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About the book
  • Published: 15 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099529743
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $19.99

The Foundation Pit

Formats & editions

New translation of this powerful political satire set in Stalinist Russia

Platonov's dystopian novel describes the lives of a group of Soviet workers who believe they are laying the foundations for a radiant future. As they work harder and dig deeper, their optimism turns to violence and it becomes clear that what is being dug is not a foundation pit but an immense grave.

  • Pub date: 15 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099529743
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Andrey Platonov

Andrey Platonov was born near Voronezh in 1899. From 1918 he published articles in the "thick" Moscow journals before becoming a war correspondent during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45. He died in 1946 and it was not until the 1980s that his great novels The Foundation Pit and Chevengur were finally published in Russia.

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Praise for The Foundation Pit

“Platonov managed to make the miseries of forced industrialization into a story as gripping as anything in Dickens, as moving and as artful”

John Bayley, Times Literary Supplement

“Andrey Platonov's absurdist parable The Foundation Pit is a masterly achievement...Much of the genius of The Foundation Pit lies in Platonov's objective style and the lively invariably abusive dialogue, contrasting with oddly moving, isolated asides of brittle beauty. It is a Russian Waiting for Godot crossed with Lewis Carroll and Maxim Gorky - there is even a bear working as an apprentice blacksmith, frantically making horseshoes as if there were no tomorrow. And in this book, there isn't. According to the late Joseph Brodsky, Platonov 'simply had a tendency to see his words to their logical - that is absurd, that is totally paralyzing end. In other words, like no other Russian writer before or after him Platonov was able to reveal a self destructive, eschatological element within the language itself.' The Foundation Pit is extraordinary: strange, almost abrupt, a hallucinatory, nightmarish parable of hysterical laughter and terrifying silences”

Irish Times

“'The Chandlers have brilliantly dealt with the challenges of rendering into readable English the extraordinary quality of Platonov's prose... Overall it is hard to see how we could get a better English version of Platonov's prose-nor one more likely to win him the readers he deserves'”

New York Review of Books, Orlando Figes

“He has been described as the greatest Russian writer of the 20th century, but some of his most controversial works, written between 1927 and 1932, were not published in the Soviet Union until the 1980s. Platonov's The Foundation Pit is a satirical response to Stalin's programme of crash industrialisation and collectivisation”


“Acclaimed by Joseph Brodsky as one of the great Russian writers of the twentieth century, Andrey Platonov comes with a formidable reputation, matched only by his relative obscurity”


“In Platonov's prose, it is impossible to find a single dull or inelegant sentence... For Platonov's work testifies to the only political responsibility owed by any writer to any reader: to describe the world as faithfully, and as compellingly, as possible. Platonov deserves to be published; he rewards being read”

The Times

“Brilliant...Obviously a masterpiece”

Paul Theroux

“Among the greatest Russian prose writers of this century”

New York Times

“Startlingly prophetic novel ... As a foretaste of the horrors of the gulag, that's pretty hard to beat”

Mail on Sunday

“These books are indescribable. The power of devastation they inflict upon their subject matter exceeds by far any demands of social criticism and should be measured in units that have very little to do with literature as such”

Joseph Brodsky

“This is a ground-breaking piece of work. One of the crucial missing pieces in the great, slow, ongoing process of reassessment of literary reputations from that Soviet period. An immensely difficult task of translation...brilliant”

Dr Susan Richard, author of Lost and Found in Russia

“Andrey Platonov is one of Russia's greatest modernist scribes. Like his fellow science-fiction writer Yevgeny Zamyatin - author of the astonishing futurist novel We, published in the 20s - he was also among that tortured country's most prescient literary artists...The Foundation Pit, written in 1930 and now published for the first time in English, is his most striking attempt to convey the extreme estrangement suffered by ordinary people as collectivisation in agriculture proceeded across the USSR...one of the most prophetic nihilistic tales of this ruined century.”

The West Australian

“Completed in 1930 but unpublished during his lifetime, Platonov's masterpiece, a scathing satire of the Soviet attempt to build a workers' utopia, gauges the vast human tragedy of Stalinism, portraying a society organized and regimented around a monstrous lie, and thus bereft of meaning, hope, integrity, humanity...His dark parable is a great dirge for Mother Russia as well as a savage analysis of the split consciousness fostered by an oppressive system. Platonov's books are still being unearthed in Russia decades after his death.”

Publishers Weekly

“A 20th-century Russian masterpiece...The Foundation Pit is a savage satire on collectivisation, a nightmarish vision of humanity trapped by the infernal machinery of totalitarianism...Platonov's grimly comic vision of a brave new world is as universal in its implications as any other account of a hellish utopia our century has produced..the dance of madness in The Foundation Pit is articulated as the suppression of anything human - sorrow and joy, hope and despair.”

Sydney Morning Herald

“Andrey Platonov is the most exciting Russian writer to be rediscovered since the end of the Soviet Union. Born in 1899, one of a railway worker's 10 children, he was an engineer, a party member and a model proletarian writer before doubts about Communism, and his literary imagination, landed him in trouble with Stalin. His work stopped being published in the early 1930s and only resurfaced 40 years after his death in 1951...The Foundation Pit will stand out as his masterpiece”


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