Andrey Platonov is without question one of the great twentieth century writers. He is a rare witness to the early history of the Soviet Union, and at the same time the creator of a unique modern prose style. Unfortunately, the English translation of his major work, Chevengur, has long been out of print, although a pdf of it is readily available. Most of his novella-length works and some of his stories have been carefully translated by Robert Chandler and various collaborators, and are available in excellent editions from New York Review Books Classics.
Here we offer a provisional translation by Anna Kalashyan of an occasional piece by Platonov. In ‘Antisexus’ (1925-26), Platonov writes in a parodic vein about what Béatriz Préciado calls the sex-gender industrial complex. The production of gendered and sexualized bodies via technologies of the image and the orgasm appears here as something that might be implicated in both the western and Soviet modes of spectacle.
— McKenzie Wark
From the translator
Below you will find the text of an advertisement brochure published in New York, in eight European languages, by International Industrial Review.
We cannot overlook the exceptional literary talent of the author of this brochure, just as we have to acknowledge the imperial cynicism, serviceable pornography, and terrible banality of this business essay, the size of which makes it really sad. However, there is something in the same line of thinking as this brochure that makes it similar in nature with the work of Anatole France, granted we are allowed to talk about his great and honorary name. In fact, this is what gave us the courage to publish this outrageous work.
The work below is the best document to represent the elements of this era of degradation and stagnation of the bourgeoisie and it’s moral degeneration.
Even the most professional readers like us have never read anything like this.
Expecting everything from the modern day substrate of capitalism, bureaucracy, fascism, and militarism that furnished reviews for the advertised device, we were still not anticipating such complete stupidity and absence of common sense.
Of course, comrade Shklovsky, who ironically analyzed this bullshit using formal methods, is excluded from this rule.
Apparently physiology (“the brain decomposes last out of all organs”) is wrong and the Russian Bolshevik saying is right: the person who wants to punish History loses reason first.
That is the case. For that matter, the whole Earth stinks from this Anglo-Euro-American illustrative piece, which comes from the sector of imperialism.
Therefore, the best counter anti-sexual agitation is to publish this interesting piece, since this will change people’s facial expression and make them laugh, which is the best friend of our stomach and soul and, at the same time, the worse enemy to this industrial moral physiological madness.
Ladies and gentlemen,
While our international firm works in different parts of the world different cultural environments, and different time zones, the demand for our patented products exists everywhere from the Arctic to the Antarctic, not excluding the savage countries between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
Human passions dominate time, space, climate and economics. Our company’s efforts to disseminate metal industrial products for the satisfaction of those passions is of cosmic importance both in terms of metaphysics and morals.
It is truly fascinating that, despite the widely varying cultures, the chart illustrating the annual sales of our product in the north is not different from the south, given equal economic conditions and population.
Given this fact, let me conclude that human physiology is almost absolutely the same across borders and across space, race and culture, the existence of a publishing industry or it’s absence, etc.
Thus, the existence of satisfaction depends on the existence of demand. The world itself aims to consume rather than produce. The world does not produce the want for pleasure when there is no opportunity to meet it.
Given our international sales experience, our efforts to improve the features of our devices as well as to expand the reach of our factories, and attempts to ensure that our products are compatible with the individual needs of our consumers, we decided to include the Soviet Union in our export market. The size of this market is big enough for us to justify the organizational expenses that are related to the cost of adoption of our devices to the needs of locals, which will guarantee our commercial success in this market,
The most distinguished moral authorities acknowledged our work without any doubts. In fact, it is considered worthy of state recognition and private philanthropic support. Our firm did not hesitate to take advantage of this support.
The CEO of the firm, Mr. Berkman, is already included in the list of candidates for the Nobel Prize, and last year he received the honoris causa doctoral degree in Ethics and Aesthetic Sciences from the Academy of Paris.
Without further ado, let me share with you in a nutshell the principles embedded in our company’s international activities.
The sexual destiny of humanity was constrained during the war, and in the postwar period it developed uncontrollably. This has contributed to our firm’s financial prosperity.
Human sexual life is impossible to regulate and this can have disastrous consequences. This is an issue of high concern for the founders of our firm and the actual reason for us to act upon it.
It is also widely known that there is a correlation between sexuality and morality. The virtue of the ancient institution of marriage is widely acknowledged, as it conditions the spouses to specific rules regarding marital love that is considered to be the highest positive pleasure and spiritual appeasement. In marriage, truth is replaced by comfort. In any case, no other philosopher can prove otherwise. Humanity accepted comfort and peace as the supreme truth. The object of commercial and industrial activity is humans rather than philosophers.
Therefore, our firm announced a patent in all civilized countries for an electromagnetic device called Antisexus that is designed to regulate the field of sexuality and to bring out the highest function of humans, namely, their spirit, that needs to be made more visible and widely used as one of the most important goods of civilization.
