Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union: The example of the Wizards Oz and Goodwin

Judith A. Inggs
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Abstract

The study of translation and censorship is of particular interest in the context of Russia and the Soviet Union. With the aim of stimulating further discussion, particularly in relation to recent developments in the sociology of translation, this article takes the example of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (1900) and its adaptation by Alexander Volkov as The Wizard of the Emerald City (Volshebnik izumrudnogo goroda) (1939) in order to explore the relationship between the multiple forces at work in the translation of children’s literature under conditions of censorship. By means of an analysis of the differences between the two texts I conclude that censorship is a complex phenomenon which provides fertile ground for the creative manipulation and appropriation of texts and can be considered as an active participant in the creation of an image of a foreign body of literature and its location in a particular literary field.

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Table of contents

The traditional importance of foreign literature in Russia and the Soviet Union combined with the crucial role played by ideology in the production of literature means that the study of translation and censorship is of particular interest in that context. It is therefore surprising that it has not been the object of more scholarly research in the West, although there has been further interest recently (for example, Sherry 2010). With the aim of stimulating further discussion, particularly in relation to recent developments in the sociology of translation, this article takes the example of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (1900) and its adaptation by Alexander Volkov as The Wizard of the Emerald City (Volshebnik izumrudnogo [ p. 78 ] goroda) (1939) in order to explore the relationship between the multiple forces at work in the translation of children’s literature under conditions of censorship. In doing this, I do not accept the traditionally held view on Russian censorship described by Jan Plamper as “the repression of the inherently and essentially free word” (Plamper 2001: 526) but proceed from the standpoint that censorship is a complex phenomenon which is not simply imposed from above in order to silence and repress ideas and concepts, but which also provides fertile ground for the creative manipulation and appropriation of texts. Plamper does move away slightly from the traditional view to suggest that censorship is “no more and no less than one of the forces shaping cultural circulation” (2001: 527), but I believe that it also needs to be considered as an active participant in the creation of an image of a foreign body of literature and its location in a particular literary field.

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