Volume 25, No.2 - Summer 1979
Editor of this issue: V. Stanley Vardys
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1979 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.




Literary historians only rarely show interest in translations. Even if discussed, in the best of circumstances, translations are considered to be of marginal literary significance. Every or perhaps almost every literary historian prefers the writers of his own country. Such choice is natural; however, it is only a matter of habit and convention. Translations, of course, are works of secondary importance, but their literary weight generally is not less, and sometimes even greater than that of original works. Moreover, it is difficult to draw strict boundaries between the two spheres. The literature of most nations begins with translations. Lithuanian is no exception. In the present day when the "Gutenberg galaxy" has almost turned into a metagalaxy, even cultures most distant in respect to time and space have begun to blend. Translations take up a very large share in bibliographies, on the shelves and even in the memory of readers. Foreign themes and artistic structures, and even foreign literary fashions are in time accepted and adopted. On the other hand, their adoption provokes a reaction, a certain challenge to write something genuinely original that arises from the native tradition and one that is not inferior to foreign works. This process of exchange and competition is very useful to literature: it permits constant renewal; petrified artistic mechanisms are discarded; translators often perfect the literary language almost as much as the writers themselves. From the viewpoint of language, the translator Mikalojus Daukða (16th century) is just as important as the original writer Kristijonas Donelaitis (end of 18th century) and a good translation of Marcel Proust is more valuable than twenty original novels.

Translations and Censorship

Undoubtedly, deformation and gaps occur in the field of translation (where don't they occur?). Generally, translators prefer the literature of large nations, though this preference is not necessarily deserved. Deformation is further influenced by market conditions, by the intellectual as well as informational inertia, and recently in the West by a certain kind of cultural oversaturation. One or another kind of noise in the information channels often distorts the literary work and even the whole image of world literature. The causes of this noise are various, for example, insufficient competence of the translators or insufficient maturity of the very culture. One additional distorting influence, however, in today's world is stronger and more harmful than all the other combined. This is the conscious and planned ideological deformation characteristic to totalitarian countries. This planned deformation hinders Eastern Europe's ties with world culture, although it does not and perhaps can not destroy them. It, nevertheless, converts Eastern Europe into a distinct cultural continent in which a researcher finds many tragic events but even a larger number of strange and grotesque occurrences. By the way, this does not apply only to Eastern Europe. It probably even deeper affects Communist Asia; however, I am not an expert in this latter field. The ambition of a totalitarian system to control completely the behaviour and even the thoughts of every person, the pressure of censorship and indoctrination which is difficult to imagine for one who has not lived there evince strange results. Just as in the depths of the sea under the pressure of several miles of water there exist healthy, but quite horrid organisms, so also there exists in a lively and often interesting, but deformed culture, which reconciles irreconcilable elements, such as conformity on the one hand and adamant opposition to it on the other. Sometimes a particular individual combines both of these elements until one of them triumphs (unfortunately, conformity usually wins). Nowhere does there exist as much ignorance, cynicism, and simple fear as in this culture, but equally nowhere can there be found so much genuine natural faith in words and symbols, such an interest in any authentic creative expression, even though this may be substantially spoiled by the necessary ideological "reverences." Nowhere else can be found such refined ability to circumvent obstacles, to tell a part of the truth despite prohibition, and to mock the bitter poisoned official ideology. Ideological pressures produce in such cultures provincial and cartoonist characteristics, but they also often provoke very positive reactions. All this is appropriate to our discussion.

The role of translations in Eastern Europe has not been as widely analyzed as the original literature and the arts. In the field of translations, as in the other fields, we see the very same restrictions, the same grotesque disproportions and partiality, the same blind and at best Daltonic policies of the ideological leaders. On the other hand, however, we find the intense efforts by the artists to preserve and even expand the horizons of their people, to maintain a minimal cultural level, and circumvent the censorship, at least as long as it is altogether possible.

