Klimentov, Andrei Platonovich 1899-1951

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KLIMENTOV, Andrei Platonovich 1899-1951

(Andrei Platonov)

PERSONAL: Born August 20, 1899, in Yamskaya Sloboda, Russia; died of tuberculosis January 6, 1951, in Russia; children: Platon. Education: Attended railway vocational school.

CAREER: Poet, novelist, and short story writer. Wartime service: War correspondent on Russian and German fronts, 1942-45.


under name andrei platonov

Contes de ma patrie, La Jeune Parque (Paris, France), 1945.

V Storonu Zakata Solntsa, Sovetskii Pisatelp (Moscow, USSR), 1945.

Soldatskoe Serdtse, Gos. Izd-vo detskoi lit-ry (Moscow, USSR), 1946.

Volshebnoe Kolptso, [USSR], 1954, reprinted, Sovetskii Rossiia (Moscow, USSR), 1981.

Izbrannye Rasskazy, Sov. Pisatel (Moscow, USSR), 1958.

Odukhotvorennye liudi: Voennye Rasskazy, Voen. Izd-vo (Moscow, USSR), 1963.

Izbrannoe, Moskovskii Rabochii (Moscow, USSR), 1966, new edition, Sovremennik (Moscow, Russia), 1977.

Volshebnoe Sushchestvo, 1967.

Smerti Net! Rasskazy, Sovetskii Pisatelp (Moscow, USSR), 1970.

Razmyshleniia Chitatelia, Sovetskii Pisatelp (Moscow, USSR), 1970.

Techenie Vremeni, Moskovskii Rabochii (Moscow, USSR), 1971.

Potomki Solntsa: Povesti I Rasskazy, Sovetskii Pisatelp (Moscow, USSR), 1974.

Velichie Prostykh Serdets, Moskovskii Rabochii (Moscow, USSR), 1976.

Masterskaia, Izd-vo (Moscow, USSR), 1977.

Izbrannye Proizvedeniia, Khudozh Lit. (Moscow, USSR), 1978.

V Prekrasnom I iarostnom mire: Povesti, Rasskazy, Lenizdat (Leningrad, USSR), 1979.

Razmyshleniia Chitatelia, Sovrememmik (Moscow, USSR), 1980.

Volshebnoe Kolptso, Sovetskii Rossiia (Moscow, USSR), 1981.

Vprok: Povesti, Serebrianyi Vek (Npiu-Iork, USSR), 1982.

Starik i Starukha: Poteriannnaia Proza, Verlag O. Sagner in Kommission (Munich, Germany), 1984.

Sobranie Sochinenii v trekh Tomakh, Sovetskii Rossiia (Moscow, USSR), 1984–1985.

Rasskazy, Povesti, 1921-1934, Sovetskii Rossiia (Moscow, USSR), 1984.

Povestp, Rasskazy, 1934-1941, Sov. Rossiia (Moscow, USSR), 1985.

Povesti i Rasskazy, Lenizdat (Leningrad, USSR), 1985.

Odukhotvorennye Liudi: Razzkazy o Voine, Izd-vo Pravda (Moscow, USSR), 1986.

Gosudarstvennyi Zhitelp: Proza, Rannie Sochineniia, Pispma, Sovetskii Pisatelp (Moscow, USSR), 1988.

Iuvenilpnoe More; Kotlovan: Povesti i Rasskazy, Liesma (Riga, Latvia, USSR), 1988.

Vozvrashchenie, Molodaia Gvardiia (Moscow, USSR), 1989.

Soldat i Tsaritsa: Narodnye Skazki v Pereskaze A. P. Platonova, Rossiiskoe Knizhnoe Sobranie (Moscow, Russia), 1993.

Vzyskanie Pogibshikh: Povesti, Rasskazy, Pesa, Statpi, Shkola-Press (Moscow, Russia), 1995.

Zapisnye Knizhki: Materialy k Biogrfii, edited by M. A. Platonova and N. V. Kornienko, Nasledie (Moscow, Russia), 2000.

Works translated into several languages, including German, English, and French.

in english translation

Finist, Iasnyi Sokol, 1947, translated by Lydia Regehr as Finist, the Falcon Prince: A Russian Folktale, illustrated by Mary Chagnon, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1973.

