Utopia and Violence. The Work and Impact of the Writer Andrei Platonov (1899–1951)
The October Revolution of 1917 formed the basis for a utopian vision of society, which ended in the unleashing of political and social violence.
The foundations for the state dictatorship and the violence that was inherent within the system were laid at the end of the 1920s. This includes the first five-year plan, the violent industrialisation of the country, the forced collectivisation of agriculture and the destruction of the alleged “kulaks”.
The Soviet writer Andrei Platonov (1899–1951) is regarded as a literary chronicler and incorruptible observer of these developments. His work reflects the atmosphere of an era dominated by utopias and prophecies of a future new world. After he incurred Stalin’s wrath it became impossible to publish his most important novels, Chevengur (1927–28) and The Foundation Pit (1930) during his lifetime. It was only at the end of the 1980s, with the break-up of the Soviet Union, that he was rediscovered. Joseph Brodsky put him on a par with Joyce, Musil and Kafka.
Even so, Platonov is still far less known in Germany than his Russian contemporaries, Isaak Babel and Mikhail Bulgakov. And although some of his most important novels and stories have been translated into German several times over, his literature has only been discovered by a small number of readers. Today, his work still inspires artists from different creative fields, where an engagement with Platonov has left its traces in literature, music and film.
Andrei Platonov, his time, his work and its impact are the subject of a conference, a concert, a series of films, several conversations with authors and a special issue of the Osteuropa journal. The events and publication provide an insight into his literary work, the political and social fabric in which he lived and into the multi-layered history of the way in which he was received. Platonov awaits discovery as a European author of the modern age, whose texts eloquently expressed the merciless causality of utopia and violence.