Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Foundation Pit” as Want to Read:
The Foundation Pit
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Foundation Pit

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  4,518 ratings  ·  293 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.' ...more
Paperback, 141 pages
Published June 8th 1994 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1930)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Foundation Pit, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Matty I just finished reading the Chandler translation. I haven't compared it to Ginsburg, but I've read a number of novels translated from Russian and over…moreI just finished reading the Chandler translation. I haven't compared it to Ginsburg, but I've read a number of novels translated from Russian and overall it seemed like a good translation. Generally a bad translation will use awkward prose or overly literal translations of idioms, or make the text seem overly generic. In this one I can sense the nuance of the dialogue (the absurdity, tone, and humor) and it was relatively easy to read, so I think it's good.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,518 ratings  ·  293 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Foundation Pit
Vit Babenco
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We always believe that the bright future is just around the corner and we wait for it to come…
…on the face of each young Pioneer girl there remained a trace of the difficulty, the feebleness of early life, meagerness of body and beauty of expression. But the happiness of childhood friendship, the realization of the future world in the play of youth and in the worthiness of their own severe freedom signified on the childish faces important gladness, replacing for them beauty and domestic plumpnes
This might be the one book, fact or fiction, 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, down in the foundations, with the implications of the new regime, which is under construction and which therefore has turned the way of life, the way of thinking and all relationships upside down
Eddie Watkins
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian-fiction
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
Steven Godin
It saddens me when a novel (especially one politically important) remains unpublished during the life of the writer, a writer who ended up seeing out his days in poverty and misery. And Platonov wouldn't be the first Russian to see his work disappear into obscurity. Like Mikhail Bulgakov (although this reads more like a gloomy Kafka) Platonov's novel is a scathing satire on Stalinism, in which he portrays a society systematically and regimented around a monstrous lie, one that plagues any meanin ...more
Το Άθχημο γατί του θενιόρ Γκουαναμίρου
Andrei Platonov (1899 - 1951) was an intellectual who believed in and supported the Russian Revolution, became a member of the Communist Party and had the first-hand experience of Stalin's forced collectivization of Soviet agriculture.

This is a novel that, despite its simplistic narrative, can be read on multiple levels. Philosophy attempts to reveal universal truths, but in this case, is used to conceal the most atrocious reality. A spiritual apathy has left everyone weak and powerless, farmer
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 around. it didn't. it couldn't. and platonov realized this.

his characters don't. they sublimate themselves in communism to find some kind of spiriual answer. good luck. sisyphus would gladly trade spots with these suckers who devote their lives to digging a pit that will serve a
Greg Watson
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Andrew Platonov's The Foundation Pit is a brutal novel. He shatters any illusions one might have about the virtues of Soviet communism. Platonov's deadpan style makes the hunger and death he depicts that much more empty. And while appearing to favor class struggle and scientific socialism, he subtly demolishes collectivism and any claim to nobility it might claim. ...more
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
"Now we feel nothing at all - only dust and ashes remain in us." (104)
I appreciate many forms of literature; three particular (and often interwoven) kinds occupy elevated spots: Russian literature, Soviet-era literature, and prison literature/literature of rebellion. Dostoevsky, Grossman, Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, Koestler – I could go on naming favorite writers that combine some or all of these categories. One person who fits them rather swimmingly, and whom I had not previously read, is Platonov
Jose Moa
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, distopian
Tis is a no usual distopic novel,is rather a totalitarian based reality distopic novel;is one no easy to read but Platonov is a great writer and its worth the time.

The novel is on the forced intense industrialization and collectivization of the farms in hands of the peasants and his destruction,sometimes physically,as a class in the quinquenal last 20s plan ordered by Stalin(a fanatic genocide that most has made for desprestigiate socialism as a ideology).

