Why Stalin Called Andrei Platonov “Scum”.

A nice little piece on the great and still underappreciated writer Andrei Platonov (see here and here for LH discussions of his novels) by Alice E.M. Underwood; it starts with quotes like “People see with the eyes of their heads; beards grow from exhaustion; fowl can be pro-Kulak; the body of a chicken is made dead for morning breakfast; and good communists live thanks to birth, and die of life,” gives a brief description of how his prose works, and ends with more samples. If the quotes intrigue you, go to the source!

Comments

  1. I can’t help but hear a resemblance to Flann O’Brien’s love of tautological and redundant expressions.

  2. I was disappointed not to find a mention of why and when Stalin called Platonov “scum” (and what Russian word that represents.)

  3. The most told story is that Stalin wrote either сволочь or “Талантливый писатель, но сволочь” (Gifted writer, but a scumbag) on the margins of one of Platonov’s short novellas.

  4. This sent my vibrissae twitching:

    [Platonov] was critiqued by Stalin himself (a literary scholar in his own right) for the “double Dutch” of his linguistic style. […] so perhaps Stalin’s epithet of “double Dutch” referred to that very doubleness […].

    That could only make sense if the idiom Stalin used, here translated as double Dutch, made some reference in Russian to doubleness. Did it? Could it have?

  5. I don’t think so, and that bothered me too (as did the lack of explanation of the title, but titles are often not written by the author of the piece).

  6. I can’t help but hear a resemblance to Flann O’Brien’s love of tautological and redundant expressions.

    An excellent comparison! O’Brien would have made an interesting Soviet writer (and doubtless have died young).

  7. >That could only make sense if the idiom Stalin used, here translated as double Dutch, made some reference in Russian to doubleness. Did it? Could it have?
    It doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe the article is talking about this famous comment from Stalin? Nothing to do with double Dutch, though
    «ЭТО НЕ РУССКИЙ, А КАКОЙ-ТО ТАРАБАРСКИЙ ЯЗЫК…» (This is not Russian, it’s some kind of jibberish)

    There’s a lot of stuff on this page, but I am not sure how reliable it is (http://www.redov.ru/istorija/stalin_i_pisateli_kniga_tretja/p4.php)

  8. J.W. Brewer says:

    I guess “double Dutch” seems a bit odd since it is a specific English (AmEng only? I dunno) idiom for either gibberish-at-large or a specific sort of gibberish/wordplay. But certainly not outside what I would consider the bounds of legitimate translation style. If Stalin was translated as accusing a particular out-of-favor author as writing in “pig Latin” I wouldn’t assume the Russian included an idiom specifically referencing either pigs or Latin.

  9. J.W. Brewer says:

    I guess there’s a stylistic question of when a particular idiom is so idiosyncratic to the target language that it shouldn’t be used in translation to render a (very-different-at-the-word-for-word-level) idiom from the source language that means approximately the same thing. So minimal-pair example: I would probably counsel against having a Russian speaker come off in English translation claiming another Russian was, as the Texanism has it, “all hat and no cattle,” although “all talk and no action” (ok maybe that’s not an identical concept, but close) wouldn’t bother me even if the Russian idiom sounds nothing like that and that particular English fixed phrase would sound very weird if rendered into Russian word for word.

  10. Yeah, it has to be a reference to Stalin’s “тарабарский язык,” and it’s incredibly thoughtless to take the dictionary’s “double Dutch” equivalent as implying a doubleness reference in the Russian. Tsk.

  11. “tarabarsky yazyk” was described by Dahl as an artificial jargon of schoolchildren, a language game which consists of replacing consonants according to certain rules while leaving vowels unchanged.

    rules are quite simple: replace b, v, g, d, zh, z, k, l, m, n with sh, sh, ch, ts, kh, f, t, s, r, p and vice versa.

    Example:

    Ftsmashlkshuike, koshamib!

  12. >rules are quite simple

    This is just like the Hebrew atbash in Kabbalah! Probably Stalin thought Platonov was secretly a Jew 🙂

  13. Texanism has it, “all hat and no cattle,”

    When I first heard “furcoat and no knickers” I thought it was an expression for a woman who was risque or perhaps a slut. I was surprised to discover it was the same as “all hat and no cattle”.

  14. There is a synonymous pair of expressions used in the North of England for this meaning: all mouth and trousers and (more recently) all mouth and no trousers. They both mean “all talk and no action”.

  15. Roy Cambell:

    You praise the firm restraint with which they write –
    I’m with you there, of course:
    They use the snaffle and the curb all right,
    But where’s the bloody horse?

    “On Some South African Novelists,”

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