Literary Translation in Russia
Emily Lygo Free Verse and Soviet Poetry in the Post-Stalin Period
During the cultural Thaw after the death of Stalin, the Soviet authorities began to permit more publication of poetry in translation, and in so doing they enabled readers to catch up with developments in Western poetry which had not been accessible to them in the preceding decades. For the most part, the establishment – the Party operatives who controlled literary policy – remained conservative and resistant to avant-garde, abstract and free form in the arts,1 but the tendency of progressive Western poets to use non-classical verse form meant that Soviet translators had to explore the potential for free verse in Russian. In large-scale publications intended for a wide audience, non-classical poetry was accompanied by wary commentary, but within more specialist poetry circles, the translation of Western avant- garde poetry became a subject for considerable discussion. Liberal members of the intelligentsia put forward their view that ‘non-classical’ poetry could be translated ef fectively only if translators took existing Russian works in free verse as models. In this way, they argued for the recovery of poets who had been ‘forgotten’ during the Stalin period because their work did not conform to the methodology of Socialist Realism. With the recovery of this past arose questions of the meaning and significance of free verse, and of why it had been taken up so little by Soviet poets. Altogether, this was a period in which the translation of Western poetry raised important questions about the history and development of Russian poetry. During the early revolutionary period,...
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