The Foundation Pit
by Andrey Platonov, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, and Olga Meerson
With notes and an afterword by Robert Chandler and Olga Meerson
In Andrey Platonov’s The Foundation Pit, a team of workers has been given the job of digging the foundation of an immense edifice, a palatial home for the perfect future that, they are convinced, is at hand. But the harder the team works, the deeper they dig, the more things go wrong, and it becomes clear that what is being dug is not a foundation but an immense grave.
The Foundation Pit is Platonov’s most overtly political book, written in direct response to the staggering brutalities of Stalin’s collectivization of Russian agriculture. It is also a literary masterpiece. Seeking to evoke unspeakable realities, Platonov deforms and transforms language in pages that echo both with the alienating doublespeak of power and the stark simplicity of prayer.
This English translation is the first and only one to be based on the definitive edition published by Pushkin House in Moscow. It includes extensive notes and, in an appendix, several striking passages deleted by Platonov. Robert Chandler and Olga Meerson’s afterword discusses the historical context and style of Platonov’s most haunted and troubling work.
Acclaimed by Joseph Brodsky as one of the great Russian writers of the twentieth century, Andrey Platonov comes with a formidable reputation, matched only by his relative obscurity.
— The Observer (London)
Andrey Platonov is the most exciting Russian writer to be rediscovered since the end of the Soviet Union. Born in 1899, one of a railway worker's 10 children, he was an engineer, a party member and a model proletarian writer before doubts about Communism, and his literary imagination, landed him in trouble with Stalin. His work stopped being published in the early 1930s and only resurfaced 40 years after his death in 1951...The Foundation Pit will stand out as his masterpiece.
— The Independent (London)
Hallucinatory and terrifying and filled with incredible language, this is Platonov's finest.
He has been described as the greatest Russian writer of the 20th century, but some of his most controversial works, written between 1927 and 1932, were not published in the Soviet Union until the 1980s. Platonov's The Foundation Pit is a satirical response to Stalin's programme of crash industrialisation and collectivisation.
— The Guardian
Nearly all his work is rooted in a particular place and time, and it is hard to think of another writer who so expertly animated the sadness and unease of the Soviet period. His fiction, at its best, has the timeless quality of parable or folklore.
— New Statesman
Completed in 1930 but unpublished during his lifetime, Platonov's masterpiece, a scathing satire of the Soviet attempt to build a workers' utopia, gauges the vast human tragedy of Stalinism, portraying a society organized and regimented around a monstrous lie, and thus bereft of meaning, hope, integrity, humanity...His dark parable is a great dirge for Mother Russia as well as a savage analysis of the split consciousness fostered by an oppressive system. Platonov's books are still being unearthed in Russia decades after his death.
— Publishers Weekly
In Russia it is Platonov who is increasingly described as the best writer of the post-revolutionary epoch.
— Times Literary Supplement (London)