The contacts of the contemporary Lithuanian reader with world literature are about the same as those of all Eastern European readers. Lithuania can even serve as a representative sample for research. Lithuanian book publication is not too large to be encompassed and statistically analyzed. Tendencies discovered in the Lithuanian book publication are the same as in the other Soviet republics and East European states. I am, of course, not speaking about the various shades in publishing policies which sometimes seem the most obvious, but about the essential institutional tendencies. In regard to the shades of publishing policy, Lithuania stands "in the middle" (though the metaphor of the golden mean does not apply here). Lithuanian publishing policy is as liberal (sometimes even slightly more liberal) as that of Russia (that is, the Russian Republic); it is, however, more restricted than in Estonia, but much more liberal than in all the other republics. In comparison to the satellite Eastern Europe states, Lithuanian liberalism apparently exceeds Bulgaria and perhaps Romania and East Germany, but lags far behind Poland and Hungary. These assertions are based on a certain personal experience and insight; further research would improve them.

For this preliminary and tentative study I used only a few sources. The most important of these are two bibliographical works: Uþsienio raðytojai lietuviø kalba (Foreign Writers in Lithuanian) by S. Keblienë (Vilnius, 1970) and Rusø raðytojai lietuviø kalba (Russian Writers in Lithuanian) by Kh. Spitrys (Vilnius, 1974). Together they supply considerable material which characterizes the period until 1965. They also contain information about the later period, but this information must be supplemented by other data. Until the end of 1970 Pergalë (Victory, a literary monthly) published lists of recently released books. I also used Spaudos metraðtis (Yearbook of the Press); recent issues of this publication are found in the library of the University of California, Los Angeles. My own experience as translator, peer reader of translations by others, and as university lecturer also helped to systematize bibliographical data. In addition, at one time I was the director of the Literature Section of the Drama Theater in Ðiauliai and a contributor to the foreign literature section of the new Soviet Lithuanian Encyclopedia. I thus had an opportunity to become familiar with the repertoire and encyclopedia policies in contemporary Lithuania.

Foreign literature usually becomes a part of the native scene in three stages: first, information is secured (the writer is mentioned in the press, there is an article in the encyclopedia about him, etc.); second, the work is translated; and third, the translation is reviewed and interpreted. It is at this stage that the translated author begins to influence the readers. In Eastern European countries, however, the private "aura" of a foreign writer impresses the literary circles frequently before the translation of his works. An untranslated, unpublished and even unmentioned author can nevertheless become the object of conversation or even serious study; he frequently has stronger influence than others who are widely propagated. Such acceptance of foreign authors is elitist, sometimes risky, sometimes it has a tinge of snobism, but in our conditions it is quite important. Many foreign authors are read not in Lithuanian, but, for example, in Polish. The Polish bookstore in Vilnius occupies a very important place in the cultural life of the city. More than one Lithuanian has learned Polish for the sole purpose of being able legally to purchase and read Georges Bernanos, Andre Malraux or Norman Mailer. Some Western authors not translated into Lithuanian are accessible in Russian. There occur even greater curiosities; for example, I read Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's famous novel Il gattopardo in Ukrainian even though I do not know the language well (for some reason it was not published in Lithuanian or Russian until much later). Only a very small number of people become familiar with Western authors in their original languages. In Lithuania, as in Russia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union, foreign languages are taught in such a way that only a few learn them. As a result, only a few writers know a couple of Western languages. As a rule, these writers belong to the older generation. Moreover, for a long time Western books did not reach Lithuania at all. Today they are obtainable in various ways, but private libraries in Vilnius with the larger English, French, German or diverse foreign language collections can be easily counted on one's fingers. Usually, such collections belong to faculty instructors of foreign literature. In their own way, these instructors form still another "information filter." Although they are reasonably well informed, ex cathedra they almost do not deviate from the narrow and dogmatic curriculum program, that is, they do not as much transmit information, as impede it. There exists only one or another exception, whose name, of course, it is not proper to mention here. In general, the multilevel filter system (the filters of not knowing languages, dogmatic teaching, censorship, border control and, if necessary, the KGB) quite effectively isolate the broader levels of readership from the world literary process. On the other hand, much of the translated and annoyingly propagated literature is neither bought nor read — in essence, it is not an object of reception, that is, it is ignored. A constantly repeated name can be drilled into the memory of the reader, but that is as far as his acquaintance with the author will go.