This work of Platonov is a sinister ,aci
E. G.
--The Foundation Pit

Acknowledgements and Further Reading
Apr 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, russian-lit
This is not the first time that I’ve given a book three stars due to reader inadequacy. It took me a long time to get through ‘The Foundation Pit’ because it’s a dense, elusive, and confusing novel. I was somewhat relieved to discover in the translator’s afterword that it wasn’t just me, as even in the original Russian, with detailed knowledge of Stalinist collectivisation and the bible, it is apparently tricky to understand. Not much happens, yet every sentence is filled with layers of signific ...more
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
It has been two years since I read this novel and unlike all the other books I have listed on Goodreads I never wrote a review for this one. I found the book too overwhelming. There was too much I wanted to say about it, and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it justice, because however much I did say, there would always be something left out. In short, I will state that it is the strangest and most disturbing novel I have ever read, but 'strange' and 'disturbing' in a unique way, not in the way th ...more
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fictive
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
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrifying and sad book. What happens when you take out all individuality from people? You are left with empty caricatures. It is so well written though, you see other things, sadness, but also compassion and humor.
Amazing discovery, Platonov.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, favorites
why am i crying?
why am i crying?
why am i crying?
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite all the image of it being a dull, glum place, the Soviet Union produced a fair number of satirists – although few if any of the really good ones were published in the USSR. Bulgakov’s satire is biting, and in some work subtle, while other work in the 1920s, especially the early part of the decade, was very much of the politically engaged and critical avant-garde, some of it (a fair amount) produced by Party members, true believers in the forthcoming era of liberation that was foretold by ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russians, soviet, 1930s
A nightmare of language suborned to meaninglessness. Double-speak eating its own tail before diffusing out into void and psychotic referencelessness. All in service to some end without means: the bright burning light of total totalitarianism.
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
going to properly review this after the book club discussion, see you then comrade
Ira Bespalova
Jul 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
As if I needed anything more depressing during such severe days of repetition and bleakness, I settle with Platonov's The Foundation Pit on my lap. While this month brings a lot of rain and dark clouds, I've gotten accustomed to waking up in very early mornings; the pitter-pattering bouncing against the windows, against rows of steel, against hard stone. Today I stared at the ceiling without much rest, with a tired heart, an empty mind, feeling sick, this philosophical fable brushing along my sk ...more
Ultimately, it's too transparent a satire—absurd caricatures abruptly shift into poetic, self-reflexive monologues rendering unnecessarily explicit an apparent division between the characters' actions (outwardly directed at an emancipatory horizon) and their internal thoughts (in which the former are revealed as farcical performances). The more salient and disquieting critique would instead be to retain an unspoken gulf separating that which is rendered at the level of the text (what is said to ...more
I thought this was quite brilliant. It is very bleak and depressing though.
A retelling of the Stalin enforced exile and death of the kulaks, the resulting starvation of millions of peasants, state control and the foretelling of the end of communism. All in a set of parables.
The gigantic house being built by the workers to house the proletariats.
Voschev who we meet after being fired for thinking on the job, who searches for the meaning of life through a collection of inanimate objects.
Children wh
Walker White
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Platonov’s profoundly unique novel, The Foundation Pit, is subversive to its very core. Every possible trope of state sanctioned literature and state ideology is upended, inverted, questioned, and ultimately proven to be empty, desolate, and destructive. Platonov achieves this effect through his use of language, often so idiotic that it is brilliant. He disfigures language the way total collectivization disfigured the countryside, forcefully removing it of its soul. Along these lines, Platonov d ...more
Lisa Hayden Espenschade
May 23, 2008 rated it liked it
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
This is heavy, without the usual sense of existential relief that manages to get through in his other works. But even the first sentence is worthy of a 5 stars.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Translating the untranslatable.
Chuck LoPresti
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Euan Gepp
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can’t decide if I loved this book or hated it but I guess we’ll all find out after the bookclub discussion
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. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
NYRB Classics: The Foundation Pit, by Andrey Platonov 2 16 Oct 24, 2013 04:43PM  
Satire on early soviet era communism 1 21 Aug 07, 2009 10:56AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Lower Depths
  • Day of the Oprichnik
  • The Petty Demon
  • Red Cavalry
  • Envy
  • Omon Ra
  • Тёмные аллеи
  • We
  • Heart of a Dog
  • Moscow to the End of the Line
  • The Storm
  • A School for Fools
  • Tales of Odessa
  • Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
  • Норма
  • Petersburg
  • The Blizzard
See similar books…
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.

From 1918 through 1921, his most intensive period as a writer, he published dozens

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
36 likes · 11 comments
“In place of hope all that remained to him was endurance, and somewhere beyond the long sequence of nights, beyond the orchards that faded, blossomed, and perished once more, beyond all the people he had encountered and who had then passed on into the past, there existed his fated day-when he would have to take to his bed, turn his face to the wall, and pass away without being able to cry” 7 likes
“What he would have liked, without admitting it, was for the whole world, forever under construction yet never constructed, to be like his own destroyed life.” 5 likes
More quotes…