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Soviet Subversion in Hebrew Translations Essay Example

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Undoubtedly, creatives provide their audiences with content that mirrors the happenings in society. Often writers, actors, and artists offer contact that depicts their incidents in their surroundings, usually to condemn injustices, highlight important issues, warn humanity of impending dangers, or entertain their audiences. Consequently, most artists have found themselves on the wrong side of the law as they try to generate content embodying their societies. More specially, writers in authoritarian jurisdictions like the former society unions faced challenging tasks in producing and disseminating their written or spoken content due to the autocratic regime that ruled the country with an iron fist. Therefore, it is don't that Russian literature grew from infancy and onto the global arena under the watchful eyes of ideological censorship. This paper goes into great detail to showcase children's literature during the soviet union and the challenges endured by authors at that tumultuous time in Russian history while juxtaposing the society literature to Hebrew translations and the meanings that suffice afterward. This is effected by analyzing the work of Sandra Beckett, "Transcending Boundaries," and "The Collected Children's Poem" by Lea Goldberg.

Undoubtedly, the association between state censorship and literature has been the subject of various investigations for quite a while. Multiple studies have investigated the history of literary censorship in Russia as a state agenda. At the same time, other inquiries explore the techniques used by individual authors and literary magazines to circumvent censorial hindrances. As such, Russian literary scholars have been tasked with interpreting literary works since the literature abounds with irony, allusions, allegories, circumlocutions, and systems of codes. All these terms are referred to as Aesopian language, a phrase conjured in the 1860s by M.E. Saltykov (Beckett, 2012). Notably, Aesopian language can be described as a unique aesthetic system since it is laden with messages that face censorship and are subject to readers' receptiveness of the secret messages inherent in the texts in the phase of information theory. There are two main features of Aesopian texts; "markers," which signal to the audience the presence of hidden messages in work, and "Screens," which ideally work to hide the real message contained in the test to prevent it from censorship. As a result, the awareness of censorship promoted Russian writers to utilize screens and markers (Aesopian metastyles) in great detail. Therefore, it can be argued that the very purpose of Aesopian writing is to perform a sort of ritual that celebrates the hoodwinking and deception of authorities, especially in societies where there is no literary freedom for writers to express themselves freely.

Beckett (2012) states categorically the soviet union was a historical disaster. To reinforce this point, Eugene Ionesco said they were supposed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Russian revolution to celebrate a better society, but the opposite was expected. Although they hoped the Russian revolution would transform their community into a better place, it alienated the Russian organization even more. Due to the challenges experienced in Russia over the phase of the revolution, authors were inclined to develop work aimed at an audience encompassing both adults and children. Then, authors in the repressive regime desired to use Aesopian language laden with deceptive means and hidden meanings to criticize and want the nature of politics, national life, and society in Russia. In their quest, the writers desired an insightful adult reader who could naturalize the text and make sense of stylistic devices such as allegory, allusion, parody, and many more. All these were against the backdrop of the Stalinist terror in the soviet union. In addition, Aesopian children's literature implied that an audience of children would naturalize any work or literature and perceive it innocently as children's literature. Lastly, the authors also enslaved another category of adult readers known as the 'censor' who would read the text and perceive it usually without noticing any underlying subversive subtext.

Opinion about other aspects of Aesopian language used in children's literature: screens, markers, and ambivalence

Examining a literary work from an Aesopian perspective divides it into two sets of literary devices, each with an opposite intent. On the one hand, the instruments, on the one hand, are bent on hiding the Aesopian text, whereas the other devices are meant to draw attention to the Aesopian context. The writers' ability in the soviet union thus gave them the ability for their books to be read as literary/cultural studies of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. At the same time, other scholars in the soviet era who penned scientific journals, translations, historical studies, and other literary criticism wrote their work in parables criticizing dictators such as Stalin and Lenin and the harsh life that dignified the communist era. Therefore, it is no doubt that writings ordered on Aesopian literature, whether during the soviet or tsarist times, aimed at attacking the powers that be and allowing the Aesopian writer and reader to experience a win over a dictatorial regime. Therefore, the "deflationary" devices employed by Bakhtin, discussed extensively in his analysis of Rabelais, were explicitly what he and other artists used in the Aesopian language.

Indeed, authors and other scholars who desire to highlight the challenges experienced in repressive regimes always find a means of conveying their messages to their audiences. Since such writers are usually aware of the potential consequences of openly criticizing their authoritarian readers, they use subtle means to disseminate their writings and ensure their message reaches their audience. Admittedly, using the Aesopian language has been a big step in ensuring authors can subtly criticize governments in the soviet and tsarist regimes. To conceal their messages even further, the authors devised using children's literature to disguise their messages to their audiences. Unbeknownst to many people, the ability to use children's literature to hide seditious content highlights an intriguing issue in the research of Aesopian language, and there were a myriad of practitioners of the genre o "quasi- children's literature." Another vital "screen" apart from making a particular work look like mere children's literature was the ability of authors to create other literary pieces that did not correlate with or have undertones of Aesopian language. The authors had to ensure that Aesopian work had to be the exception and not the rule not to arouse the censor's suspicion.

