You are on page 1of 15

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

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. Keywords: translation, censorship, children’s literature, Soviet literature, Bourdieu, sociology of translation



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,1 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
Target 23:1 (2011), 77–91. doi 10.1075/target.23.1.05ing issn 0924–1884 / e-issn 1569–9986 © John Benjamins Publishing Company


Judith A. Inggs

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. The discussion is informed by recent writing on the sociology of translation, specifically drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s philosophy of action (Bourdieu 1998), and Jean-Marc Gouanvic’s insightful article A Bourdieusian Theory of Translation in which he highlights “points of convergence between the reflections of the sociologist and questions of translation” (Gouanvic 2005: 147). The concepts of Bourdieu’s theory relevant here are habitus, field and capital with the centrepiece being “the two-way relationship between objective structures (those of social fields) and incorporated structures (those of the habitus)” (Bourdieu 1998: vii). Social fields include fields such as literary systems and institutions, whereas the habitus is a set of “generating principles of distinct and distinctive practices” (1998: 8) which cause social agents to behave in particular ways. As the notions of field and habitus are intertwined, the practices of translators, writers, publishers, and censors operating in the literary — and other — fields may be regarded as shaped by the various political, social and cultural forces in play in a particular context. Goanvic elaborates on this as follows:
…the object of research in translation studies ultimately becomes the analysis of the differential relationship between the habitus of translation agents (including publishers, critics, etc.) who have taken a position in a given target field in a given epoch, and the determinant factors of the target fields as the site of reception of the translation. (2005: 148)

During the Stalin era in the mid 1930s, when publishing was controlled by the state and all private publishing houses had been banned, Volkov, a Soviet mathematician and professor, completed a translation of The Wizard of Oz. There is an uncorroborated report that Volkov’s translation was rejected by the Soviet censors,2 resulting in him rewriting the story in the form of a Russian ‘version’, which was published in 1939. Volkov’s adaptation did not acknowledge Baum in any way, not least because he had no legal obligation to do so, as the USSR only

Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union


became a signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention in 1973 (Tax Choldin 1986: 338). Volkov’s version became immensely popular and was followed by numerous sequels, which took on a life of their own despite further borrowing from Baum’s own thirteen sequels4 (Mitrokhina 1996–7: 183). In a pattern of reciprocity, Volkov’s books were subsequently translated into thirteen languages, and found their way back into English in a series of translations by Peter L. Blystone, entitled Tales of Magic Land (1991). In a further cycle, after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, new translations of the original Baum text appeared, for example Udivitel’nyi volshebnik iz Strany Oz (The Wonderful Wizard of the Land of Oz) translated by S. Belkov (1998). By this time, however, Volkov’s series of books had been so imprinted on the public as favourite Russian children’s classics that the new translations were “viewed as colorless, and inferior to the well-loved classics for which they provided the model” (Nikolajeva 1995: 106). The impact of Volkov’s ‘loose translations’ or versions highlights the effects of both institutionalised censorship and self-censorship in the (re)creation of new works based on first texts originating in a separate social and literary context. It is also an interesting example of the notions of adaptation and appropriation as a form of translation. Acceptance of such appropriation was not uncommon in the Soviet Union, and was a direct result of the legacy of pre-revolutionary attitudes towards literary translation firmly rooted in a tradition of free translation and rewriting. Reinforced by institutionalised censorship, it was considered acceptable — even desirable — to appropriate ‘first texts’ from another literary system and transform them into ‘first texts’ in the target system. As adaptation and rewriting are features of both translation and censorship, the scope for manipulating and appropriating the first text by the various agents involved is extensive, as Francesca Billiani points out (2007: 3). In relation to Volkov and Baum the situation is further complicated by the fact that both writer and writer-translator acquire symbolic capital — any kind of capital regarded as possessing value by social agents — as both the original and the adaptation achieved the status of canonised classics in their respective literary fields. 2. Censorship and Translation in Russia and the Soviet Union One of the reasons that translations have always played an important role in the Russian literary field is that modern Russian literature only developed fully in the eighteenth century. As a result, translations from other, older, literatures have always represented a large proportion of works available to the public. It is not the purpose of this article to present a detailed account of censorship in Russia or in the Soviet Union,3 but, as Maurice Friedberg notes, literary translations specifically


