Monday, November 16, 2009

The Foundation Pit, by Andrei Platonov

Russians write the best novels.

As an aspiring novelist, I felt reading The Foundation Pit that I needed to study it. It's a novel of ideas, yet the ideas are inextricable from the movement of the story. And its movement is effortless. Shifting points of view, locations, discourses—satire, irony, outrage: all without, to this beginner's eye, a formal misstep.

The author has opened a space for himself that allows him to do whatever he'd like. His authorial credibility is boundless. Two-thirds of the way through the book a bear appears as its now-central character. The reader—this reader!—does not blink.

And the book's ideas are astonishing.

Why can't Americans write readable novels of ideas?

This is one of the most poetic and philosophically compelling evocations of despair that I've ever read.

Emphatically recommended. Essential.

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