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The Foundation Pit

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  2,917 Ratings  ·  149 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
Jul 12, 2010 Eddie Watkins 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
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
Ahmed Oraby
على الرغم من أني اليوم كنت قد حظيت بكفايتي من النوم - أكثر من أي شخص تقريبًا - إلا أني بمجرد أن أخذت هذه الرواية بين يدي (مجازيًا فقط، استعارة مكنية عن التابلت) فما وجدتني إلا أسقط من جديد في أيدي النوم وسلطانه. الرواية مملة، ومملة بشكل بشع، مع أن بدايتها كانت تماما على العكس من ذلك، فأذكر أني عند بدايتها قرأت حوالي نصفها مرة واحدة، لأتركها عدة أيام، معطيًا الأفضلية لكتب أخرى - أكثر منها بشاعة وإملالًا - لأعود إليها اليوم وأنهيها.
الرواية حقًا ليست بهذه البشاعة. هي جيدة. ربما العيب في الترجمة بش
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 David Lentz 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
Olaf Gütte
Ein Roman aus der Zeit nach der Russischen Oktoberrevolution,
eine Zeit des Umbruchs und der Zwangskollektivierung, die Menschen
sehen in der Zukunft nicht als Arbeit vor sich.
Der eigentliche Akteur im Roman ist allerdings die Sprache, eine
Herausforderung für den Leser, alle Figuren sprechen sonderbar und falsch,
"Das ist kein Russisch sondern Kauderwelsch" sagte Stalin 1931.
Ich persönlich fand es ironisch und natürlich vom Autor bewusst eingesetzt.
Vit Babenco
Dec 15, 2013 Vit Babenco 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 plumpne
--The Foundation Pit

Acknowledgements and Further Reading
"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 Jose Moa 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
Apr 17, 2017 Anna 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
Mar 21, 2011 P. 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 julieta 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.
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
Nov 22, 2014 Malcolm 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
Lisa Hayden Espenschade
May 23, 2008 Lisa Hayden Espenschade 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
Jan 25, 2016 Mai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian, favorites
why am i crying?
why am i crying?
why am i crying?
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
Mar 07, 2017 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1930s, russians, soviet
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.
Ira Bespalova
Jul 10, 2009 Ira Bespalova 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 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.
Dec 15, 2015 Rhys rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most remarkable novel I have read this year; and in fact one of the most remarkable novels I have ever read... It deserves a thoughtful and in-depth review from me, and I am going to work on one now, and hopefully make it public soon.
Ivan Damjanović
Groteska. Metafizika, egzistencija. Distopija. Nije travestija u klasičnom ili očitom smislu pojma, ali jedan od slojeva bez sumnje je travestija nonšalantno (!) krvožedne boljševičke retorike (roman je napisan čak 1930-e, a objavljen, jasno, tek 50 i kusur godina poslije u Rusiji). Fragmenti/momenti magijskog realizma. Jedinstveno iskustvo, donekle podsjeća na Nietzscheovog Zaratustru, ali samo asocijativno i svojom alegoričnom filozofičnošću. Prilično teška prohodnost jer kao da se čita pjesmu ...more
Jul 24, 2017 Darty rated it it was amazing
"You did not possess the meaning of life; stay here - and I'll find out what you lived for and perished for. Since no one needs you and you lie about amidst the whole world, then I shall store and remember you."

This story not only essentially acts as a critique of socialism and communism, but it acts as a critique of the way people see their own lives. Full to the brim with memorable quotes from absurd but relatable characters, this book questions everything so intrinsic to communal life, as wel
Jan 30, 2017 Joseph rated it it was amazing
A devastating satire of Soviet collectivism and class hatred that turns the language of Soviet communism against itself. Platonov's use of this language exposes it as ridiculous while the characters try to live according to the language's absurd precepts - surely it's the companion piece to 1984. It's a wonder that Platonov survived, though I think many of these works remained unpublished, or else they went right over the heads of the censors.

I found the writing a bit dense but the translator g
Chuck LoPresti
Jul 25, 2011 Chuck LoPresti 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
Mike Polizzi
Jan 24, 2011 Mike Polizzi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephen Durrant
Aug 27, 2016 Stephen Durrant rated it liked it
This is a dark portrayal of the Stalinist terror of the early 1930's that, among other things, turned the proletariat against peasants, particularly "rich peasants" or "kulaks," and led to the death of relocation of tens of thousands of Russians. The novel centers upon a group of men who are mechanically laboring to dig a deep foundation pit for a "magnificent building" that will house deserving proletariat. Actually, they are doing little more than digging their own graves. The story is so blea ...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
Aya Abo3ghreb
رواية عن الأوضاع الروسية في مطلع نصف القرن الماضي
تتحدث عن معاناة الأثرياء والمُلّلاك مقابل سيادة الطبقة العاملة (البروليتاريا)
والتفاصيل الدقيقة للحياة اليومية للعمال حيث كانت الثيمة الرئيسية تدور حول بناء مجمع بروليتاري على أنقاض حفرة بائدة
كانت الشخصيات الرئيسية في الرواية متنوعة ولها رمزية شديدة وتخدم كل منها لوحدها توجه إنساني معين
أما الأحاسيس التي تتركك فيها الرواية فهي مليئة بالغموض والبؤس والشعور العميق باللاجدوى!
تماما كشعور "فوشيف" الشخصية الأهم في الرواية

للقراءة الأنفع يجب الإحاطة با
Adam Calhoun
May 28, 2010 Adam Calhoun rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I kept hearing that this was a 'rediscovered classic', but how can anyone say that when the translation is so awful? What are the editors at NYRB doing? The word order doesn't make sense in half the sentences, and I can't quite understand why the translators kept translating things in ways like "he sighed a sigh". The Afterword is perfectly literate so...what gives? This book was unreadable, so I gave up. It was too much work to read, and not in a good way.

One comment on Platonov, though: why di
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NYRB Classics: The Foundation Pit, by Andrey Platonov 2 11 Oct 24, 2013 04:43PM  
Satire on early soviet era communism 1 18 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...

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“Marxism will be able to do anything. Or why is Lenin lying whole in Moscow? He's waiting for science—he wants to be revived.” 4 likes
“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” 3 likes
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