Leaving aside these important but almost impossible to measure phenomena (they could be more accurately gauged by survey research of readers; under the present circumstances, however, such survey is impossible to conduct), let us analyse the statistics on translations. From a formal point of view, Lithuania has achieved some success in this field. More books are being translated and published than during the independence period. The geographic horizon has broadened. The level of translations is higher. State publishing house guarantees quite careful (but often picky and conformist) editing. However, it is reasonable to assume that had Lithuania remained independent for the last thirty years, the quality and quantity of translations would have greatly improved as well. It is quite another matter with the unconcealed bias, the artificial proportions imposed on the choice of works to be translated that are reflected in translation policies.

I will attempt to analyze translation statistics chronologically. I divide the post-war period into three decades: 1946-1955, 1956-1965, and 1966-1975. I will not examine the three latest years, 1975-1978, but will simply consider them as the "present." These decades more or less correspond to the three eras of Soviet life — the Stalin period (until the 20th Party Congress and the beginning of liberalization), the Khrushchev period (adding the first post-Khrushchev years, when the inertia of the "thaw" was still felt) and the Brezhnev period. The Brezhnev period should be divided into two halves: until 1970, dominated by intrastructural dissent, and after 1970, when intrastructural dissent was gradually suppressed and driven out of the system. A review of these periods shows not only the restriction and perversion of the cultural life but also the hidden trends of cultural policy within the narrowly defined framework of activity.

Translations During the Stalinist Period

Not everyone remembers the first decade, even though it shaped an entire (the present ruling) generation. During that period Lithuania was practically separated from the world. The Sovietization and Russification process was carried out in brutal, obvious forms. An attempt was made in a brief time to change totally the cultural orientation of the nation. In such circumstances it is perhaps quite inappropriate to use the word "culture" (viewing culture as a system of conventions, we nevertheless may grant a cultural status to Stalinism, but it is a case of a particularly degraded culture). All this was very evident in the field of translations. The lion's share of translations belonged to the works of Soviet Russian writers, among them almost exclusively to Orthodox Stalinists. No less than 109 Soviet Russian authors were translated during this decade with no less than 222 of their books. In this article, I give only the bottom statistical figures, I omit not only Russian, but also Western books for children and second-rate adventure works (of course, their selection is at times quite intuitive). During that decade only 64 authors and 103 books were translated from all the principal Western languages, namely, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Polish and several Scandinavian languages. The undisputed champion record holder (even during the later periods) was Maxim Gorky, who had twenty-five individual books and eleven volumes of collected works (nine volumes appeared in the next period) published in Lithuanian. Aleksandr Fadeyev, Dmitry Furmanov, Anton Makarenko, Nikolay Ostrovsky, Mikhail Sholokhov and other typical representatives of Socialist realism had several editions of almost all their works. For the abundance of such authors we would find perhaps only a few who under normal conditions would be worthy of translation — Iury Tynianov, Konstantin Paustovsky, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, and perhaps one or two additional writers. It is interesting to note that one of Viktor Nekrasov's books also appeared during this period — today Viktor Nekrasov is an active dissident living abroad, but he was not such at that time. It would be natural to have some Gorky translations (but of course not such a Niagara). It would be natural to have Sholokhov's — or perhaps not really Sholokhov's — And Quietly Flows the Don. It is worth remembering that Gorky and Sholokhov were translated also during the period of independence. However, tens of Soviet authors and hundreds of their works represent nothing but "informational noise." A great quantity of empty reading material is published not only in the Soviet Union, but the uniform values of Socialist realism both in terms of literary worth and its dreary ideology would stand out even in the worst background. Many Stalinist books depict collectivization and an ideal collectivized village (Semen Babaevsky, Elizar Maltsev, Fedor Panferov, the already mentioned Sholokhov), industry (Vasily Azhaev, Vsevolod Kochetov), war (Georgy Berezko, Mikhail Bubennov and tens of others). Except for the topic, it is difficult to distinguish any differences between their works. A considerable number of anti-imperialist (i. e., anti-American books were also translated as well as huge pseudohistorical novels about ancient Russia (e. g. Valentin Kostylev's trilogy on the then fashionable Ivan the Terrible). To these Soviet Russian authors one should also add very many analogous authors from the other Soviet republics whose literary value may be even lower although that is rather difficult to imagine. Not only the general public but even the less dogmatic ideological leaders of today probably view all this "required assortment" to have been a senseless waste of paper, finances and effort. Although creating such grotesque disproportions, by thus planned activities the state did not achieve the desired results. After the Stalinist period, the Lithuanian reader quickly regained a more or less normal scale of values (many readers had not yet lost it altogether) and the effort to totally integrate Lithuanian literature into the conglomerate of Soviet literature largely failed. Nevertheless, the consciousness of that generation remained deformed and even today we unfortunately feel the results of that deformation (provincialism, ignorance, and even worse consequences).