Another issue to remember regarding the "screen,", especially in children's literature, is that if a particular work was Aesopian, this reality could be concealed beyond what would be achieved by the work's ambivalence. For instance, Daniil Kharm's poem, "Million," is an example of a children's poem that signifies a patriotic marching song depicting its Aesopian nature by amounting to nothing but a ridiculous undertaking in counting children. Nonetheless, this poem was accompanied by a visual illustration that exclusively stressed the non-Aesopian aspect of the poem. Additional screening of a literary piece's Aesopian mode could be achieved depending on where that work was situated in a magazine or book publication. Elena Sokol writes about "Editors" that 'Million' has been placed at the beginning of the three recent collections of Kharm's work targeted at a children's audience. The censor would have interpreted the message in the work as a genuine expression of patriotic fervor on the author's part meant to contribute to improving the child's character, just like other "good" literature written during the Soviet era. On the other hand, Loseff's analysis clearly states that an adult keenly reading "Million" and paying attention to its contents would have realized its intentions and the secret Aesopian language. The keen adult would not otherwise e betrayed by the text's prominent positioning or the ideologically filled illustrations.

Comparing it to the Hebrew translation

Goldberg (2014) goes to great lengths to depict various aspects of Aesopian language in her collection of children's poems. She provides a literary piece depicting various occurrences in an authoritarian society and uses images and pictures to make the work more appealing and attractive to her audience. A casual look at the work can give one thought that Goldberg's work is intended for a children's audience. This initial thought may cross a reader's mind due to the nature of the poems and the characters used in the work. For instance, some of the characters used in the poem are an elephant, a lion, a giraffe, a bird, a bear, and a hare, among others. Such kind of characterization is meant to apply to a children's audience who are flattered by such animal characters due to their behavior.

However, analysis of this Hebrew literature shows that it is laden with Aesopian language aimed at chiding those in authority and exposing their wickedness and shortcomings. Goldberg (2014) is to show the rest of society how the animal characters in the poems represent humans in society. More specially, the big animals like the lion and the elephant represent those in authority who make rules and lord their leadership over others. On the contrary, the smaller animals like birds, hares, and fleas represent the population or the citizens who have to put up with authority from the more giant animals. The poem starts by depicting the hare and his friends walking down the road in a jolly mood and talking animatedly with each other. Shortly afterward, the lion shows up, and things turn awry. He says that he will have a friend and make him a minister. The lion says that once his friend becomes minister, he will lick two ratels of sugar—this depicts how those in authority appoint their friends in lucrative dockets and inspire the masses. Later on, their friends end up plundering the state coffers, which is evident when the lion says that his friend will lick two hotels of sugar. When they are broken later, the lion cries that no single animal is a hero. He is disappointed in the animals who try only to save themselves by running away. The audience of this text can note the elements of Aesopian language in the text and how the author has used animals to represent human characters. Despite the lion oppressing the rest of the small animals by awarding his friend a ministerial rank, he expects the other animals to fight and save his kingdom when war breaks. Eventually, he is disappointed when the animals are not interested in fighting, and they all choose to run away. In conclusion, analyzing visual, spoken, or written material can provide great insight into the intricacies of social life. In a sense, social life is understood via analysis of language in its raw form and provides ways of investigating meaning, whether done in culture or conversation. Indeed, retelling foreign literary works may be alien to some cultures, and comprehending how, why, and when some work was written is vital for internalizing soviet literature. As seen from the preceding, soviet literature was full of Aesopian hints that hid the exact meaning of the work, albeit to shield the authors from government sanctions or censorships at the height of authoritarian rule by Stalin or in the era of the czars. Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, a soviet satirist, is credited with coining the term "Aesopian language" to give authors the ability to "speak between the lines" in an era when literary bondage. Comparing soviet literature with Hebrew translations offers insight into how Hebrew writers also managed to convey their messages to their audience using children's literature. Like their Russian counterparts, Hebrew writers such as Lea Goldberg managed to use literary aspects such as "markers" and "Screens" in the children's poem, with the real audience being adults who can decipher the various hidden elements of Aesopian language in the text. Overall, one fundamental aspect of Aesopian language in literature is how its structure allows interaction between the reader and the author while cleverly hiding inadmissible and sensitive text from the authoritarian censor.


  • Beckett, S. (2012). Transcending Boundaries: Writing for a Dual Audience of Children and Adults.
  • Goldberg, L. (2014). The Collected Children's Poems Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House Ltd.
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