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The Art of Accommodation

Literary Translation in Russia


Edited By Leon Burnett and Emily Lygo

This collection of essays is a seminal contribution to the establishment of translation theory within the field of Russian literature and culture. It brings together the work of established academics and younger scholars from the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States, Sweden and France in an area of academic study that has been largely neglected in the Anglophone world. The essays in the volume are linked by the conviction that the introduction of any new text into a host culture should always be considered in conjunction with adjustments to prevailing conventions within that culture. The case studies in the collection, which cover literary translation in Russia from the eighteenth century to the twentieth century, demonstrate how Russian culture has interpreted and accommodated translated texts, and how translators and publishers have used translation as a means of responding to the literary, social and political conditions of their times. In integrating research in the area of translated works more closely into the study of Russian literature and culture generally, this publication represents an important development in current research.


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Susanna Witt Arts of Accommodation: The First All-Union Conference of Translators, Moscow, 1936,


and the Ideologization of Norms Если писатели – «инженеры человеческих душ», то мы – «инженеры связи», мы должны работать немедленно.1 Introduction Recent years have witnessed an intense interest in the culture of the Stalin period and the publication of important studies from a wide range of dis- ciplinary and methodological angles.2 One aspect of Soviet culture still largely neglected, however, is that of literary translation.3 The growing 1 ‘If writers are the “engineers of human souls”, then we are the “engineers of com- munication”, and must work hastily.’ Translator Ezra Levontin on a meeting at the Translators’ Section 29 October 1935 (RGALI, f. 631, op. 21, ed. khr. 8, l. 18). 2 See, for example: Sheila Fitzpatrick, ed., Stalinism. New Directions (London: Routledge, 2000); David Brandenberger, National Bolshevism: Stalinist Mass Culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity, 1931–1956 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Evgeny Dobrenko and Eric Naiman, eds, The Landscape of Stalinism: The Art and Ideology of Soviet Space (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003); Karl Schlögel, Terror und Traum: Moskau 1937 (Munich: Hanser, 2008). 3 A sign of emerging attention is Katerina Clark’s recent monograph Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931–1941 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 2011). Highlighting the specific Soviet 142 Susanna Witt significance of translations was, towards the mid-1930s, perceived and debated within the literary establishment itself. Whereas the formation of the Writers’ Union and its First Congress in 1934 is an obligatory topic in any account of the period, there are no studies as yet devoted...

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