During this period, in addition to the Soviet authors, the Lithuanians translated many Russian classics. Generally, these translations also were more numerous than Western authors (no less than 32 authors with 107 books). Multivolume works of Aleksandr Pushkin, Nikolay Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Anton Chekhov were published at this time. This fact is somewhat more ambivalent. A translation of Eugene Onegin or of Chekhov's stories under normal conditions also would be considered a positive cultural work. However, a great disproportion is once again evident. Many translated books were of interest (and then not always) only to specialists of Russian literature, who of course, would and should read them in the original language (Denis Fonvizin, Aleksandr Radishchev, Nikolay Karamzin, Nikolay Pomialosvsky, Vasily Sleptsov, Konstantin Staniukovich, Dmitry Mamin-Sibiriak, many of Mikhail Saltykov's works). The worst thing was that the Russian classics, at least during this period, were promoted much more than Lithuanian classics. During the Stalin period as well as later the publication of the works of Maironis, Vaiþgantas, even Þemaitë and especially Vincas Kudirka encountered much difficulty while of the Russian classics probably only Fedor Dostoyevsky met with substantial difficulties.

The work of translating Russian classics has the good characteristic that it permits thoroughly non-conformist authors or the less Soviet oriented writers to earn a living while at the same time giving evidence of their loyalty (of course, only to some extent) to the system. During this period Balys Sruoga, Kazys Boruta, Kazys Inèiûra (well known non-Soviet Lithuanian writers) worked as translators. (I will not mention the living authors.) In totalitarian states strong literary figures generally work as translators; therefore, the level of translations is often higher than in the West. Incidentally, this fact was publicly mentioned by the Russian literature scholar Yefim Etkind. Such statement, however, caused him troubles which ended only when Etkind found himself in exile in Paris.

Translations of the classical literature of other Soviet republics somewhat expand the literary horizon and therefore are useful. Probably no one can say anything against the Ukrainian classic Taras Shevchenko or the recently published Georgian Shota Rustaveli. Furthermore, neither the Armenian Avetik Isahakian nor the White Russian Janka Kupala represent pure "informational noise." However, the appreciation of the classical and contemporary literature of our neighbors of common fate, namely, the Latvians and Estonians, was and still is insufficient. In the case of Estonia (but not Latvia), one could still make excuses by blaming insufficient translation work on the difficulties of the Estonian language. In reality, however, much more decisive is the unwillingness of the government to further Baltic unity or indirectly encourage separatist tendencies. The Lithuanians are not permitted to show more interest in the Estonians than, say, in the White Russians or Tadzhiks. Ideally, the government would prefer that much less interest would be shown in the Estonians than actually is the case.