The Fierce and Beautiful World, translated by Joseph Barnes, E. P. Dutton (New York, NY), 1970, reprinted, New York Review Books (New York, NY), 2000, translated as Fierce, Fine World, Raduga Publishers (Moscow, USSR), c.1983.

Fro and Other Stories, Progress Publishers (Moscow, USSR), 1972.

The Foundation Pit, translated by Thomas P. Whitney, Ardis (Ann Arbor, MI), 1973, translated by Mirra Ginsburg, Dutton (New York, NY), 1975, reprinted, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1994.

Chevengur, translated by Anthony Olcott, Ardis (Ann Arbor, MI), 1978.

Collected Works, translated by Thomas P. Whitney and others, Ardis (Ann Arbor, MI), 1978.

The Portable Platonov, translated by Robert Chandler, Glas New Russian Writing (London, England), 2000.

Happy Moscow, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler and others, Harvill (London, England), 2001.

The Return, translated by Robert Chandler and others, Harvill (London, England), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: At the time of his death in 1951, Andrei Platonovich Klimentov, more popularly known as Andrei Platonov, was nearly unknown outside his native Soviet Union, and even there he was a highly contentious author. Much of his work had not yet been published in his native tongue, largely due to the fact that he lost favor with the Soviet government after World War II and was not able to acquire support from the necessary authorities to publish. Beginning in the decade after his death, however, Platonov began getting the attention and acclaim his writing talent deserved. In fact, his work so inspired Russian scholars and intellectuals that English translations of five of his works were published during the 1970s. These translations include The Fierce and Beautiful World, Finist, the Falcon Prince: A Russian Folk Tale, The Foundation Pit, Collected Works, and Chevengur.

Although these Western translations have been compared favorably with those of Mikhail Bulgakov and Isaac Babel, Richard Freedman of Book World found novel innovations in Platonov's style. In his review of The Fierce and Beautiful World, Freedman wrote: "If [Platonov's] art lacks the hard, gemlike perfection of Babel, or the satiric verve of Bulgakov, it has a warmth and depth of humanity sometimes lacking in the brutal tales of his contemporaries who had also fought in the civil war following the revolution." More recently, Barry Scherr characterized Platonov in Canadian Slavonic Papers as "a major figure in twentieth-century Russian literature." Adam Newey, writing in the New Statesman, likewise concluded: "It is hard to think of another writer who so expertly animated the sadness and unease of the Soviet period. [Platonov's] fiction, at its best, has the timeless quality of parable or folklore."

Born in Yamskaya Sloboda, Russia, in 1899 as Andrei Platonovich Klimentov, Platonov was an unwitting victim of the social and political climate of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Russia. Despite the general upheaval caused by the paradigm shifts of industrial infiltration and the Revolution of 1917, Platonov managed to focus his creative attention on the strength and pulchritude of the human spirit in the face of uncertain circumstances. The author had his first poems published when he was in his early twenties, and that seemed to grant him the confidence to continue his writing journey with folk tales, short stories, and novels. He began processing his tumultuous surroundings into tales featuring ordinary people who were caught in the maelstrom of revolution and sudden technological innovation. Freedman compared Platonov to the likes of Gorky, declaring that the author "could transmute the humblest of materials into enduring fiction." It was this talent for taking common people in unglamorous situations and celebrating the simple virtues of their lives and experiences for which Platonov is most often praised.

In both style and content, Platonov embraced the drudgery of Russian life and transformed it into something to be admired and respected. Summarizing the collection of seven stories that comprises The Fierce and Beautiful World, N. D. Roodkowsky wrote in America that the works "are about selfless, muscular laborers in the vineyards of the commissars, and they have affirmative, if not downright happy, endings." It is important to note, however, that Platonov's writing was in no way trite or shabbily contrived for the sake of neat and happy endings. The author's work has endured because of its believability, honesty, and verisimilitude, according to critics. Freedman recognized this talent, explaining that if Platonov's stories end on a positive note, "it is not through any shallow doctrine of socialist optimism. If his characters win out in the end, it is only after they have been through a hell that neither communism nor any other man-made doctrine can ever fully expunge from life." Platonov consistently creates scenarios in which personal victory is the resounding theme. Considering the dire social and political environment that served as his proverbial canvas, he sought to uphold a sense of optimism in his writing.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, in his introduction to The Fierce and Beautiful World, made Platonov's place in Russian academic circles very clear. In his introduction to the 1970 anthology, Yevtushenko wrote, "I can state with certainly that there is not an educated reader in the U.S.S.R. who does not know Platonov, and not a single professional writer alive in this country who would not pay tribute to his mastery." R. S. Sokolov described Platonov's outlook in Newsweek as "zealously Stalinist, though benignly so." The critic went on in an attempt to determine why Platonov's work strikes such a positive chord with native Russians, and summarized his achievement by saying: "The romance of machines, technology and social betterment through collective action pulsates like a healthy engine through the gloomiest tales."

