The Foundation Pit
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The Foundation Pit

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,490 ratings  ·  79 reviews
The Foundation Pit portrays a group of workmen and local bureaucrats engaged in digging the foundation pit for what is to become a grand 'general' building where all the town's inhabitants will live happily and 'in silence.'
Paperback, 141 pages
Published June 8th 1994 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1969)
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Eddie Watkins
I read great swathes of this book as absurdist black comedy, and kept imagining the events portrayed as scenes in a marginally avant-garde silent film. Each character is a ghost, or husk of itself, and moves through the narrative as a reasoning automaton, even if that reasoning is fatally flawed, and is not even properly “reasoning”. Each character is trapped inside its own type-casting, with this type-casting being triple-layered – by the author, by the pervasive authority within the narrative,...more
platonov, an atheist, believed that communism could take hold only if it met and surpassed the needs fulfilled by religion; in other words, the revolution would have to fill the ol' God-Shaped Hole if it wanted to stick. it didn't. it couldn't. and platonov quickly realized this.

his characters don't. they're tormented by that existential longing, by the pull of the spiritual, and attempt to sublimate themselves in communism to find an answer. good luck. sisyphus would gladly trade spots with th...more
David Lentz
Platonov writes with a minimalist style in a stark Russian landscape in the midst of the absolute absurdity of a mindless Communist bureaucracy killing its people to dig a vast foundation pit in the middle of nowhere. The net effect, like the writing of Samuel Beckett, is vulnerable characters searching without hope for meaning, which is absent or unfathomable or beyond their reach. This novel is a moving foray into the theatre of the absurd as the characters deal with the heartbreak and death a...more
I admire Andrey Platonov's ability to bring out absurd hilarity of terrible things. In this way I was reminded a little of Salinger and Melville, but more like a fantastic meal reminds you of other similarly fantastic meals. I've never seen the word "boring" used so strangely and to such effect.

If you're looking for a book that is totally linear in plot, this book is not for you. It goes forward in time, sure, but the characters move here and there almost without reason, and it's never clear ho...more
This might be the one book I'd recommend about life in the early days of the Soviet Union.

A group of builders are digging out the foundations for a building. The symbolism is clear. What the building will be is not ever made clear and may not even be important. The men are struggling with the implications of the new regime which has turned the way of life, the way of thinking and all relationships upside down. The future is deeply uncertain, the new world is under construction. That unknown, unv...more
В этом году я устроила себе один из самых жестких челленджей – заставила себя прочитать «Котлован». Произведение Платонова есть воплощенный апогей моей ненависти к школьной программе, где вместо хотя бы одного зарубежного пункта понатыкали всяких платоновых, от которых спустя десять лет все так же хочется пойти и убиться об стену. У меня на всю жизнь останется в памяти тот момент, когда за 10 минут до выхода в школу я силилась перемахнуть хотя бы через середину Платоновской мысли. Тогда не получ...more
Mike Polizzi
But the air was empty, motionless trees were carefully holding the heat in their leaves...

Platonov's novel takes the historical moment to reflect upon the possibilities and impossibilities espoused within the rhetoric of Stalinist socialization. The absurdity of the project is manifested throughout in Platonov's observations. Platonov shows that despite this absurdity, the project may yet succeed. Boredom is the first note of death to the working class and one must work purposefully to rid onese...more
Ira Bespalova
Set during the first Five-Year Plan (1928-32), it deals with the attempts of a group of labourers to dig the foundation pit of a vast building that is to house the local proletariat, before moving on to describe the expropriation and expulsion of a group of rich peasants from a nearby collective farm. Soviet writers at the time were expected to record and celebrate the achievements of industrialisation and collectivisation, and indeed, the drives to modernise agriculture were the subject of seve...more
Chuck LoPresti
Some books hit me so hard that it hurts in my chest. Platonov's dense prose and complex thoughts are comparable to Krzhizhanovsky's motley visions. But unlike Krzh. Platonov isn't leaving reality behind as a reaction to a thoughtless society. Instead we get a hyper-sensitized and often animistic reshuffling of the deck of signification. Reduced to units, elements, and matter - life for Platonov is constantly in question. He posits:

"What was to be done, oh God, if there were none of those self-fo...more
Lisa Hayden Espenschade
Jul 31, 2008 Lisa Hayden Espenschade rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who like dystopia and interesting word combos
Recommended to Lisa by: a Russian teacher of literature
Shelves: read-in-russian
The Foundation Pit is one of the most difficult books I’ve read in recent years, but it’s worth the effort if you enjoy dystopia or innovative language. The book, written in 1929-1930, is an allegory of the era of collectivization: workers digging a pit for a foundation also find themselves digging, in effect, a collective grave. They take part in the collectivization campaign, too, banishing kulaks by sending them away by raft. It's brutal, funny, and sad.