A curiosity worthy of note during the Stalinist period was the promotion of compulsory interest in the Chinese and Koreans. At that time many of their works were translated into Lithuanian. Generally, those were works of little or no value and, of course, they were translated from the Russian (Lithuanian Sinology does not exist).

The translations of Western authors during the Stalin period were rather pitiful. The English were represented by several classics (Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Galsworthy). Quite useful were the abundant translations of William Shakespeare (although the translating practices of A. Churginas appear debatable to many enthusiasts of literature). From the new authors we find only the "Socialist-realist" James Aldridge. The case is the same with American literature: thirteen published authors are either "safe" classics (Harriet Beecher Stowe, James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), critics of the capitalist system (Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair) or typical "Socialist-realists," e.g. Howard Fast who later became an anti-Communist (and of course is no longer translated or even mentioned). A little bit more French was translated: Stendhal, Victor Hugo, Prosper Mérimée, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant were classics; Romain Rolland, Henri Barbusse or a writer such as André Still were "Socialist-realists," if not totally, then at least friends of the U.S.S.R. who did not condemn Stalin's terror. Finally, the works of Voltaire and Diderot appeared because of their anti-religious nature. In general, the needs of anti-religious propaganda have a great influence on the publishing policy. Sometimes the intelligentsia even succeed in utilizing them in a positive sense; in addition to the really disgusting books, such "anti-religious" writers as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Rabelais or the Roman Lucretius were published. During the Stalin period German literature was practically not published (only eight books in ten years, including two works by Heinrich Heine). The Spanish were represented only by Cervantes, released without the name of the translator, Pulgis Andriuðis, who had left for the West at the end of World War II. From the Polish, primarily due to the efforts of Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas, some works of Adam Mickiewicz were published. That is practically everything. In essence, the horizon of the reader was not allowed to rise beyond the nineteenth century. Isolation from the real twentieth century literary process was hermetic.

The situation began to change in the second decade — the Khrushchev period—although it was still a far cry from normal. Russian and other republic writers, especially Soviet, continue to be disproportionately, almost pathologically, popularized. This policy is taken into account by the plans of the publishing houses. Moreover, the same situation is true in the theater: during a season one must necessarily produce one or two Soviet plays (a certain number of Russian, and of other nations), something harmless from the East European "people's democracies" and only then can one think about a Lithuanian classic, a world classic or, in rare cases, a modern Western play.

Translations under Khrushchev

During the second decade, no less than 118 Soviet Russian authors with 175 books were released along with no less than 25 Russian classic authors with 53 books. I include Aleksandr Blok and Anna Akhmatova with the classics and not the Soviet writers — perhaps no one will argue with me on this classification — and also the more disputable Valery Briusov, Sergey Yesenin and Nikolay Zabolotsky. But the trend nevertheless changed; more was translated from the most important Western languages, taking them as a single unit, than from Russian (no less than 186 Western authors, 307 books). Of course, no single Western language can in this respect even remotely compete with Russian (even only with Soviet Russian) literature.

