Studia Litterarum (Mar 2017)


  • Robert Chandler

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2, no. 1
pp. 244 – 267


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The aspiration to create a better, fairer world is a central theme in Platonov’s work. In 1927 Maksim Gorky had praised Platonov’s first collection of stories. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Platonov had asked Gorky for help in getting work published. In early 1934, however, Gorky was able to arrange for Platonov to be included in a “brigade” of writers to be sent to Central Asia; the intention was to publish a collective work in celebration of ten years of Soviet Turkmenistan. Platonov first visited Central Asia in 1934 as a member of a “writers’ brigade.” He returned for a longer period in 1935. The main fruit of his visits was the short novel DZHAN, translated into English as SOUL. In terms of plot, the work appears typically Soviet, but Platonov’s concerns are deeper, encompassing profound questions of religion, philosophy, ecology, the importance of tradition and the nature of love. In the story “Among Animals and Plants” (1936) Platonov demonstrates a similar tender concern both for the natural world and for all the oppressed and repressed whose stories will never be told — for those who have been sacrificed in the name of some future utopia. And the story “The Return” (1946) marks Platonov’s renunciation of utopian longing and his most definitive acceptance of the everyday world, with all its imperfections. The article ends with a discussion of some of the difficulties faced by a translator of Platonov — and some of the insights that can arise from the struggle with such difficulties.