Eric's Reviews > Happy Moscow

Happy Moscow by Andrei Platonov
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's review
Aug 05, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: unexpected, etudes-slaves, ficciones
Read in November, 2007

Tolstaya says that Platonov writes like an alien observing humankind--but that doesn't begin to suggest how weird he can be. 'Enstrangement' is no mere literary device with Platonov, it's his entire style. He really takes it to the edge; his poker-faced laconism sounds at once childishly naive and mockingly ironic. And the story's action is infinitely picaresque, all errant digression: just the comings, goings and hare-brained utopian daydreams of Moscow and her various suitors and orbiters; characters fade in and fade out; the last twenty or so pages tracks one of the suitors as he forgets about Moscow, changes his identity and moves in with a widow who beats him. The introduction says Platonov left this novel unfinished, but you'd never know that if they didn't tell you--how would Platonov have 'finished' a totally non-linear story? This is the only novel I've read that is truly 'plotless.' An extreme stylistic experiment.

I like the brand of 'surrealism' Platonov practiced and then handed down to Tolstaya. His point of view is so fancifully detached, so defamiliarized that he doesn't have to resort to self-consciously fantastic incidents in order to create grotesque or monstrous impressions. All the characters in 'Happy Moscow' obey physical laws and behave fairly plausibly in the course of their routines; Platonov simply orients us so that we see how deeply strange those routines can appear. Platonov looking at a street musician or a flea market is really a kind of revelation.
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05/01/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Avital (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new) - added it

Avital Love the quote. Time for me to get to know contemporary Russian writers.

Alexandra He is not contemporary, at all! Anyway, the book is really worth reading. I've read other novels when I was a schoolgirl (had to, actually) and didn't like Platonov at all! But after reading Happy Moscow I desperately need to revise Platonov's works!

Eric, thank you for the quote! And for your review - it is very precise!

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