Andrei Platonov and Boris Pil’niak: The Pursuit of the Happy Man
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Abstract: Certain novels by Boris Pil’niak and Andrei Platonov seem to be in conversation with one another in delineating the evolution of the Soviet man at the end of the Twenties and the beginning of the Thirties. Pil’niak’s “The Naked Year” (1922) was composed in the aftermath of the revolution, when high hopes created the expectation that it was possible to conciliate revolution and mythological past, social projects and nature. The new man is characterized by violence that embodies the revolution’s reforming energy and expresses the force of nature. At the end of the Twenties, with the first Five-Year plan, the new man’s task had become building the new Socialist society by extending the Stalinist idea of industrial planning to all aspects of human life. This is what we see in Pil’niak’s “The Volga Falls to the Caspian Sea” (1929), where the new man is a technician, a builder, and a demiurge who moves rivers and mountains. Nevertheless, he cannot find answers to the limits of the human condition, like death and moral questions. Similarly, in Platonov’s “The Foundation Pit” (1930), humankind is tasked with transforming nature, thus extending the principle of industrial planning to the most intimate aspects of human existence. At this point, the attempt to conciliate past and future, planning and spontaneity is no longer feasible. Platonov’s characters spend their lives carrying out the task of human realization appointed by the Soviet state, but find out that happiness cannot be programmed from above, it is the result of a personal pursuit and of the relationship with the other. So, “Dzhan” (1934) shows us a possible alternative to the Soviet system with the questioning, the search, the attempts, and the resistence that the characters show. They avoid future that is imposed by a power that destroys the past and empties the present. Platonov shows that the human sould resides in relations, memory, and emotions.
Key words: New man; spontaneity; nature; destruction; planning; technology; memory; ethics; soul; Boris Pil’niak.
Camisa Morale, E. (2021). Andrei Platonov and Boris Pil’niak: The Pursuit of the Happy Man. In Philological Class. 2021. Vol. 26 ⋅ №1. P. 107–117. DOI 10.51762/1FK-2021-26-01-08.