Unregulated sexuality is unregulated soul or disorganized soul, and it spreads misery and suffering that is not acceptable in the age of the general scientific division of labor, in this age of Ford and radio, in this age of the League of Nations, etc.
Progress follows a crooked path, meaning some parts are still behind. Our firm aims to equalize the path of progress, destroy the sexual wildness of humans, and bring them to the culture of peace and calm with a planned development rate.
In the age of social and economic crisis when marriage is under material strain, in the age of alimony when giving birth is almost impossible and when women become the muses of poets again because of men’s poverty, our mission is to solve the international problem of sexuality.
Our firm turned sexual feelings into an honorable mechanism and gave the world a moral behavior. We eliminated the element of sexuality from human relationships and made more room for spiritual friendship.
Taking into account, however, the value of pleasure that is part of the relationship between sexes, we made sure that our device makes it possible to achieve it even by a convict who just came from serving a ten year prison sentence. This tells you a lot about the quality of our devices.
Moreover, special features make it possible to achieve pleasure of any longitude, ranging from a couple of second to a number of days, if the consumer has the free time. Another feature makes it possible to regulate the amount of sperm in order to achieve spiritual balance and avoid an unnecessary exhaustion of the body.
Our slogan is spiritual and physiological destiny for our customers and we put the sexual satisfaction in his hands through the regulator. We have achieved it.
Furthermore, senior citizens who have lost sexual desires get back these feelings with our device. We work for all ages and all nations.
In the last eight years we have produced only three types of our devices for men and three for women. The market apparently doesn’t need a big diversity here due to the fact that each version of the device provides different features.
Meeting the needs of our new customers – the inhabitants of Soviet countries – we decided to provide more benefits such as the members of unions get: a discount of 20% and credit until 1 year. The price range for our devices for 1926 are the following:
1. Type BS 00042 for individual usage without sterilization $20
2. Type BS 001843 for a limited group of people (for men of the family) with sterilization $40
3. Type BS 000000401 for unlimited number of people (for public toilets, theaters, streets, organizations, etc) with sterilization is $100.
The prices are listed without the discount. For women, we offer the same types but 15 % more expensive.
Let me emphasize again the moral value of our activities. We are defending your economic interest by protecting it from uncontrollable sexual desires and providing the means to get rid of this budget line and become financially successful.
We look forward to your orders.
General agent for Soviet countries,
Famous people’s reviews on the Antisexus device:
War is humanity’s passion. It cannot exist until life exists on earth, despite what tired and politician-dreamers say. War – courage that will exist until life is courageous.
The devices offered by Berkman, Shotlua & Sons will have a great role in the next war when thousands of young people will be satisfied by it.
During previous wars, the nervousness of the military was a big challenge for commanders. Nervousness leads to defeat. We need an army of people with tough nerves. We need an army of people who have found their spiritual balance and are ready for decades of war.
The above mentioned device can help commanders in their difficult task of victory.
Mr. Berkman, Shotlua & Sons have started a new era in the moral service to humanity. There is no doubt that the historical optimum is about the regulation of the universe by human reason – regulation that is a transformer which turns chaos into a regulated machine.
When I was twenty-five and just got married, the task of regulating the marriage physiology with formulas was already on my agenda but my mind got distracted with mechanics.
Maybe I would have stopped working on the automation of car production and focused on the production of these devices that normalize morality, which is closer to my spiritual nature.
But Mr. Berkmanan, Shotlua & Sons have guessed my thoughts and implemented them for the benefit of the society. I am very glad about it.
I wish this new production, that is so well organized, international prosperity, sales of the products of this unique firm, and dissemination among all animals of the planet, and not just humans. This will reinforce an active balance of the firm, which will in turn reinforce morality in the world.
Son of Ford
Analyzing the net cost of Antisexus devices, we concluded that it is way too expensive. I asked the financial department to recalculate the price, given our resources and instruments and decide whether it is possible to bring the price down. I was told that it is possible to make the device cheaper by 30%. Starting from next year, we will start its production in our factories in Detroit.
Moreover, we will make it possible to extend the payment plan to five years.
This will eliminate prostitution and all the unemployed will have access to these devices.
Regarding the young employees, we are providing the opportunity not to think about marriage, to stabilize their budget, which will make it possible for us not to raise their wages, which is what really prevents technical improvement of our factories and further progress.
It is better to let the sperm go down the metal, rather than use the vulnerable body of a human that is created for friendship, thoughts and holiness, unless you intend to transform it into a tree of wisdom.
Devices developed by Mr. Berkman, Shotlou & Sons make it easier to govern the passionate races of the colonies and decrease the number of unnecessary revolts, rooted in the unsatisfied sexual feelings of young people, that are directed against civilization. This also simplifies the work of colonial administrators since their wives don’t have to deal with rape anymore. Administrators’ wives who have the device will not be subjected to rape.
