Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Platonov's confession

The April issue of Harper's has a transcript of Andrei Platonov's appearance before the All-Russian Union of Soviet Writers in February 1932.

PLATONOV: It's clear that in depicting workers as dead figures moving about at random, I committed the harshest possible distortion of reality. I was reading Lenin, studying at a Soviet Party school, and I knew in practice what great forces organisation and discipline are, but these things slipped away because the petty-bourgeois element in me was spreading and smothering everything else. ...

The important thing, moreover, is the elimination in my future literary work of the harm that I did with my previous work, whether wittingly or unwittingly ... . Of course, it's hard to say whether I will succeed. These days, when I send a manuscript to an editorial office, it comes back without explanation. I would like it if, as a result of this meeting, this situation were to change ... I need to know that I am moving in the right direction, and this is utterly impossible on one's own.

ZELINSKY [Kornely Zelinsky, a literary critic]: There is only one way to preserve Platonov for the revolution, which is by means of severe criticism and frank questions ... . We have all asked ourselves the same question: Perhaps his style led him to a certain extent? But Andrei wished to reject this proposition, because it contains an element of self-justification. I think that the structure that Andrei has now created, and the way he is concentrating on his work is correct. The drawback of this -- Andrei said as much himself -- is that to a certain extent he thinks that he still has some hangnails in the form of not understanding all things.


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