The Foundation Pit

Front Cover
New York Review of Books, 2009 - Fiction - 224 pages
13 Reviews
Translated from the Russian by Robert & Elizabeth Chandler and Olga Meerson
With notes and an afterword by Robert Chandler and Olga Meerson

In Andrey Platonovís 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 Platonovís most overtly political book, written in direct response to the staggering brutalities of Stalinís 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 Meersonís afterword discusses the historical context and style of Platonovís most haunted and troubling work.

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Review: The Foundation Pit

User Review  - Andrew - Goodreads

As far as satires of the Soviet state, Platonov doesn't have much on Bulgakov, Pelevin, or Zamyatin, all of whom were much more interesting in their elaborations of the failures of a teleologically ... Read full review

Review: The Foundation Pit

User Review  - Bob Wake - Goodreads

The Foundation Pit pulls off the seemingly impossible: socialist realism and surrealism are combined to portray Stalin's disastrous collectivization policies of the early 1930s as an eerie dystopian ... Read full review


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About the author (2009)

Andrey Platonov (1899ó1951) was born in a village near the Russian town of Voronezh. He began to publish poems and stories in the 1920s and worked as a land reclamation expert in central Russia, where he was a witness to the ravages of the Great Famine. In the 1930s Platonov fell into disfavor with the Soviet government and his writing disappeared from sight. NYRB Classics published a new translation of Soul and Other Stories in 2007.

Robert Chandler has translated selections of Sappho and Apollinaire and is the editor of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida. His translations from Russian include Pushkin's Dubrovsky and The Captainís Daughter, Leskov's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Vasily Grossmanís Life and Fate and Hamid Ismailovís The Railway. His co-translations of Andrey Platonov have won prizes in the UK and the US. His Alexander Pushkin is published by Hesperus in their series of ĎBrief Livesí. He teaches part time at Queen Mary, University of London.

Elizabeth Chandler is a co-translator of several volumes of Platonov and of Pushkinís The Captainís Daughter.

Olga Meerson teaches at Georgetown University and is the author of Dostoevskyís Taboos (in English) and Platonov's Poetic of Re-Familiarization (in Russian). She is a co-translator of Platonovís Soul and Other Stories, which, in 2004, was awarded the AATSEEL prize for "best translation from a Slavonic language".

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