Platonov layers many, many philosophic...more
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 bound society. That being said, Platonov has filled with his book with some nice grotesque imagery and some nice snarky bits, but I'm left wanting.
The Foundation Pit takes us back to the early Soviet era when the forced collectivization of the countryside was taking place. Workers are digging the foundation for the "workers' home," for the future Soviet Union. As they dig, the philosophical foundation of the Soviet Union is examined by Platonov in very political terms.
A new translation based on the definitive Russian edition, The Foundation Pit is not an easy read. Only 150 p. long, most of the allusions to Stalin's writings and Marxist p...more
Emperador Spock
Классово сознательно начитавшись мертвых отзывов и аннотаций к повести, ждал трудовой чернухи, пролетарской кровищи и колючих стен светлобудущной антиутопии.

А вышло — с претензией на корке, да невзрачненько внутри. И подгнило уже порядком.

Эксперименты с языком утомляют: действительно остроумные места проскакивают; большей частью же текст до головных болей спотыкуч о вредительские руководящие сучья прямо в древесно-стружечную лужу народных достижений. Так и тащишся ударно-революционными копытами...more
Mark Sacha
The Foundation Pit is almost obtuse in its allegorical take on collectivization and the Terror Famine, and more generally the evident failure of socialism, but is still effective in large part due to Platonov’s grim sense of humor and genius subversions of linguistic expectation. Whereas most Russian literature that I’ve encountered typically introduces even tertiary characters with name and patronymic, Platonov (whose name is itself a pseudonym) abandons the patronymic entirely and fabricates m...more
This book opens with the following: "On the day of the thirtieth anniversary of his private life, Voshchev was made redundant from the small machine factory where he obtained the means for his own existence. His dismissal notice stated that he was being removed from production on account of weakening strength in him
and thoughtfulness amid the general tempo of labor." Voshchev it turns out wants meaning and truth in the midst of Stalin's drive toward rapid industrialization and Total Collectiviza...more
The USSR is simultaneously depressing and interesting to read about. Platonov's characters aren't very memorable, unlike their fellow fictional Russians, but he creates a general atmosphere of gloom that I found pretty impressive. Really, he's pointing out the complete failure of soviet-brand communism by showing its adherents as empty, starving men digging a foundation for communal housing that will never be built. While the defectors (the kulaks!!) get shipped to sea on a raft. The introductio...more
Language in this novel is both a modesty-shield and a weapon of oppression. It is used not to express true feelings but to reinforce structures of thought imposed on the characters from outside. As satire, the novel is very effective, especially if you know a bit of the background about the Holodomor / the Stalinist period of collectivization, and famines that ensued. As a novel, its depiction of helplessness and pointless death - the lack of emotional truth or individual agency that Platonov se...more
Darran Mclaughlin
A strange, original and brilliant work. This conveys what the revolution and early stages of the Soviet Union were like for the ordinary people. I had never really thought about what it must have been like to change from a Feudal, agricultural society to an advanced industrial one before. Platonov combines spikey, surreal, existentialist writing with an evident commitment to realism. It's a sinister book and it fits into the tradition of dystopias like 1984, Brave New World and We but Platonov a...more
Where it all began for me personally. To my mind, this is as important a novel as any other novel someone may have mentioned was a critical piece of fiction to read. From here the world wobbl(i)es a bit and also from here many soviet suns rise and fall. Tracing the yarn back through my ongoing thesis work all the way to encountering Ariadne (and Pelevin) last month, I find my starting point in the labyrinth that came after my having read this novel. If you've never read about an iron-forging pro...more
Laurel Narizny
As a first-time reader, your first question is going to be: Are all these strange and surreal word choices from bad writing, or were they inserted on purpose? The answer is: every word was chosen deliberately. Robert Chandler and Olga Meerson make it clear in the afterword (of the 2009 New York Review edition) that Platonov used language carefully and deliberately in order to emphasize the feeling of surrealism, to make references to the Bible or Soviet policies, to bring the reader's attention...more
It's really hard to actually rate this book. There are very few like it, so there's no term of comparison, no way of knowing that 4 or 5 stars would do justice to this kind of book or evaluate anything beyond what it represents.