Even though some of Platonov's works have been translated for the English-speaking world, as well as into French and German, his stories have at times proven difficult for English speakers to truly appreciate. For example, the English translation of The Fierce and Beautiful World received more criticism than praise. Maurice Friedberg commented in the Saturday Review that "Much of Platonov's appeal lies in his deliberately coarse and highly idiomatic language and in a style that echoes, and frequently also parodies, communist sloganeering and Soviet newspaper editorials." Many of these specific references and cultural nuances are vital aspects of Platonov's strength as a writer. Unfortunately, some of the intangibles of language and style that contribute so effectively to his writing suffer in foreign translation. Friedberg asserted that Joseph Barnes, the translator, had "not been entirely successful in rendering these into English."

The critic also noted that the seven novellas included in The Fierce and Beautiful World are "quite uneven in quality, and a few are annoying and naively political." For these reasons, Friedberg concluded, "Platonov is not likely to gain abroad the recognition he deservedly enjoys among those who can read him in the original Russian."

In the cold-war era, when Soviet authorities were careful how they depicted their country to its citizens, as well as to the outside world, it is not surprising that the government decided to "rehabilitate" Platonov's work. Sokolov referred to the author's fiction as "exceedingly humane," which is undoubtedly the impression that the communist government was attempting to promote. However, Platonov was unique in that he did not submit in order to serve as a propaganda tool for the Soviet government. He believed what he wrote; he believed in the human spirit, and he took it upon himself to make sure optimism and hope were not lost in the annals of twentieth-century Russian literature. Platonov did not deny circumstances or write dishonestly about the difficult period in which he lived, but he did purposefully choose to depict the Russian proletariat in a more positive, humane light than was typical of much Russian literature of the period.

Friedberg concluded, "Many of the great Russian writers of the past—Turgenev comes most readily to mind—sought to eliminate the discord between Man and Nature. Platonov continues this tradition, but his Nature reflects the changes that took place in Man's natural environment, which in the 1920s and 1930s no longer consisted solely of birch trees, brooks, and birds." Platonov accepted change—particularly technological change—as a simple and indifferent aspect of social metamorphosis, rather than an insurmountable evil that destroys the human spirit. By working with the inevitable, Platonov reclaimed victory for his people, and thus established his place among the most celebrated Russian writers of his time.



Hodel, Robert, and Jan Peter Locher, editors, Sprache und Erzählhaltung bei Andrej Platonov, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1998.

Livingstone, Angela, editor, A Hundred Years of Andrei Platonov, Keele University (Keele, Canada), 2001.

Platonov, Andrei, The Fierce and Beautiful World, translated by Joseph Barnes, E. P. Dutton (New York, NY), 1970.


America, February 7, 1970, N. D. Roodkowsky, review of The Fierce and Beautiful World.

Book World, February 1, 1970, Richard Freedman, review of The Fierce and Beautiful World, p. 3.

Canadian Slavonic Papers, September-December, 2003, Barry Scherr, review of A Hundred Years of Andrei Platonov, p. 530.

New Statesman, January 22, 2001, Adam Newey, "Working-Class Hero," p. 58.

Newsweek, January 12, 1970, R. S. Sokolov, review of The Fierce and Beautiful World.

Russian Life, September-October, 2004, "Andrei Platonov: A Trend unto Himself," p. 18.

Saturday Review, January 10, 1970, Maurice Fried-berg, review of The Fierce and Beautiful World.*