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Happy Moscow par Andrey Platonov
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Happy Moscow

par Andrey Platonov

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"Moscow in the 1930s is the consummate symbol of the Soviet paradise, a fairy-tale capital where, in Stalin's words, life has become better, life has become merrier . In Happy Moscow Platonov exposes the gulf between this premature triumphal­ism and the harsh reality of low living standards and even lower expectations. For in Stalin's ideal city there is no longer a place for those who do not fit the bright, shining image of the new men and women of the future. The heroine, Moscow Chestnova, is an Everywoman, both virgin and whore, who flits from man to man, fascinated by the brave new world supposedly taking shape around her. In a variety of styles ranging from the grotesque to the sentimental to the absurd, Platonov lays bare the ways in which language itself has been debased, even borrowing slogans from Stalin's own speeches for comic effect. In an age of spin doctors and soundbites, this anarchic satire has as much resonance as ever."… (plus d'informations)

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Written between 1932 and 1936, Happy Moscow (Schastlivaia Moskva) remained unpublished until 1991. This work, certainly Platonov's most ambiguous and complex work from the 1930s, tends to be forgotten when put aside his earlier novels, Kotlovan and Chevengur] Perhaps this is for its ambiguous and even conciliatory message regarding socialist realism (the contemporary paradigm in art and literature) and Stalinism itself. Rather than representing an exhausted, failed utopia on the edge of nowhere, Platonov's Happy Moscow is set in the dizzying, euphoric atmosphere in Moscow in the early 1930s.

I find this work so compelling precisely because it looks face to face with his contemporaries; here Platonov is trying to work things out, and it is no less dys (or anti) utopian for this fact. Again, Platonov cautions the reader that massive, transformative social engineering is likely to come at a great cost; moreover, he gives us the cost in the form of the novel's heroine, Moscow Chestnova. It is through her dizzying identity changes, and her eventual mutilation, that we see the almost desperate and paranoid self-mutilation of this Muscovite culture.

The translation is of Robert Chandler, and again he shows himself to be peerless when it comes to Platonov. The introduction and explanatory notes help to put Platonov's writing in context, and offer some very interesting readings of the novel in their own right. Unlike translations of Platonov from the 1970s and 80s (Ardis, etc), you get a sense that this is a text that Platonov would have been happy with, had he spoken English. Ironic, fantastical and absurd in equal measure.
  DuneSherban | Aug 17, 2011 |
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"Moscow in the 1930s is the consummate symbol of the Soviet paradise, a fairy-tale capital where, in Stalin's words, life has become better, life has become merrier . In Happy Moscow Platonov exposes the gulf between this premature triumphal­ism and the harsh reality of low living standards and even lower expectations. For in Stalin's ideal city there is no longer a place for those who do not fit the bright, shining image of the new men and women of the future. The heroine, Moscow Chestnova, is an Everywoman, both virgin and whore, who flits from man to man, fascinated by the brave new world supposedly taking shape around her. In a variety of styles ranging from the grotesque to the sentimental to the absurd, Platonov lays bare the ways in which language itself has been debased, even borrowing slogans from Stalin's own speeches for comic effect. In an age of spin doctors and soundbites, this anarchic satire has as much resonance as ever."

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