Platonov doesn't have a style, he rejects forms. He also doesn't spare the reader at all. He is incisive and hard to digest because the beauty of his writing lies in its grimness, its absolute enclosure and despair. There is no respite from it. You really do feel you are...more
Jay Hinman
Suppressed and unpublished for many years, and only made widely available after the fall of the Soviet Union, Andrey Platonov's "THE FOUNDATION PIT" has belatedly been recognized as one of the rare works of literature to come out of the Soviet Union that illuminates its terrors most brightly. Having never heard of it, I bought it a couple of weeks ago on a lark at the amazing Green Apple Books in San Francisco after reading their "shelf talker" about it, reckoning that it might be a good edition...more
It's my latest re-read of the story, in the original language.

Here, Platonov's style of writing is horrible (perhaps intentional, since he is capable of sounding different elsewhere). But the allegory applied in this story makes him an admirable writer. This book proves that any one can write a story, that style isn't king, that story-telling is about timing a series of thoughtful shots, and that compact substance makes up for any other shortcomings. Nothing ruins a good story. A bad story is a...more
Platonov, who was a witness to Stalin's mass collectivization of the peasants in the late 1920's and the subsequent terror famine, gives us a dark, dream-like portrayal of these horrors using stark, dry, intensely satirical prose. He never takes out the violin and attempts to yank on our heart strings; instead, he seems to use the language of Soviet propaganda to depict the liquidation of the kulaks (the wealthy peasant class), the collectivization of the farm land and the resulting starvation....more
Isadora Ducasse
omfg best fucking thing I've read in ages
bleak, surreal, a proto-Existentialist kind of thing. It's not quite an "anti-Soviet" novel - it's just that the Soviet project was a perfect illustration for what Platonov is talking about. People are craving for the meaning of existence in the face of death, and Communism tries to provide them with such kind of idea, but (view spoiler)...more
...вот Андрей Платонов – это стилист. И когда я читаю фразу: «Он произвел ему ручной удар в грудь», или еще какую-то, на мой взгляд, благонелепость, у меня кроме чувства чисто физической тошноты, физического неприятия вот этих вот воляпюков языковых, совершенно ничего не возникает.
... в сцене первого бала Наташи Ростовой есть фраза: «Вино ее прелести ударило ему в голову». Это красивость немного нехарактерная для Льва Толстого, она ему самому очень понравилась, поэтому еще в одном месте он повто...more
Platonov is perhaps the greatest Russian writer of the Soviet period. He is not as well known as some of his other contemporaries because of a virtual impossibility to do justice to his unique blend of colloquialism cum linguistic invention. He succeeds in something Solzhenizin failed miserably - developing language out of its roots. His peasant-workers, half goblins of the dark woods, half spirits of the steam engine, populating a fantastic terrain of the Communist utopia-building as religious...more
Alex Flynn
How do you make sense of a world in which individuals have no meaning and they have been subsumed by an ideology that case more about the theory of them as grouped into classes then the individuals themselves. The Foundation Pit is a terrifying story of a soviet russian project to build a giant pit to house the people of the new world, which keeps growing and growing as the vision of it's creators expands, and the reality of the pit digging is a horror for the actual workers. The book ventures i...more
"Prushevsky rejoiced and smiled. Noticing the engineer's happiness, Pashkin felt content too, because he had sensed the mood of the engineering and technical section of his union. But it was not the change of scale that had brought Prushevsky satisfaction; it was, rather, his knowledge that the diggers would exhaust life in the foundation pit as quickly as he himself would die. For him it was better to have his friends dead rather than alive, so that he could lose his own bones in general, share...more
Aug 29, 2008 Hamish rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: lit
This is a badly, badly written book. It's just a whirlwind of structureless, meaningless events. Like somebody running through the air, their feet never touching the ground, things happen constantly in this novel yet none of it has any impact whatsoever. A character might die, but it won't even dawn on you for another 10-20 pages. Maybe this was a conscious aesthetic choice, but if it was it didn't work very well. And any impact there might have been is muted by the INCREDIBLE HEAVY HANDEDNESS A...more
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NYRB Classics: The Foundation Pit, by Andrey Platonov 2 6 Oct 24, 2013 04:43PM  
Satire on early soviet era communism 1 16 Aug 07, 2009 10:56AM  
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Andrei Platonov, August 28, 1899 – January 5, 1951, was the pen name of Andrei Platonovich Klimentov, a Soviet author whose works anticipate existentialism.

Although Platonov was a Communist, his works were banned in his own lifetime for their skeptical attitude toward collectivization and other Stalinist policies.

His famous works include the novels The Foundation Pit and Chevengur.
More about Andrei Platonov...
Soul Chevengur The Fierce and Beautiful World Happy Moscow Чевенгур. Котлован. Рассказы

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