Judith A. Inggs

attracted the attention of the censor because they exposed readers to a foreign culture and ideology and thus represented a potential threat to the ideological values the respective authorities sought to nurture and foster (Friedberg 1997: 13). A further significant factor was that many of the most active literary translators were themselves writers, giving them a particular habitus which affected the translations that they produced in that they were predisposed to engage in free translation and adaptation (Friedberg 1997: 36). There were times when more literal translation was favoured, for example, during the Romantic period, which emphasised “respect for alien cultural traditions” (Friedberg 1997: 43), but this faded after the mid-1800s. In general, free translations and adaptations of foreign works of literature abounded, in some cases with no acknowledgement of the original author. This effectively legitimised plagiarism, so that translators regarded original texts as their own property to be manipulated as they chose (Friedberg 1997: 31–2). After the Revolution it suited the Soviet authorities to continue to encourage such practices, partly because translators as well as writers were required to conform to the tenets of socialist realism, and to highlight elements relating to the class struggle, or to remove unsuitable or so-called bourgeois elements in a professed attempt to make foreign literature relevant to Russians.5 When Volkov produced his Wizard of the Emerald City in 1939, ‘free translation’ was at its height. Friedberg describes translators at that time as having a “cavalier disregard of the original” and becoming “self-appointed co-author[s]” (1997: 87). The same period was one of intensified state censorship, with the organ responsible for censorship (Glavlit) becoming directly subordinate to the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1932 (Ermolaev 1997: 3). One of its central tasks was to purge libraries of authors “branded enemies of the people”. During 1938 and 1939 alone sixteen and a half thousand titles were removed from libraries and bookshops (Ermolaev 1997: 57). Other works were extensively cut or altered before being published.6 This practice also applied to translations, and as the general public had no access to source language originals, they were ignorant of the extent to which works had been rewritten or ‘amputated’. Ivan Kashkin, a leading Soviet translator and theoretician, stated that a Soviet literary translator “must perceive and reproduce the reality of the original in the light of our world-view [and] the translator’s participation in the life of our literature” (quoted in Friedberg 1997: 104). Yet Soviet critics never confronted the corollary of a socialist realist approach to translation — “the sanctioning of ideological censorship of non-Soviet texts to the point of premeditated distortion” (Friedberg 1997: 105). Lauren Leighton takes an opposite point of view in his work comparing Russian and Western translation theory, noting that Soviet translators regarded rewriting as “dishonourable” (Leighton, 1991: 13). However, this does not seem to be borne out in practice. Indeed, Leighton goes on to say that one of the postulates of the Soviet school of translation was

Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union


that the translated text should have the same effect on its readers as on the original readers (Leighton 1991: 14). This in itself implies extensive domestication of the text to make it more accessible to the new target audience, in line with the dictates referred to above. Of course, a large part of the censorship that took place was self-imposed by writers and translators who learned to use strategies which would avoid bringing them into conflict with the authorities. Bourdieu describes this type of censorship as particularly successful when unconsciously self-imposed by those agents operating in the literary field. He writes:
Censorship is never quite as perfect or as invisible as when each agent has nothing to say apart from what he is objectively authorized to say: in this case he does not even have to be his own censor because he is, in a way, censored once and for all, through the forms of perception and expression that he has internalised and which impose their form on all his expressions. (Bourdieu 1991: 138)

