Evgenii Zamiatin and Andrei Platonov: The Benefactor and the Logos

Jennifer E. Sunseri, Texas Tech University

In the newly formed Soviet state Evgenii Zamiatin and Andrei Platonov emerged as two writers who, each in his own way, would directly challenge the utopian zeitgeist of his age, particularly in regard to social engineering in the construction of a utopian workers’ paradise, and the expropriation of the logos for that purpose. Despite this, however, no detailed comparative study of these two writers exists. This is no doubt due to their markedly different places in what might be called the canon of dystopian fiction: As the author of one of the most celebrated dystopian fictions of the twentieth century, Zamiatin is viewed as a titan in the Western anti-utopian literary tradition; Platonov, in contrast, has generally been deemed uniquely Russian and his body of work, due to the obscurely Russian basis of philosophical themes contained therein is perceived as belonging to a category unto itself. However, in terms of thematics pertaining to the fate of the logos under totalitarianism, Zamiatin and Platonov merit comparison. This is the aim of the present work.

I first elucidate the themes in Zamiatin’s science fiction masterpiece We pertaining to his dystopian treatment of the State-controlled logos. I then examine the dysfunctional logos of Platonov contained in three works: the novel Chevengur (1928), and the stories “Makar the Doubtful” (1929) and “Rubbish Wind” (1933-34). I demonstrate that, despite stylistic and apparent generic differences, Zamiatin and Platonov embedded in their respective works a surprisingly similar response to the function of the logos in the construction of utopia on the rubble of the old order.