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- Publication date:
- November 13, 2012
- NYRB Classics
An NYRB Classics Original
Moscow Chestnova is a bold and glamorous girl, a beautiful parachutist who grew up with the Revolution. As an orphan, she knew tough times—but things are changing now. Comrade Stalin has proclaimed that “Life has become better! Life has become merrier!” and Moscow herself is poised to join the Soviet elite. But her ambitions are thwarted when a freak accident propels her flaming from the sky. A new, stranger life begins. Moscow drifts from man to man, through dance halls, all-night diners, and laboratories in which the secret of immortality is actively being investigated, exploring the endless avenues and vacant paces of the great city whose name she bears, looking for happiness, somewhere, still.
Unpublishable during Platonov’s lifetime, Happy Moscow first appeared in Russian only in 1991. This new edition contains not only a revised translation of Happy Moscow but several related works: a screenplay, a prescient essay about ecological catastrophe, and two short stories in which same characters reappear and the reader sees the mind of an extraordinary writer at work.
Andrey Platonov is the most exciting Russian writer to be rediscovered since the end of the Soviet Union. Happy Moscow shows Platonov as a master of language, weaving out of official names, political speeches, ideological exhortations and popular philosophical hopes a reality equal to the gut feel of Soviet life in the 1930s…. This is just what it felt like to be swept away by the Soviet ideal of a new humanity.
A full-blown masterpiece, worthy not only of consideration alongside its author’s better-known works, but of comparison with modernist fiction’s greatest achievements.
—Tony Wood, New Left Review
Happy Moscow is worth reading on countless scores. On the violence, often not physical, which a totalitarian system wreaks on the lives of those who exist within it, it is a vital counterpart to those works which deal with the more tangible horrors of the USSR, and a reminder of the unique, paradoxical power of literature to expose the mismatch between rhetoric and reality.
In the Thirties Stalin proclaimed Moscow a paradise. This savage satire shows the truth through the eyes of the ebullient Moscow Chestnova. In Platonov’s hands she becomes a parody of a superwoman who leaves a career in aeronautics for lovers and life. Around her is a fascinating cast of characters and, even in translation, Platonov’s prose is extraordinary. This first English edition brings one of Russia’s great writers to light.
—The Times (London)
Translated with what appears scrupulous imagination by Robert Chandler, Happy Moscow is stirringly readable, taking the air from totalitarian bombast and breathing new life into a neglected classic.
Happy Moscow is a full-blown masterpiece, worthy not only of consideration alongside its author’s better-known works, but of comparison with modernist fiction’s greatest achievements.
—Tony Wood, New Left Review
Reading Platonov, one gets a sense of the relentless, implacable absurdity built into the language and with each utterance that absurdity deepens.