One phenomenon specific to the Russian and Soviet context is known as ‘Aesopian language’, a term coined by M. Saltykov-Shchedrin in the 1860s and a detailed account of which is given by Lev Loseff in his On the Beneficence of Censorship (Loseff 1984). This is an extreme example of the creativity engendered by a literary system governed by institutionalised censorship. Aesopian language developed from a particular kind of writing used to imply an ideological attitude or political statement which might otherwise attract the attention of the censors. “Hints and circumlocutions” by means of literary devices such as parody were therefore common in many writers’ works. Loseff likens Aesopian language to the concept of a mode of writing, the third element of Barthes’s model of language, style and writing, influenced by historical and social conditions (Loseff 1984: 6–7). Such a mode of writing can be seen as forming part of the writer’s habitus. It was familiar to most Russian writers and translators and was not only used in literature for adults but also for children. As indicated above, many writers, in order to make a living under the stringent conditions of post-revolutionary Russia, turned to translation. In the 1920s many writers similarly abandoned their primary goal of writing for adults and turned to children’s literature, which allowed the expression of ideas that would have otherwise been prohibited. As a result, it was often aimed at a dual audience. Aesopian language was particularly useful as it meant that a work could be read on several levels, depending on the reader’s knowledge and background. For example, Kornei Chukovsky, regarded as the founder of Russian children’s literature, and a leading Soviet translator and theoretician, made extensive use of parody in his works, and in this way his books played a significant role in nurturing generations of readers who were accustomed to seeking a subtext in the works they read (Loseff 1984: 198). This phenomenon is not directly evident in Volkov’s work, but it


Judith A. Inggs

considerably strengthens the argument concerning the creative effect of censorship on the production of literature. A. I. Herzen had highlighted this influence as early as the mid-nineteenth century: “…censorship is highly conducive to progress in the mastery of style and the ability to restrain one’s words” (quoted in Loseff 1984: 11). Many writers were involved in both translating and writing for children. But of course not only the writers and translators were involved in the process, and four actors can be identified in the production of translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union: the Author, the Censor, the Translator and the Reader /s. Each of these agents acted within particular structures, or fields, which shaped the writing, translation and reading of literature, often placing sociocultural, socio-political and institutional constraints on those processes. Just as writers were expected to write in line with the tenets of socialist realism, translators were also obliged to act and translate in specific ways, applying a form of self-censorship within the framework of their own education and knowledge of the world within the restricted ‘field’ of translation in the Soviet Union. Gouanvic speaks of writers in the US in the inter-war period being obliged to “play the sociocultural game in the American social space, treating themes and discourses that conformed to the ambient doxa” (Gouanvic 2005: 153). This is exactly the kind of game (illusio in Bourdieu’s terminology) that was being played in the Soviet Union during the same era — for both sets of writers and translators the trick lay in “being able to find innovative ways around this censorship; this is how they made their mark” (Gouanvic 2005: 153). Structural censorship in the Soviet Union took place in a particular field, determined by the habitus of the agents in that field, but it was not just, as Billiani describes structural censorship, “a set of unwritten rules, shaped both by the current habitus and by the symbolic capital a text enjoys in a certain field” (Billiani 2007: 8). In the Soviet Union there were also institutional, written rules alongside the unwritten ones, shaped by the various agents involved and also by Communist Party policy. Literary texts not only existed in the artistic field but also in the political field, where they were regarded as words on paper, rather than works of art (Loseff 1984: 5). Thus the relationship between the written and the unwritten rules became a further site for playing a socio-political and ideological game, and not only a socio-cultural one. 3. Translated Children’s Literature in the Soviet Union Foreign children’s literature in the Soviet Union can be regarded as a restricted field in that it was translated and published by a specific state publishing house founded by Gorky in 1933 with the express objective of translating the ‘best’

Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union


children’s books from around the world. Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaia, believed that children’s books were the foundation of the materialist world-view of the next generation (O’Dell 1978: 53) and that their primary purpose was to instil in children a revolutionary communist ideology. As early as 1918, children’s literature had been singled out as the medium with the greatest potential for implanting ideas most in accord with the desired social development (Starza 1984: 28). When socialist realism became the authorised literary genre over the next ten to fifteen years, it required that reality be reflected in a positive light: doubts and uncertainties in the minds of the characters were discouraged and passages of introspection or psychological analysis were regarded as undesirable. The central themes of new works were military, patriotic and revolutionary, in contrast with the main themes of Western writing for children.7 As a result, a strict selection process was followed to identify works to be translated, while many existing translations were removed from circulation. Nevertheless, in much the same way as Aesopian language allowed the expression of ideas that would have been unacceptable if stated openly, fantasy literature for children also flourished during this period. As Maria Nikolajeva explains, the restrictive cultural climate in the Soviet Union meant that “for some authors a children’s book, or more precisely a fairy tale or fantastic tale, appeared to be the best way to express beliefs that in strictly realistic prose might seem controversial or alien to the official ideology” (Nikolajeva 1995: 106). The image of English language children’s literature was inevitably distorted as a result. As contemporary works were the most likely to contain anti-revolutionary content, an image of English-language children’s literature was constructed which was largely defined by nineteenth century and early twentieth century writers, such as Mark Twain, Daniel Defoe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, and William Mayne Reid (Brandis 1980). Works which are considered classic texts of English language children’s literature, such as Peter Pan (1904) and Mary Poppins (1934) only appeared in the late 1960s, and The Hobbit (1937) and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) only in the 1970s, although the latter two did not receive a great deal of attention at the time (Nikolajeva 1995: 106). Anne of Green Gables (1908) was still unknown in the mid 1990s, and as late as 1992, Enid Blyton, whose works have been translated into over 90 languages, was unknown to the librarian in charge of the foreign language section at the largest children’s library in Moscow (Personal interview, 1992).8 At the end of the 1980s, calls began to be made by Soviet critics for works to be made available which were well known internationally but virtually unknown in the Soviet Union, for example, Charlotte’s Web, the Tarzan series, and works by Blyton and Beatrix Potter (Vol’pe 1989: 45). Unfortunately the hunger for previously unavailable works led to wholesale and indiscriminate translations, the quality of which was often very poor. This was exacerbated by the fact that in the early 1990s, for the first time in fifty or sixty


Judith A. Inggs

years, publishers were required to become self-sufficient and profitable, often setting prices far above a reasonable level. For example, in 1989 Volkov’s The Wizard of the Emerald City was on sale in Moscow for a price twice the average monthly income (Nikolajeva 1995: 108). 3.2 The Example of The Wizard of Oz The reasons for the rejection of Volkov’s initial translation are unclear, but the changes made in Volkov’s Wizard of the Emerald City provide some indication. Adaptations during the Soviet period highlighted those values which were prevalent in original literature written for children: a sense of comradeship rather than personal enrichment, hard work, and loyalty to society rather than individualistic gain. Maria Nikolajeva notes that:
[t]he focus in many of the adaptations shifted from the attainment of wealth or other personal benefits (such as Pinocchio’s longing to become a human boy) toward social improvements, collective happiness, freedom, equality, and other empty slogans of official Soviet culture. (1995: 106).9

Baum’s own Wizard of Oz generally attracted the attention of economists rather than literary critics. In 1964 Henry Littlefield argued that Baum’s work was a “parable on populism”, and drew analogies with contemporary economic and political issues (Parker 1994). In 1990 Hugh Rockoff presented the story as a monetary allegory. These and other scholars interpreted the book as a “critique of American industrial capitalism” (Parker 1994). Such interpretations may not have been contrary to Soviet ideology but by the 1980s they were challenged, notably by William R. Leach, who rather saw Baum’s work as a celebration of the “urban consumer culture of the turn of the century”, helping to “make people feel at home in America’s new industrial economy” and to “appreciate and enjoy, without guilt, the new consumer abundance and way of living produced by that economy” (quoted in Parker 1994). Parker’s conclusion is that there was no factual basis for asserting that Baum wrote his book as a populist allegory — but equally, that it could be read as an allegory of the silver movement, during which time silver became a symbol of economic justice for the American people, not long before The Wizard of Oz was written. It is hard to avoid the significance of the silver slippers, which hold a potent power, and which are eventually revealed as able to take their wearer wherever she wishes to go. The silver slippers are retained in Volkov’s work, although it is unlikely that Russian readers would have been aware of the significance or the details of the Free Silver Movement. In his introduction Baum states that the story was written solely “to pleasure children” aspiring to be a “modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and

Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union


joy are retained and the heart-ache and nightmares are left out”. Even if Parker’s comment that the story “showed American society and culture in all its wonderful diversity and contradictions” is true (1994), these are not the details that Volkov omits. In both Baum’s and Volkov’s work Dorothy and Ellie’s first night spent with the Munchkins is characterised by an abundance of good food and, in Volkov’s tale, “a huge number of pastries were eaten and an immeasurable quantity of soft drinks consumed” (Volkov 1992: 24),10 whereas such excesses are not referred to in Baum’s story, which only mentions that the house “was the home of one of the richest Munchkins in the land” (Baum 30). In both stories too, the central message that the Wizard is a fraud and an impostor, albeit benevolent, is retained. The main changes introduced by Volkov involve the portrayal of the characters in line with the socialist realist requirements that they should display courage, decisiveness and the ability to work in a team. Volkov succeeds in turning Baum’s undeniably insipid characters into deeper and more complex characters, with strengthened personal qualities such as friendship, loyalty and steadfastness. This overall change is evident from the very beginning of the narrative which in the original opens with a description of the tediousness and drudgery of the everyday life of Dorothy’s aunt and uncle. Baum emphasises the lack of joy in their lives and the bleakness of the landscape where “everything was dull and grey” (Baum 1985: 14). It was not acceptable, however, to describe life on a farm in a negative light in the Soviet Union of the 1930s — a decade characterised by intense suffering on the part of Russian peasants who were forced into collective farming. Volkov removes Dorothy’s orphan status, and endows his protagonist, Ellie, with loving and cheerful parents called Anna and Farmer John, in stark contrast with Baum’s Aunt Em, who was “thin and gaunt, and never smiled, now” and Uncle Henry, who “never laughed” and “did not know what joy was” (Baum 1985: 14). Volkov places a strong emphasis on his characters’ fortitude and steadfastness: whenever a hurricane overturns the small house trailer in which they live, John is described as setting it upright again, putting the stove and the beds back in place while Ellie collects the scattered pewter plates and other meagre belongings, until “everything would be in order again — until the next storm” (Volkov 1992: 5). Besides depicting his characters differently, Volkov also made significant changes to the content of the story. In line with the Soviet view that misfortune is caused by an external enemy, the cyclone is no longer a natural phenomenon but is conjured up by the wicked witch Gingema, who replaces the Wicked Witch of the East, and who is plotting to destroy humankind (see Mitrokhina 1996–7: 184). Similarly, it is not pure chance that brings the house down on Gingema’s head but the work of Villina, the Witch of the Yellow Land, who is the counterpart of the Witch of the North.


Judith A. Inggs

Dorothy helps her three friends, encountered by chance on her journey, out of the goodness of her heart. In contrast, Ellie is instructed by Villina, who consults the Magic Book, an external source of instructions, to appeal to the Wonderful Wizard Goodwin (or Gudvin, in transliteration) for help, in the hope that he will help to send her home if she helps three beings to fulfil their greatest desires. Thus, Dorothy now has an ulterior motive when she offers to help — in contrast to what might be viewed as a Christian sense of selflessness in Baum’s story and yet also seemingly at odds with the positive heroine of socialist realist literature. Dorothy, a relatively resilient character, despite her rather shallow portrayal in Baum’s work, takes on a much more vulnerable persona in the form of Volkov’s Ellie, who is much more exposed to, and potentially a victim of, external forces. This vulnerability is reinforced by Volkov’s introduction of several more frightening natural and evil phenomena in his adaptation, including man-eating ogres and terrible floods. Ellie is also often depicted as making fundamental errors of judgement. She falls prey to the man-eating ogre directly because of her flagrant disregard of the advice in the Magic Book when she is duped into believing a sign which says: “Around the bend in the road all your wishes will be fulfilled!” (Volkov: 41) The consequences of disobedience are made quite clear. Ellie’s foolishness equates to gullibility and weakness, further evidenced by the fact that she bursts into tears and begs the giant for mercy (Volkov: 44). Soviet critics would later praise Volkov’s version for having a deeper “social resonance” (Brandis 1980: 216). This is chiefly reflected in Volkov’s more developed characters, and the additional trials and tribulations that they undergo, providing greater opportunities for demonstrating their friendship, loyalty and resilience. In the 1990s, Russian critics suggested that the success and popularity of Volkov’s Wizard of the Emerald City and its sequels was a result of the values and attitudes Volkov promoted — courage, strength, resourcefulness, kindness, loyalty, fantasy and humour (Khristenko 1991: 121). These qualities are specifically heightened in Volkov’s tale, including a strong emphasis on the role of comradeship. As Brandis comments: “[i]t is the intelligent and courageous person who is a true friend who possesses the magical power of victory; without true comradeship the forces of evil cannot be overcome.” (1991: 121) There is an element of moralising didacticism in Volkov’s version which is not evident in The Wizard of Oz. In the 1960s, Volkov wrote in an afterword: “I reduced the book considerably, squeezed all the water out, exterminated the narrow-minded morals typical of Anglo-Saxon literature, wrote new chapters, and introduced new heroes” (cited in Mitrokhina 1996–7: 183). The narrow-minded morals to which he refers are not easily found, however, and in fact the morals of the two stories are very similar, although Volkov did indeed introduce new characters and new adventures, such as the escape from the “saber-toothed tigers”

Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union


(Volkov 54–62) and the flood which leaves them stranded and prompts Strasheela to pronounce that when back in the Emerald City he will “pass a law prohibiting rain!” (Volkov 153). In a later Afterword Volkov again emphasised the importance of friendship and mutual help: “It was these things that helped Ellie and her friends escape danger in Magic Land and to achieve fulfilment of their fondest wishes” (Volkov in Blystone 1991: 146). This is true of the ‘first’ text too, but the emphasis on these qualities is considerably strengthened in Volkov’s derived text. A notable example is the episode in which Scarecrow finds himself stranded on a pole in the middle of the river (Baum 67–71). When the remainder of the party reach the shore, they seem resigned to Scarecrow’s fate: “ ‘What shall we do now?’ asked the Tin Woodman, as the Lion lay down on the grass to let the sun dry him.” Dorothy rather pragmatically responds: “We must get back to the road, in some way” (69) and, when they happen to see the Scarecrow on their way back to road, they gaze “wistfully” at him (69) with no apparent plan until the Stork flies by and helps them rescue him. In contrast, in Volkov’s version Ellie shows considerable resourcefulness, and when Lion asks where they should go now, she does not hesitate: “Back there, to where our friend is. We can’t just leave here without rescuing our dear friend Strasheela” (64). They prove themselves far more proactive than Baum’s rather pathetic little group and come up with several ideas until Lion resolves that the best option is for him to swim out and fetch him, despite the danger that the current might take him off course. The Stork arrives just in time, however, and picks up where Baum’s novel left off. A further addition, again accounted for by adjustments in accordance with Soviet ideology, is found in the scene which depicts Ellie as a revolutionary activist. Volkov himself commented that both his world and Baum’s were “very similar to the capitalist world familiar to the writer, where the prosperity of the majority is built on the exploitation and deception of the majority” (quoted in Brandis 1980: 216–217). There is no attempt to unseat Goodwin, who eventually sails off in his hot-air balloon, but he is not much mourned by the people of Volkov’s Emerald City, whereas Baum’s followers of Oz “would not be comforted” (155). However, when Ellie and her friends are captured by the Wicked Witch of the East, Bastinda, who rules over the Miguni, keeping them captive, Ellie tries to instigate an uprising: “There are so many of you, thousands of you, but you are afraid of one wicked old woman. You could all attack her, tie her up and put her in the iron cage, there, where Lion is now” (Volkov: 110). In the ‘first’ version Dorothy passively accepts her lot and sees no way out of captivity: “Sometimes she would cry bitterly for hours”, and although Baum tells the reader that the Witch has a great fear of water and never “let water touch her in any way”, he gives no indication that his protagonist has noted the significance of this (Baum 1985: 117). Ellie, in contrast, notices this fear of water from her first days of captivity and regularly “used it to