There appeared also other signs of normalization. Toward the end of the decade there emerged a group of competent translators and qualified editors. Generally, young writers learned how to deal with the system and, as a result, they did not always stay within the bounds of compulsory, that is, officially planned publication. Moreover, they discovered that the writers can work more freely in the field of translation than in the area of original creativity; the latter required more compromises with the system. Many translators and editors showed sincere concern with the national Lithuanian culture; they even succeeded in promoting some good projects and circumventing the censors. From time to time, one or another state official at least temporarily "closed his eyes" so as not to hinder either the writers or the editors. Contemporary Russian literature, translated into Lithuanian, no longer left a hopeless impression. At the same time, the level of "informational noise" lessened, although it still was dominant. Translations appeared of genuine writers like Isaak Babel, Aleksandr Grin, Mikhail Zoshchenko, and much of Paustovsky. The works of future dissidents Anatoly Gladilin, Vladimir Maksimov, Georgy Vladimov appeared. Gorky, moreover, vanished, and his antipode, Solzhenitsyn's A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published. One could find Boris Pasternak's poems in the press. Of all the republics, the 75th anniversary of his birth was modestly mentioned only in Lithuania, although the members of the Lithuanian Society of Writers, with the exception of Kazys Boruta, unanimously condemned Doctor Zhivago. One could finally talk about an almost normal acceptance of Dostoyevsky; all his major works except The Possessed became available in Lithuanian. Some of the émigrés — Leonid Andreyev, Ivan Bunin — (although carefully screened) were no longer forbidden. Of course, the proportions by far did not correspond to the true weight of these writers, but there was at least something from which to choose.

There occurred even a kind of breakthrough in the admission of Western literature. The number of English translations more than doubled. In addition to the usual classics, representative twentieth century figures (Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Katherine Mansfield, Somerset Maugham, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde) appeared as did two authors of our time (John Braine, Graham Greene). The literary horizon, earlier restricted to the nineteenth century (only "Socialist realist" works were published from the later period) advanced significantly into the twentieth century. Among the Americans, Dreiser remained the record holder (eight books!), not far behind was Jack London (six books); but one could already notice authors such as Ray Bradbury, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway (three books), and William Saroyan. Walt Whitman shed some influence on the poetry of the period. Among the French we did not see any significant changes (the discovery of the decade was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). A noticeable number of Italian modernists and neorealists (Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa, Alberto Moravia, Cesare Pavese, Luigi Pirandello, Vasco Pratolini) were translated. The number of Scandinavians (Bjornstjerne Bjornson, Henrik Ibsen, Selma Lagerlöf, Halldór Laxness, Sally Salminen, Sigrid Undset) increased. As many as 23 authors with 39 books represented Polish literature. This number included not only classics, but also some quite interesting contemporary writers (Jerzy Andrzejewski, Tadeusz Breza, Tadeusz Konwicki, Stanisùaw Lem). Literature of German-speaking nations was no longer half forbidden as in the Stalin period: Friedrich Schiller (four books), Johan Wolfgang Goethe (two books), Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, Gottfried Keller, even Bertolt Brecht and Friedrich Dürrenmatt appeared. It was also true, however, that the impact of German literature was diluted by second and third rate authors, especially from East Germany, and this tendency grew stronger. But in general, the Lithuanian reader, who previously was left at least a century behind the world literary process, advanced to about fifty years behind during the Khrushchev era, and at times even got an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the present.

