Andrey Platonovich Platonov (1899–1951) was the son of a railway worker. The eldest of eleven children, he began work at the age of thirteen, eventually becoming an engine driver’s assistant. He began publishing poems and articles in 1918, while studying engineering. Throughout much of the Twenties Platonov worked as a land reclamation expert, draining swamps, digging wells, and also building three small power stations. Between 1927 and 1932 he wrote his most politically controversial works, some of them first published in the Soviet Union only in the late 1980s. Other stories were published but subjected to vicious criticism. Stalin is reputed to have written “scum” in the margin of the story For Future Use, and to have said to Alexander Fadeyev (later Secretary of the Writers’ Union), “Give him a good belting—for future use!” During the Thirties Platonov made several public confessions of error, but went on writing stories only marginally more acceptable to the authorities. His son was sent to the Gulag in 1938, aged fifteen; he was released three years later, only to die of the tuberculosis he had contracted there. From September 1942, after being recommended to the chief editor of Red Star by his friend Vasily Grossman, Platonov worked as a war correspondent and managed to publish several volumes of stories; after the war, however, he was again almost unable to publish. He died in 1951, of tuberculosis caught from his son. Happy Moscow, one of his finest short novels, was first published in 1991; a complete text of Soul was first published only in 1999; letters, notebook entries, and unfinished stories continue to appear.
Happy Moscow isn’t a place, but a person, a gifted orphan whose flair for parachuting catapults her into the Soviet elite. Until, that is, she comes in for a great fall and reveals that Stalin’s utopia isn’t quite as happy as it’s made out to be. “A reminder of the unique, paradoxical power of literature to expose the mismatch between rhetoric and reality.”—The Spectator
A new translation, the first to be based on the authoritative Russian text, of Platonov’s most political novel, in which the people struggle to build a workers’ paradise, but succeed in creating only the immense hole of its foundation. “A Russian Waiting for Godot crossed with Lewis Carroll and Maxim Gorky.”—Irish Times
Andrey Platonov is one of Russia’s finest post-revolution novelists, and this definitive and newly translated collection of his works positions him amongst the greatest of twentieth-century writers. On Robert Chandler’s translation, The Observer wrote, “Rarely does literature come this close to being music.”