Monday, February 18, 2013

Andrei Platonov and Chevengur links

I'm going to try and post on Andrei Platonov's Chevengur later this week but wanted to pass on some links I enjoyed related to the author and/or the work. This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list of what's available on one or the other.

Update: a large pdf file of the novel (the Olcott translation) is available here.

The New Yorker ran a short story of Platonov's a few years ago: Among Animals and Plants, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler and Olga Meerson. There is also an interview with Robert Chandler.
Perhaps only a third of his best work was published during his lifetime, but that does not mean that the other two-thirds was unknown. Even today, Russia is a world where word of mouth is unusually important. His long novel “Chevengur” was accepted by a major publishing house and even reached the stage of being typeset. Boris Pasternak knew Platonov from at least the beginning of 1930, and there are a remarkable number of parallels between the lives of Yuri Zhivago and the hero of “Chevengur.” Also, Platonov was a close friend of both Vasily Grossman and Mikhail Sholokhov, the two greatest prose writers among his contemporaries. And, in 1932, Mikhail Bulgakov tried very hard, if unsuccessfully, to get one of Platonov’s plays performed in Moscow.

Platonov's short story "No-Arms," translated by Robert Chandler, can be found here.

The essay Platonov’s Chevengur: the Ambivalent Space by Natalia Poltavtseva is available at Baltic Worlds. Be sure to click on the short biographical note at the end of the article:

It is then that the next feature emerges, which is most important for understanding and realizing the meaning of Platonov’s works. This feature concerns the correlation between ideology and utopia. I once dealt with this problem when I used a work by Karl Mannheim on ideology and utopia in order to identify the correlation between these two basic elements: the utopian and the ideological in Platonov’s Chevengur. What happens when Platonov’s characters — whom he endues with murky consciousness and lack of feeling — are forced to face the enormous problem of the consequences and meaning of the Russian Revolution, the predominant theme of his creative work, and the problem considered first and foremost by Platonov himself, and all those who study him? It is that same anthropological quality that enables man to look for the necessary harmony and balance between fiction and what we would conditionally call reality, and what Frank Ankersmit called the “correlation between historical experience and memory”.

Cardinal Points Literary Journal has Two extracts from Chevengur online. Cardinal Points also has an article by Robert Chandler titled Varlam Shalamov and Andrey 'Fyodorovich' Platonov, looking at the possibility that Shalamov's story "The Snake Charmer" is an "argument" with Platonov.

A short article at Russia Beyond the Headlines, "Sarcasm and fairy tales", provides a quick overview of Platonov's work.

I only read the introduction of Seungdo Ra's dissertation Waterworks: Andrei Platonov’s Fluid Anti-Utopia. In Chevengur water appears often and Platonov is clearly interested in the importance of water beyond just his history as a hydrologist. Some of the symbolism of the novel revolves around the need to 'import' water to the steppes in order to fully realize their potential of increasing food production, trying to improve on nature without success. Water, though, isn't just a positive thing but is responsible for several deaths. The novel contains much more symbolism and importance tied to water.

Languagehat has a few posts on Chevengur:

If you know of additional links you found helpful in reading Platonov or Chevengur let me know and I'll be happy to add them to the list.


Miguel said...

I'm quite anxious to your reading of Platonov, he sounds like a fascinating writer.

Dwight said...

Thanks Miguel. It's an extremely interesting read so far.

Richard said...

Thanks for all the links, Dwight--they may have to sustain me (esp. the short story & the Chandler interview) until I can find time for "The Foundation Pit."

Dwight said...

I will be reading The Foundation Pit soon. Even with much possibly lost in the translation it's easy to tell Platonov is a remarkable writer.

Unknown said...

One thing that struck me reading Chevengur back in 1987 was the similarity between the meaning of "Communism" in it and a joke about Papua New Guineans told after Self-Government day in 1973, where due to lack of information, the PNGans are pictured as turning up at their airstrips and waiting for Self Government to come - by aircraft.

Platonov is perhaps one of the most existentialist writers of the 20c.; communication (or the complete lack thereof) is his theme. Camus is tame compared with Platonov.