>The author, Andrei Platonov, died in 1951 and the contributors’ notes indicates that the “complete text” of “Among Animals and Plants” will be included in a collection to be published this December, which suggests that what appears in this issue is an excerpt from a longer work. Yikes. This is plenty long as it is, surely the longest fiction of the year in The New Yorker. And too long, in my opinion, with too much repetition. But it was written in 1936, in Russian – a different world, a different style. This is the story of Ivan Alekseyevich Fyodorov, a poor worker on the railroad who lives in a hut with his parents and his wife and child. The story begins with Fyodorov in the forest, filled with animals and plants that interest him not at all. But he does want to provide for his family, as ungrateful as they are, and so he tries to better his work situation, eventually being given more responsibility. And then disaster strikes! Here’s a sample that reveals a bit of Fyodorov’s character:
“One summer, a member of the Writers Union had come and given a talk about the current state of creative dialogue among writers. Fyodorov had asked sixteen questions and had been given “The Travels of Marco Polo” as a present; the writer had then left. The book was extremely interesting; Fyodorov had at once begun reading, from page 26. At the start of a book, a writer is just thinking, and that makes it dull; the most interesting part is the middle, or the end, which was why Fyodorof preferred to choose pages at random – now page 50, now page 214. And although every book is interesting, reading this way makes it even better, and still more interesting, because you have to imagine for yourself everything you have skipped, and you have to compose anew passages that don’t make sense or are badly written, just as if you, too, were an author, a member of the Soviet Union’s Writers Union.”
Seems like good advice for reading this story, if you ask me.
October 22, 2007: “Among Animals and Plants” by Andrei Platonov