Judith A. Inggs

her advantage” pouring several bucketfuls of water on the kitchen floor before going outside to rest in the cage where Lion was locked up: “Bastinda screeched and cursed from behind the door, but if she looked into the kitchen and saw the puddles on the floor, she would run away in terror to her bedroom” (Volkov: 110). Using techniques of infiltration, Ellie plants doubt into the mind of Fregoza, the cook, who comes to suspect that Bastinda is uncertain of the strength of her powers, a suspicion that is confirmed when Fregoza eavesdrops on Bastinda’s mutterings. Making use of an insider to incite rebellion, Ellie and her friends decide that Fregoza should instigate the move to overthrow Bastinda; but before this happens, Baum’s story takes over the narrative once again, and the Witch/Bastinda melts away after Dorothy/Ellie douses her with a bucket of water in anger after she steals one of the silver shoes. This incident is consistent with the repositioning of the story in a different ideological context in a different field and involving different agents, and represents a further example of the creativity instigated by a process of censorship and adaptation. 4. Conclusion This article set out to show that processes of literary translation and censorship in the Soviet Union worked together and were shaped by pre-Revolutionary modes of translation and attitudes towards literary translation. In a tradition of loose translation and rewriting, reinforced by institutionalised censorship, it was perfectly acceptable to appropriate “first texts” and make them into secondary “first texts” in the target language and literary system. This process was even more acceptable in the context of children’s literature, often deemed to have a lower status than so-called serious adult fiction. The Soviet example of The Wizard of the Emerald City is one illustration of how social, political and cultural forces operated on the translation, production and circulation of a story. As stated above, the reasons for the rejection of Volkov’s initial translation appear to be undocumented and unclear. Whether or not the rejection is fact, without the established tradition of appropriating first texts and without the inspiration of L. Frank Baum’s novel, The Wizard of the Emerald City would not have been written. As in the development of Aesopian language, censorship proved to be both a repressive and creative force operating in the literary system. Works which were prohibited paved the way for the creation of other works inspired by those that had been suppressed. Thus, as Foucault observed, one effect of the control exercised by censorship was to produce further discourses (Foucault 1978: 17–18). There was no sanction on taking over another author’s work and the absence of any signed copyright agreement suited both the authorities and the translators, who were obliged to make their

Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union


translations and adaptations conform to the norms of Socialist Realism. They were then justified in using and manipulating those norms for their specific purposes. Of even more significance is the fact that Volkov’s versions and subsequent stories in the series acquired their own symbolic capital, the life of which was then extended and prolonged in Blystone’s translations of those adaptations as Tales of Magic Land.

1. See, for example, a special issue of The Translator on Bourdieu and the Sociology of Translation and Interpreting (2005). 2. Despite extensive inquiry, and corroboration on a verbal level, there seems to be no documentary proof of the rejection available. 3. For a detailed account of censorship in Soviet literature from 1917 to 1991, see Herman Ermolaev (1997). 4. The total number of books in the series, expanded by subsequent writers, now stands at 40 (Translator’s Afterword to Volkov 1991: 331). 5. Vissarion Belinsky, the great 19th century Russian literary critic, had earlier advocated distortion with the aim of making the text more accessible to the reader — this was picked up on eagerly by Soviet authorities to justify the common practice of adaptation (Friedberg 1997: 140). 6. Of course, the distortion of Soviet and Russian texts was often just as, if not even more, destructive. Herman Ermolaev cites the censoring of Virgin Soil Upturned by Mikhail Sholokhov as a “crippling amputation” which left only 55% of the original text (Ermolaev 1997: 96). 7. See J. V. Aspatore, The Military-Patriotic Theme in Soviet Textbooks and Children’s Literature, Ph.D. Thesis, Georgetown University, Georgetown, 1986. (UMI Dissertaion Information Service, 1989) for a discussion of these themes in Soviet children’s literature. 8. Personal interviews conducted in August and September 1992 in Moscow at the State Children’s Library of the Russian Federation. 9. Pinocchio is another example of a work that was adapted and appropriated, in this case by Alexey Tolstoy as Adventures of Buratino (1936). 10. All translations from Russian sources, including Volshebnik Izymrudnogo goroda, are my own, unless otherwise stated.


