Friday, March 08, 2013

Andrei Platonov on YouTube

Another YouTube videos post, where the videos have under 1,000 views, this time related to Andrei Platonov. I guess there is a tie-in between the previous post and this one: Vasily Grossman gave the main speech at the funeral of Platonov.

The first video is Alexander Petrov's animation of the Platonov story "The Cow" (which can be found in Soul: And Other Stories from NYRB). There are some changes from the short story but I still enjoyed it--the message of love, compassion, and inconsolable grief comes through just as clear as in the story. Platonov wrote the short story close to the time his son was arrested and sent to a labor camp.

On the surface, the second animated video "Chevengur" by Mikhail Maximov has little to do with the book. Many of the ideas of it, though, are captured in a very dark 5 minutes. Haunting.

The page for "The Nikita" quotes Platonov but I'm not sure of the source material. It seems like a composite of a couple of his stories from the collection in Soul. Whatever the source (and I'm trying to find out more on this), I really enjoyed this short film. I'll stop there on descriptions...please watch and enjoy it, too.

The final videos are from The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn, a documentary filmed by Alexander Sokurov with the Russian writer. In the documentary Sokurov presents Solzhenitsyn with topics and questions, following up (and sometimes trying to guide him) on topics that are listed in the "About" section below the videos. Part of the documentary focuses on Solzhenitsyn's thoughts on Platonov, stressing the language used (particularly his syntax).

I've included an attempt at a transcription based on the subtitles--any errors in copying what was presented are mine. There seems to be a dig at a particular writer by Sokurov by saying Platonov wasn't a "count-writer." Solzhenitsyn is correct in saying Platonov wasn't a "malicious anti-Soviet critic" since he was a believer in the revolution. He was a strident critic on how the revolution had developed, though. There is a beautiful passage in Chevengur I don't believe I quoted when reviewing the novel where a peasant rebukes someone adhering to the party line that having the land is great but the government shouldn't have taken all their wheat. After cursing the Bolshevik, hoping he chokes on the land, the peasant says "All you've left us is the can't fool us." (I'm quoting from memory since I had to return the book).

The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn, part 15 of 19 (the subject of Platonov starts at the 8:10 mark):

The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn, part 16 of 19 (the subject of Platonov goes through 6:40):

Starting at the 8:10 mark in video 15 (of 19), Solzhenitsyn (AS below) and filmmaker Alexander Sokurov begin to talk about Andrei Platonov. From the subtitles:

Sokurov: “When did you read Andrei Platonov?

AS: “Late. When did I read him? In the end of the 1960s. I still want to write about him, but can’t find the moment.”

Sokurov: “How could it come into being? Can you help me to understand? What’s this language? Where from? I have the impression his language was formed under the influence of the provincial Soviet press of the time.”
AS: “Not the press. Not the Soviet.

Sokurov: “Of some people who…”

AS: “No.”

Sokurov: “who wrote much, as if his language was formed in a quite different way.”

AS: “No, he did not absorb an influence of a high culture. Thanks to God. Were he not an assistant to a locomotive-driver, were he to began [begin] from the Academy, we would have no Platonov. He is such a …”

Sokurov: “His language is a living one.”

AS: “He is just a living image of our simple people, who are caught by the revolution and try, by their own understanding, to understand and to express it. Hence, his expression is like groping. [End video 15] [Video 16] The world is so complex intersecting the traditional world, where he had grown, his parents, his family and the rest, and this incredibly new Soviet world he wants to believe in, he wants to believe, he’s not a ‘malicious anti-Soviet critic’ as they described him, he wants to understand by himself. This is why he gropes, almost like a blind man. He is touching his words, looking for their combinations.”

Sokurov: “Is it stylistics or philosophy?”

AS: “Both. The process of cognition. His style, his syntax is an imprint of the cognition.”

Sokurov: “Of the language, of life?”

AS: “Of both. Language is only an accessory tool. He is studying life. But his expression is always from the inside. And his amazing combinations of words show what we were speaking about, only we were speaking of words, that all of them already exist. But syntax too! The syntax, the constructions, and the government, the government of words, it’s all there. It’s all there, but before him… And he only started it. Still, he was not the first. Some combinations can be found…”

Sokurov: “How do you imagine him? What kind of man? How did he walk, speak? What was he like?”
AS: “Like a genial self-taught man. A genial autodidact invents a steam engine. Like Polzunov. Who else did we have?”

Sokurov: “He’s not a count-writer?”

AS: “No, no. Not a who?”

Sokurov: “A count-writer.”

AS: “No, no, no, no. An absolutely genial autodidact. Interesting. Yes. I studied his syntax. To write about him, and I want to write about him. I have to work a lot. No time… Perhaps one day I’ll have time.”

Sokurov: “How terribly sad it is, that his life was so hard, so unbearable. All was so cruel.”

AS: “That disaster with his son. He was forced to write some pro-Soviet things. I feel pity for those who wrote anything pro-Soviet. He wrote just a bit of it.”

Sokurov: “Yes, just a bit.”

AS: “A bit.”

Sokurov: “But still it is amazing, and resembles nothing.”

AS: “No one.”

Sokurov: “Suddenly a man appears, like a plant, like a unique plant in a forest. He could have not existed.”
AS: “He could. A unique one.”

Sokurov: “Now look: such a writer appeared, but what changed in the Russian literature? Or such people doesn’t [don’t] matter so much? They make a tremendous impression on us, the readers. They are a part of our life, as literature in general. Nothing is so important as literature for our life. But among the fellow writers, among the literary workers, what does mean [is the meaning of] the arrival to the world of such a…”

AS: “You mean, internationally?”

Sokurov: “Even if only for the Russian practice.”

AS: “Remember that in Russia, the Bolshevik censorship made many work underground. Poems and novels were born without anyone knowing them. They returned to the surface with such a delay, unpardonable. In their time, they could have tremendous social effect. They were weakened by being released only 50 years later.”

Sokurov: “For example, Astafiev, Belov, Rasputin?”

AS: “They came in time…”

Sokurov: “I know they did.”

AS: “Yes, yes.”

Sokurov: “Were they influenced by that extraordinary language…”

AS: “Of Platonov?”

Sokurov: “Does a writer feel such an influence?”

AS: “They all have succulent language. A fine vocabulary. All have good, bright vocabulary. By its origin a natural vocabulary. But the syntax…Platonov, on the contrary, doesn’t have any special vocabulary. He’s all syntax. But in the syntax of all the three, I can’t see any [of] Platonov’s influence. I don’t know.”

Sokurov: “I’m not even so interested in the influence of his literature, as in the influence of his personality upon the milieu of writers.”

AS: “Platonov is too uncommon …”

Sokurov: “No way to capture it?

AS: “No. No, there were such cases before, even there were such combinations, one could start … Not long ago I gave an example of a pre-Platonov writing. An early Platonov. There was a bit of it in the works of Apollon Grigoriev, of Hetzen, some few and scattered elements. I mean only syntax. Expressions. Government of words. I had one more example, I forgot it. Before Platonov, but very alike. But of course, Platonov is the king.” [change of subject at 6:40]

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