Cultural Monday's is the weirdest day for me. Sometimes I totally don't get what I am posting. Sometimes I get it, but wonder if it worth paying anything. Sometimes, I think it is really cool. This long post could be all of the above. I have read through it once and skimmed it a couple more times and I think, if you have the time, you might find it worth reading and even somewhat enjoyable. I think you will also learn some things from it. I'm not sure an understanding of what the author has to say is likely to push forward the revolution, end global capital, and build a new world, but then there wouldn't be too much to read if that was always a requirement, eh.
One thing I will say up front, the fact that Slavol Zizek is mentioned a few times in the post made me think twice about printing it. I am not much of a fan these days. However, that seems a bit much as far as a reason for turning off the whole piece, and, anyway, his comments here are not offensive.
Before today I was not particularly familiar with Andrei Platonov. Seems like an interesting fellow. Platonov (1899–1951) was the son of a railway worker. The eldest of eleven children,
I lived and languished because life had turned me straight away from a child into an adult, denying me a youth. Before the Revolution I was a child, and after it there was no time to be a youth, no time to grow up--one had to frown and struggle right away.
His literary career as a communist began with a flourish.
"The drought of 1921 had an exceptionally strong effect on me, and, being a technician, I could not occupy myself with the contemplative occupation of literature."
The New Left Review says:
The year 1934, his thirty-fifth, was a significant watershed in the life of Andrei Platonov. He had already written The Foundation Pit and Chevengur, the novels for which he is today best known, but neither had been published in full. Soviet readers knew him mainly for a few short stories and, above all, his semi-satirical account of collectivization, ‘For Future Use’, which had been met by a storm of official criticism when it appeared in 1931. For the next three years, Platonov was unable to publish anything. But in the spring of 1934, he was included in a brigade of writers sent to Turkmenistan to report on the progress of Sovietization, and the same year was asked to contribute to a series of almanachs. Under Gorky’s general editorship, these were to celebrate the completion of the second Five-Year Plan in 1937; but they never appeared. ... Within a few days Gorky had rejected Platonov’s text as ‘unsuitable’ and ‘pessimistic’; in early March the organizing secretary of the Writers’ Union publicly denounced the unpublished article as ‘reactionary’, ‘reflecting the philosophy of elements hostile to socialism’.
I have deviated however from the piece I will now share. If you feel so inclined let me know what you think about it. I also wouldn't mind hearing from people who have opinions on Platonov.
The following is from E Flux.
Communism with a Nonhuman Face
Film still from Soviet director Valeri Rubinchik’s King Stakh from Savage Hunt of King Stakh (Дикая охота короля Стаха), 1979.
Ilya Kabakov, Heads, 1967.
I saw a red glow in the window
Belonging to a rational ox.
The parliament of ponderous cows
Sat there engaged in problem-solving …Down below the temple of machinery
Manufactured oxygen pancakes.
There horses, friends of chemistry,
Had polymeric soup,
Some others sailed midair
Expecting visitors from the sky.
A cow in formulas and ribbons
Baked pie out of elements
And large chemical oats
Grew in protective coats.3
Chepurny touched a burdock—it too wanted communism: the entire weed patch was a friendship of living plants … Just like the proletariat, this grass endures the life of heat and the death of deep snow.5
Laika, the first dog in space. Photo: Marc Garanger/Corbis
The desert’s deserted emptiness, the camel, even the pitiful wandering grass—all this ought to be serious, grand, and triumphant. Inside every poor creature was a sense of some other happy destiny, a destiny that was necessary and inevitable—why, then, did they find their lives such a burden and why were they always waiting for something?7
The past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption. There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Our coming was expected on earth. Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim.8
The dead have no one to trust except the living—and we should live now in such a way, that the death of our people was justified and redeemed through the happy and free destiny of our nation.9
This is not exactly a people called upon to dominate the world. It is a minor people, eternally minor, taken up in a becoming-revolutionary. Perhaps it exists only in the atoms of the writer, a bastard people, inferior, dominated, always in becoming, always incomplete. Bastard no longer designates a familial state, but the process or drift of the races. I am a beast, a Negro of an inferior race for all eternity.11
Seven days later, after taking the most direct footpath, Chagataev reached Tashkent. He went straight to the Central Committee, where he had been expected for a long time. The secretary of the Committee told Chagataev that somewhere in the region of Sary-Kamysh, the Ust-Yurt and the Amu-Darya delta there lived a small nomadic nation, drawn from different peoples and wandering about in poverty. The nation included Turkmen, Karakalpaks, a few Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Persians, Kurds, Baluchis, and people who had forgotten who they were … The poverty and despair of the nation was so great that it looked on this work, which lasted for only few weeks in the year, as a blessing, since during these weeks it was given nan bread and even rice. At the pumps the people did the work of donkeys, using their bodies to turn the wooden wheel that brings water to the irrigation channels. A donkey has to be fed all through the year, whereas the workforce from Sary-Kamysh ate only for a brief period and would then up and leave. And it did not die off entirely; and the following year it would come back again, after languishing somewhere in the lower depth of the desert.“I know this nation,” said Chagataev. “I was born in Sary-Kamysh.”“That’s why you’re being sent there,” the secretary explained. “What was the name of the nation—do you remember?”“It wasn’t called anything,” said Chagataev, “though it did give itself a little name.”“What was this name?”“Dzhan. It means ‘soul,’ or ‘dear life.’ The nation possessed nothing except the soul and dear life given to it by mothers, because it’s mothers who give birth to the nation.”The secretary frowned, and looked sad. “So there’s nothing they can call their own except the hearts in their chests—and even that’s only for as long as the hearts keep on beating.”“Only their hearts,” Chagataev agreed. “Only life itself. Nothing belonged to them beyond the confines of their bodies. But even life wasn’t really their own—it was just something they dreamed.”“Did your mother ever tell you who the Dzhan are?”“She did. She said they were runaways and orphans from everywhere, and old, exhausted slaves who had been cast out. There were women who had betrayed their husbands and then vanished, fleeing to Sary-Kamysh in fear. There were young girls who came and never left because they loved men who had suddenly died and they didn’t want to marry anyone else. And people who didn’t know God, people who mocked the world. There were criminals. But I was only a little boy—I can’t remember them all.”“Go back there now. Find this lost nation. The Sary-Kamysh hollow is empty.”“I’ll go,” said Chagataev. “But what will I do there? Build socialism?”“What else?” said the secretary. “Your nation has already been in hell. Now let it live in paradise for a while—and we’ll help it with all our strength.”12
Chagataev knew from childhood memory, and from his education in Moscow, that any exploitation of a human being begins with the distortion of that person’s soul, with getting their soul so used to death that it can be subjugated; without this subjugation, a slave is not a slave. And this forced mutilation of the soul continues, growing more and more violent, until reason in the slave turns to mad and empty mindlessness.13
Illustration from L. Davidichev’s Hands Up! or Enemy No. 1, A Novel for Young Adults (1971).
Illustrations and typography by R. Bagautdinov.
The judge announced to Lichtenberg that he was sentenced to be shot—on account of the failure of his body and mind to develop in accordance with the theories of German racism and the level of State philosophy, and with the aim of rigorously cleansing the organism of the people from individuals who had fallen into the condition of an animal, so protecting the race from infection by mongrels.16
To Kafka, the world of his ancestors was as unfathomable as the world of realities was important for him, and, we may be sure that, like the totem poles of primitive peoples, the world of ancestors took him down to the animals. Incidentally, Kafka is not the only writer for whom animals are the receptacles of the forgotten.18
Russian director Sergei Eisenstein with a mexican candy skull.