Judith A. Inggs

Aspatore, J. V. The Military-Patriotic Theme in Soviet Textbooks and Children’s Literature. 1986. Unpublished Ph.D.Thesis. Georgetown: Georgetown University. (UMI Dissertaion Information Service, 1989). Baum, Frank L. 1985 (1900). The Wizard of Oz. London: Chancellor Press. Billiani, Francesca. 2007. “Assessing Boundaries — Censorship and Translation”. Francesca Billiani, ed. Modes of Censorship and Translation: National Contexts and Diverse Media. Manchester: St Jerome. 1–25. Billiani, Francesca, ed. 2007. Modes of Censorship and Translation: National Contexts and Diverse Media. Manchester: St Jerome. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Edited by John B. Thompson. Translated by Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action. Cambridge: Polity Press. Brandis, Evgenii . 1980. Ot Ezopa do Dzhanni Rodari. Moskva: Detskaya Literatura. Ermolaev, Herman. 1997. Censorship in Soviet Literature 1917–1991. Maryland, USA: Rowman and Littlefield. Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality: An introduction. Vol 1. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Random House. Friedberg, Maurice. 1997. Literary Translation in Russia: a cultural history. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. Gouanvic, Jean-Marc. 2005. “A Bourdieusian Theory of Translation, or the coincidence of practical instances”. Moira Inghillieri, ed. Special Issue of The Translator 11: 2. 147–166. Inghillieri, Moira, ed. 2005. The Translator: Bourdieu and the Sociology of Translation and Interpreting. Special Issue of The Translator 11:2. Khristenko, M. A. 1991. “Puteshestvie v volshebnuyu strany”. Literatura v shkole. 2. 121–125. Leighton, Lauren. 1991. Two Worlds, One Art: Literary translation in Russia and America. Northern Illinois University Press: DeKalb, Illinois. Littlefield, Henry M. 1964. “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism”. American Quarterly 16. 1. 47–58. Loseff, Lev. 1984. On the Beneficence of Censorship: Aesopian Language in Modern Russian Literature. Translated by Jane Bobko. München: Verlag Otto Sagner in Kommission. Mitrokhina, Xenia. 1996–7. “The Land of Oz in the Land of the Soviets”. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly. 21:4. 183–188. Nikolajeva, Maria. 1995. “Russian Children’s Literature before and after Perestroika”. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly. 20: 3. 105–110. O’Dell, Felicity. 1978. Socialisation through Children’s Literature: the Soviet example. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parker, David. 1994. “The Rise and Fall of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a Parable on Populism”. Journal of the Georgia Association of Historians. 15. 49–63. Available at: http://www. [Accessed January 2011] Plamper, Jan. 2001. “Abolishing Ambiguity: Soviet Censorship Practices in the 1930s”. The Russian Review 60. 526–44. Rockoff, Hugh. 1990. “ ‘The ‘Wizard of Oz’ as a Monetary Allegory”.Journal of Political Economy. 98: 4. 739–760.

Censorship and translated children’s literature in the Soviet Union Sherry, Samantha. 2010. “Censorship in translation in the Soviet Union: The manipulative rewriting of Howard Fast’s Novel The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti”. Slavonica 16: 1. 1 –14. Starza, Arleta. 1983. Children’s Literature in the Soviet Union: 1917–1934. Unpublished PhD dissertation. Nottingham: University of Nottingham. (British Theses Service). Tax Choldin, Marianna. 1986. “The New Censorship: Censorship by Translation in the Soviet Union”. The Journal of Library History 21: 2. 334–349. Volkov, Alexander. 1939. Volshebnik Izumrudnogo Goroda. Moskva: Dom Rossiiskogo Detskogo Fonda. Volkov, Alexander Melentyevich. 1991. Tales of Magic Land 1: The Wizard of the Emerald City. (Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ) and Urfin Jus and his Wooden Soldiers. Translated from the Russian by Peter L. Blystone. New York: Red Branch Press. Vol’pe, М. 1989. “Stoit li zabyvat’ Penroda?” Detskaya Literatura. 8. 45.


Author’s address
Professor Judith A. Inggs Translation and Interpreting Studies School of Literature and Language Studies University of the Witwatersrand Private Bag 3 WITS 2050 South Africa