Translation Policy Under Brezhnev

This trend continued in Brezhnev's times, at least during the first half of the Brezhnev period. I will try to look at this era more analytically. I will divide it, as I mentioned before, into two five year periods and the second five years into individual years. For a while there continued the inertia of the Khrushchev period. One should also take into consideration the loosening up of the Soviet system and the constant growing dissent of the intelligentsia of humanities which functioned within the legal limits. Similarly important was the pressure by the reading public and the book market, and even the desire by the rulers to demonstrate a fake liberalism. Due to all these reasons the doors to world literature opened somewhat wider in Moscow. The Estonians were even more successful. The 1966-1970 period in Lithuania was perhaps the "most normal," at least when compared to the others. In those five years no less than 64 authors (81 books) were translated from Russian, while no less than 99 authors (113 books) were translated from the most important Western languages. Thus, the Westerners outstripped the Russians by one and a half times. Furthermore, in addition to the often republished but seldom read Gorky, Fadeyev, Furmanov, Ostrovsky, there were translated the much more interesting Andrey Platonov, the brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, and Iury Trifonov. Moreover, Lithuanians now could become acquainted with the first rate Western authors, e.g. the Englishman William Golding, the Americans F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, ]. D. Salinger, John Updike, and Robert Penn Warren. Salinger and Updike became particularly popular and had a quite evident effect on younger Lithuanian prose writers. Hemingway had a similar effect on the older generation, e.g. Romualdas Lankauskas. In French literature translations, the most important event was the publication of Albert Camus' The Plague and The Stranger; this was viewed in Lithuania at that time as a kind of miracle. We had indeed read Camus earlier, but only in French and Polish, and moreover, in secret, Jean-Paul Sartre's The Words also appeared; the theater finally produced one of his less successful plays The Condemned of Altona. Incidentally, Sartre himself visited Lithuania, met the official literary elite and departed convinced that he saw a free country. At first his visit was greatly publicized; but later when Sartre went over to the Maoist "faith," he was bashfully forgotten. A quite good, well translated string of French classics appeared. Among the Germans the most significant translated authors were Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Wolfgang Borchert, Heinrich Boell, Max Frisch. The reception of Johannes Bobrowski is very unique and interesting. That East German author, an intrastructural dissident who wrote in a modern and distinct manner, and moreover, on Lithuanian themes, had a truly amazing impact and great effect on our younger generation—greater than that of Thomas Mann and all the other Germans combined. Curzio Malaparte, representative of the more interesting Italian writers, never translated into Russian, was also published. Discussing Italian classics, one cannot fail to mention a new translation of Dante's, perhaps controversial, but undoubtedly better than the pre-war translation. Of Belgian writers, a translation was published of Emile Verhaeren's book. Finally, there appeared two anthologies: one of twentieth century Western poetry and the other of the twentieth century Western drama. These anthologies helped to introduce to the Lithuanian readers such poets as Thomas Stearns Eliot, W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Paul Valery, Guillaume Apollinaire, René Char, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Celan, César Vallejo, and such dramatists as Eugéne Ionesco and Samuel Beckett (some morsels of the latter two were allowed to be published, but they were still not permitted to be produced in the theater).

Furthermore, genuine liberalism or an ideological lapse of one or another journal editor allowed the reader some understanding even of the "darkest," "most dangerous", (more accurately stated, the most famous and influential) twentieth century authors. Earlier no one dared to mention even their names and if one dared, one necessarily expressed repugnance and anger at their ideas. Even today they need "lightning rods," that is, Marxist or pseudo Marxist essays on their work which include suitable criticism to pass the censor's scrutiny. Such "lightning rods" are required for almost all Lithuanian classics as well. Not many people read these "lightning rod" articles — perhaps only the proofreaders and censors—but one must concede that this purely ritualistic procedure is nevertheless useful in that it helps the publication of the otherwise officially unacceptable writings. Anyway, in one way or another some journals of the period published extracts or even short pieces by Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Osip Mandelshtam, Marina Tsvetayeva, Jorge Luis Borges, Jean Genet. In essence, such small doses do not mean much —perhaps only a drop of moral satisfaction to the translators and admirers , of the writers. Not so long ago an author like Kafka was labelled Fascist and his works, by mistake acquired and catalogued into a Lithuanian bookshop, were blacklisted and burned (in that way Lithuania probably was the only country in the world that carried out Kafka's testament). When after such an event one finds in the press even if a very brief, and by far not a first-rate short story of Kafka's, it seems that the times have significantly changed. But that undoubtedly is an illusion. One or two short stories, like the proverbial sparrows, "do not make a spring" and are quickly forgotten by the readers. Such publication does not indicate a literary acceptance of the work but simply a bibliographical fact. It is also very convenient for the authorities; when the need arises, thay can assert that Kafka is not forbidden (while at the same time Kafka is unavailable). We believed that such events would serve as precedents; that once published, Proust or Borges would more easily pass the censors. But there is no tradition of precedent in the Soviet publication policy. What "passed" today will not necessarily pass tomorrow.

