Literature and Science: an Approach. My Reading of Platonov

Cabré, Jaume
Quaderns Divulgatius, 14 2000

Platonov was one of the great silenced and unknown voices of Russian literature, as were Osip Mandelstam, Nikolai Kluyev, Anna Akhmatova and many others. He first became known, timidly, in the nineteen-thirties, the years of collectivisation, and the Stalinist regime soon clipped his wings, confiscated his work, kidnapped his son, who was accused, at the age of fifteen years, of terrorism and high treason, and was condemned to ten years of forced labour. He only completed two of these before returning home with tuberculosis, of which he died some months later. Platonov had one more suffering to add to his autobiography. He tried hard to get Gorky to accept him as an orthodox Soviet writer, but it seems that the authorities considered that he was incorrigible for his articles reflected a point of view that was not positive enough and were too ironic with respect to the case in point. He was feared because his colleagues recognised him as a master of prose and a writer who knew how to move people.
Platonov's stories and novels have decidedly Russian settings: immense steppes, the autumn, starry skies, colourful sunsets and trains bearing off the beloved, carrying away dreams and leaving those who remain in a lonely station with their present, which consists of small miseries and yearning. He is also a master when he portrays inner landscapes. His characters are devastated by grief, laconic, accustomed to living in an environment where huge distances separate hearts, where time intervals of epic dimensions are accepted with resignation and pain. Nonetheless, many of Platonov's characters show that they are dazzled by the world of science.
The power of his prose is in his ease in using great figures of speech as essential parts of the story, so that his characters are constantly confronted with two worlds, the real and the imagined, that of the heart and that of technology, generosity and cowardice cohabiting in the same person.
Platonov died in 1951 from the effects of war wounds he received in Czechoslovakia. He left a great deal of unpublished work, which has slowly become known throughout the world, even though he is considered a difficult writer because he obliges the reader to participate in the creation and to follow all the byways he has explored during his fashioning of his work.

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