I am against Antisexus. It does not take into account an intimacy, a live communication of human souls – communication, which is always at stake in the sexual relation, even if a woman is a commodity. This communication has its own value, independently of sexual intercourse; it is that immediate sentiment of friendship and tender sympathy, a sentiment of felt solitude, which cannot be achieved through an anti-sexual device. I remain in favor of human closeness, for breath passing mouth to mouth, for a pair of eyes gazing at another pair, for the sensation of the soul in a most brutal sexual intercourse, for its enrichment at the expense of other soul that it encounters. That is why I am against Antisexus. I stand for the living, suffering, ridiculous, deadlocked human being, which dissipates its poor vital forces in order to buy a moment of fraternity with some other secondary creature. And for that matter I am against all this mechanization. I will always stand by the concrete, sad, funny but real – something that promises to be powerful.
The firm’s comments
Taking into account Chaplin’s objections, and not shying from publishing negative reviews, the firm would like to let the public know that our best engineers are already working on an updated Antisexus that goes beyond its rational construction and works not only on sexual organs but also on the nervous system, in order to ensure that all the precious feelings described by Chaplin become a reality.
The firm assumes that it will be possible to reproduce this feeling of belonging to the new universe with a pleasant image of a man or a woman, depending on the sex of the consumer – the image that is most desired by the nervous and psychological system.
However, the firm doesn’t anticipate wide dissemination of this device since it is known that love is not something common for people, and this won’t be commercially promoted. Modern science has confirmed that love is a physiological stage that happens to humans that are not healthy. But we work not just for all ages and countries but also for all human structures with all their diversity, since the firm’s goal is the moral stability of the world.
Having made the sexual act just about one human being, and making pleasure accessible for all – we are on the path for virtue, for the dominance of youth.
Using Antisexus you feel youthful and then you sleep well. I haven’t slept so well in the last twenty-five years. My body reproduced the source of youth. I am very grateful to the producers of Antisexus. My daughter suggested I found an Institute of Permanent Youth. I agreed with it and donated money for that cause.
With the development of anti-sexual devices we lost the famous and beautiful set of motions that make passion happen. That’s a pity.
But we have gained sexual comfort, a balance of health and independence from women’s caprices. In addition, this also saves time. This is to be admired. Moreover, the modern film industry will compensate for the lost sexual motions and replace it with a virginal and mighty body.
The future belongs to civilizations and not to culture. The future will conquer the spiritually dead and intellectually pessimistic man. In the landscape of genuine civilization marriage is impossible since it’s only about mechanical emancipation from organic powers.
The Antisexus machine has again symbolized that era that we are entering now – civilization – is a dead, comfortable building, the foundation of which faces the green foliage of living and dead cultures.
The Antisexus machine is absolutely necessary for long trips and very convenient. These machines are now very much needed and included in the list of equipment for each expedition.
The presence of the machine is a plus for the success of the expedition.
When I was in Russia, I heard this song:
The person who lives with a milkmaid is very lucky. As soon as he leaves the house he gets the sour cream and yogurt.
In the times when Europe is getting poorer and Russia is yet not that rich and when not everyone has a wife that can provide milk we need a mechanical milk provider. That’s what the mechanism of Antisexus is here for. Annually humanity spends about 500 billion rubles on prostitution and this is not taking into account indirect health expenses, the waste of time and existence of an evil international class of prostitutes.
This funding can be used for other purposes such as milk, yogurt and sour cream for everyone.
Yes, this savings wouldn’t be possible without Antisexus. Therefore, it is more real than any other revolutionary economic reform.
I usually act rather than write. I consider Antisexus as a necessity that every cultural person needs to have – a weapon that can be used both at home and in the battlefield. We declared the exemption of the Antisexus from any taxes. Women are liberated from sexual responsibility. For the members of the Fascist Union the existence of Antisexus in necessary and everyone from the king to the poor of Rome must have it.
Women are passing by just like crusades. Antisexus is a natural early morning sunrise. But everyone can realize that it is about the style and format of the automated era. You can live better than in a condom.
Since we cannot include all the reviews, the firm aims to publish three volumes that are dedicated to the ratings that famous people in art, sciences, social democracy, finance, politics and communism give to our devices. In the next volume we will publish the reviews of the following thinkers….
‘Antisexus’ is translated by Anna Kalashyan from Andrey Platonov, Writings Volume 1: Stories, Poems, Moscow: IMLI, 2004. The piece was published in 1981 in the West in Russian Literature. It was first published in the Soviet Union in 1989 in the New World, No. 9, 1989, pp. 124-136
This translation is provisional, and we welcome suggestions for improvement.