September 01, 2009

Andrei Platonov

born September 1, 1899

in the best-known photograph of Andrei Platonov, the one that usually appears in his books and books about him, we see a man with thin, tightly compressed lips. Large eyes look directly at us. We can see the carefully arranged folds of a white scarf. This scarf always struck me as a sign of refinement and an artistic nature, although perhaps the perpetually broke Platonov simply picked it up cheap somewhere. Or maybe it was a hand-me-down from one of his more successful friends.

Platonov’s intelligent face, focused and intense, immediately gives him away as not just an intellectual, but a person with an elaborate inner life. Some cosmic shift must have taken place in 1899 in the working class neighborhood outside Voronezh—where the writer was born into the family of a railroad metalworker—to enable him not only to reach amazing heights of insight and philosophically conceptualize all of Russian life and history, but also to create an absolutely new language, a language needed to describe the new world, the world that Platonov witnessed come to life.

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