The Russian artist Kirill Sokolov (1930–2004) produced a number of illustrations to Andrey Platonov's novel The Foundation Pit. Many of these—two 1991 drypoints and nine 2000 drawings lifted and printed from wax crayon orginals (artist's technique)—are now in the collection of the Andrey Bely Museum in Moscow. They were donated by the artist's widow, Doctor Avril Pyman, who has kindly allowed us to reproduce four of the later drawings.
Captions in brackets are the artist's own.
"'And why are you dying, Mama? From being bourgeois—or from death?'
"'I got bored,” said the mother. 'I’m worn out.'"
[Chiklin, Prushevsky, Nastya and her late mother, pp. 47-50; pp. 55-56)
"Night was total at village level. it covered everything, and snow made the air cramped and impenetrable, such that chests were at a loss for breath, yet women were shrieking in every place, keeping up a constant howl as they got used to grief. The dogs, together with other petty and nervous animals, also maintained these sounds of anguish, and there was as much noise and alarm in the collective farm as in the changing room of a bathhouse."
["there was as much noise and alarm in the collective farm as in the changing room of a bathhouse," p.101]
"The horse was dozing in her stall, having lowered her sensitive head forever; one of her eyes was feebly closed, but she did not have enough strength for the other and so it was left looking into the dark. The shed had grown cold without equine breath and snow began to fall inside, settling on the mare’s head and not melting. Her master blew out his match, embraced the horse’s neck, and stood there in his orphanhood, smelling in memory the mare’s sweat, as when they were plowing."
[Parting with a horse that is starving to death, pp. 101-02]
"Walking beside some yards felt as cool as in the open fields, while beside others there was a sense of warmth. Cows and horses were lying in these yards, their carcasses gaping and rotting—and the heat of life accumulated during long years beneath the sun was still seeping out from them into the air, into the shared wintry space. Chiklin and the hammerer had already passed a number of yards, but somehow they had not yet liquidated any kulaks anywhere."
[Misha the blacksmith's hammerer sets off to dispossess kulaks, p. 109]
About Platonov's language:
If you aren't familiar with Andrey Platonov's dislocating way with langauge, the excerpts above might strike you as odd. In his afterword to The Foundation Pit, translator Robert Chandler begins to explain:
"One day, no doubt, someone will publish a commentary listing the abnormalities in each sentence of The Foundation Pit and the expressive power of each of them. Platonov used language more creatively than even the greatest of the great Russian poets who were his contemporaries, and there is no simple answer to the question of why he wrote as he did. Sometimes, as we have seen, he deviates from the norm in order to summon up a biblical, cultural, or political allusion. Sometimes he orders the most common of words in an uncommon way so as to bring out in full the meaning
of a word that we normally take for granted."