth as into some fortress and refuge, not realizing that he has been living with empty veins, that he has been distracted, taught to neglect his daily interests, and that his head has grown used only to believing beliefs, to dreaming dreams and imagining what is not real.” Notice how he slips easily from a situation where the victim is obvious to a common and general state, and from real exploitation to self delusion. We are our only enemy, and according to Platonov, death is just a necessary fiction. Strange to contemplate the possibility that Wols was also a comic artist, but there is evidence for that.

Otto Wols, Oui. Oui, Oui 1946-47

Otto Wols, Oui. Oui, Oui 1946-47

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