Andrei Platonov Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Andrei Platonov (pluh-TAWN-awf), the pseudonym of Andrei Platonovich Klimentov, was a fiction writer, dramatist, poet, and critic; he was one of the most important Soviet writers of the first half of the twentieth century. His full development, however, was thwarted by political circumstances that were beyond his control. The son of a railway worker, he left school at the age of fourteen, but he later completed his education at a polytechnical school, became an electrical engineer, and worked on electrification projects for five years. He had begun to write poetry in school, and he continued to write while working as an engineer.{$S[A]Klimentov, Andrei Platonovich;Platonov, Andrei}

Along with many other intellectuals of proletarian origin, he welcomed the Revolution of 1917, joined the Communist Party, and fought on the side of the Bolsheviks, in the hope that they would bring needed reforms and a better life for his countrymen. His idealism was put to test during and after the revolution by the harsh realities of life, and he began to voice his disappointment. Even though he placed his trust in science and technology, believing that people can conquer nature with machines, common sense, and good will, in one of his earliest stories he warned against relying too much on technology and neglecting feelings and conscience. In addition, he was afraid that the dual danger of undisputed authority and rising bureaucracy would threaten humankind’s creativity.

With the publication of his first collection of short stories, The Epifan Locks, began the long history of the authorities’ distrust of Platonov. In the title story an English engineer, hired by Peter the Great to build a waterway, fails in his job because of the poor planning of his predecessors and is sentenced to die. This thinly veiled allusion to the autocrats in the Soviet Union of the 1920’s unleashed severe criticism of Platonov and a virtual ban on the publication of his works, especially after he also criticized the harsh methods of forced collectivization of the farms.

The ostracism, lasting until the late 1930’s, did not deter Platonov from writing. During this period he wrote his most important works. They are all variations on a related theme, attempts by human beings to better their lot and the misunderstanding on the part of the authorities of their basic needs and desires. In the novel Chevengur a group of workers, led by visionaries and idealists, moves to a legendary city, where they can govern themselves and organize their way of life in a brotherly...

(The entire section is 1064 words.)