Between the Silence and the Void

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ON THE day of the thirtieth anniversary of his private life, Voshchev was made redundant1 from the small machine factory where he obtained the means for his own existence. His dismissal notice stated that he was being removed from production on account of weakening strength in him and thoughtfulness amid the general tempo of labor.

In his lodgings Voshchev took his things into a bag; he then went outside so as better to understand his future out in the air. But the air was empty, motionless trees were carefully holding the heat in their leaves, and dust lay boringly on the deserted road—the situation in nature was quiet. Voshchev did not know where he felt drawn, and at the end of the town he leaned his elbows on the low fence of a large house where children with no family were being habituated to labor and use. After that the town stopped; there was only a beer room for workers from the villages and low-paid categories. Like some official building or other, this stood without any yard, and behind it rose a clay mound, and an old tree grew on its own there amid bright weather. Voshchev made his way to the beer room and went inside, towards sincere human voices. Here were untempered people, abandoned to the oblivion of unhappiness, and among them Voshchev felt more cut off and at ease. He remained present in the beer room until evening, until the noise of a wind of changing weather; he then went over to an open window, to take note of the beginning of night, and he caught sight of the tree on the clay mound—it was swaying from adversity, and its leaves were curling up with secret shame. Somewhere, most likely in the Soviet Trade Workers Park, a brass band was pining; getting nowhere, the monotonous music was carried off by the wind, across the empty waste by the gully and into nature. Voshchev listened to the music with the pleasure of hope, since joy was seldom his due, but he was unable to accomplish anything equivalent to the music and so he spent this evening time of his without moving. After the wind, silence set in again, to be covered by a still more silent gloom. Voshchev sat down by the window, in order to observe the tender darkness of night, listen to various sad sounds, and feel the torment of a heart surrounded by hard and stony bones.

—Andrey Platonov, The Foundation Pit

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