Robert Chandler in conversation with Julia Sutton-Mattocks
Though still best known for The Foundation Pit, his bleak masterpiece about collectivisation, Andrey Platonov is an astonishingly varied writer who could write equally vividly about a baby hare and a steam engine, about the lives of a glamorous member of the Moscow elite and of a railwayman living and working in a remote northern forest.
He also wrote in many different genres: novels, stories, plays, film scripts and literary criticism. The focus this evening will be on two recent English-language publications:
1. A SPARROW’S JOURNEY.
This story has recently been published on its own, along with delicate illustrations by Georgia Keeling and a CD of the poet/novelist/artist/art critic/film maker John Berger reading the story aloud. Written in late 1936, as Stalin's purges were gathering strength, the story is a profession of loyalty to Pushkin, to art and to Russia. There are also some wry thoughts about possible strategies for survival under totalitarianism.
2. FOURTEEN LITTLE RED HUTS AND OTHER PLAYS.
"Absurd, grotesque and seemingly surreal, the topsy-turvy world of Platonov's plays captures the disturbing reality of Stalin's Russia in the 1930's with precision, irreverence and verbal virtuosity! The stunning translation offers a unique opportunity for English-speaking readers and audiences to encounter one of the most uncompromising and visionary Russian writers of the last century.
— Irina Brown, Opera and Theatre Director
Julia Sutton-Mattocks is a PhD student at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, where she is researching the impact of medical advance on Czech- and Russian-language literature and cinema of the 1920s and early 1930s. As part of her research (funded by the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership), she looks at the role of childbirth in regeneration, and is interested in what Platonov’s images of birth tell us about the possibilities and difficulties of bringing a new society into being.
Robert Chandler’s translations from Russian include many works by Vasily Grossman and Andrey Platonov. He has compiled three anthologies for Penguin Classics: of Russian short stories, of Russian magic tales and, most recently, (with Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski), The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry. His co-translations of two volumes of memoirs and stories by Teffi were published in May 2016. His short biography of Alexander Pushkin is to be republished by Pushkin Press in summer 2017. He runs a monthly translation workshop at Pushkin House (London).