We began to feel this very clearly after 1970. The Siniavsky—Daniel trial, the invasion of Czechoslovakia and similar events indicated that the screws were tightened once again and this time more firmly. There was little room left for intrastructural dissent. One had either to adjust to the situation or go over to open dissent, which, however, threatened prison, psychiatric ward, death and at best emigration. I say that such became the choice after 1970 and not 1968 because the publishing houses and other cultural institutions, even if they received new directives, for several years continued from inertia, thus more or less completing earlier made publication plans, projects, etc. Statistics clearly show that gradually but decisively we returned to publication allocations and trends of the Stalin epoch. In the table below, as in earlier cases, I give the minimal figures; the first is the number of authors, the second represent the number of books.

Translated Authors (1st fig.) and Books (2nd fig.) in Lithuania, 1971-75


















Sources: see p. 8 of this issue.

Instructive in this real life picture, moreover, were not only the quantitative, but also the qualitative moments. Some worthwhile Russian classical literature (Pushkin, Turgenev, Leskov, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and so on) was released and republished; however, the number of "Socialist realist classics" (Gorky, Makarenko, Sholokhov), especially the almost worthless Stalinist and neo-Stalinist writers (Mikhail Bubennov, Vadim Kozhevnikov, Georgy Markov and others) once again rapidly increased in translation. Controversial or dissident writers were no longer published. From the West, in addition to the "approved" classics, there appeared only three or four really interesting books (Faulkner, Th. Wolfe, Rilke); in addition, there was published an anthology of the twentieth century drama which included August Strindberg and Alfred Jarry.

That seems to be all. One should only add that during this period the Lithuanian and generally the Soviet book trade underwent a kind of crisis: the demand exceeded the supply several times over and people could acquire a more valuable book only by indirect methods or were unable to get it at all. Only propagandistic literature stayed on bookstore shelves — everything else was bought out in a half of an hour, taken out by the back door. Ten or fifteen years ago this, inspite of everything, was not the case. Many reasons explain this phenomenon. Some are of positive value (increased interest in spiritual values), but others are negative (e.g., the search for prestige [which the possession of books confers], speculation in the black market). Published editions are small for a simple reason that much paper is wasted on Brezhnev's writings, on propagandistic pamphlets and for the general use of the bureaucracies. These small editions are grabbed up by the people, but I think not always read; a book is looked at as a decoration, a certain financial investment, often sent to relatives in the West in exchange for jeans (which of course is not to be much condemned).

Finally, the mechanism of "blacklisting" began to work more intensively. These "blacklists" are quite mysterious; only a few people know, at least I don't know, which institution prepares them and how often they are distributed to the guardians of the culture. Well, one can perhaps guess the institution. The lists are not determined once for all time; one can get on a list and be dropped, but it is easy to get on and particularly difficult to get off. Following my own insights, I can distinguish perhaps eight somewhat overlapping groups of blacklisted writers:

1. Dissidents, opponents, émigrés that is, almost all the noteworthy contemporary Russian literature (Joseph Brodsky, Andrey Siniavsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; from the earlier writers, for example, Andrey Bely, Mikhail Bulgakov, Nikolay Gumilev, Viacheslav Ivanov, Vladislav Khodasevich, Nikolay Kliuev, Vladimir Nabokov, Evgeny Zamiatin). This category of course includes the Poles (Witold Gombrowicz, Marek Hùasko, Czeslaw Miùosz, Slawomir Mroþek) as well as the rest of Eastern Europe. In recent times, practically all the new Czech and Slovak literature was indexed, that is, forbidden in the Soviet Union. Even a totalitarian logic cannot explain such listing. Much depends on chance circumstances; for example, once allowed to be published, Bunin was no longer listed as forbidden. Some other authors can be published in microscopic doses, others can at least be mentioned in articles or encyclopedias (this is considered already a significant cultural achievement), but the newest dissidents are automatically cursed and cease to exist in the consciousness of the readers (at least so it seems to the authorities).

2. Western authors of noteworthy anti-Communist books (e.g. Aldous Huxley, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell). Even neutral works of such authors, for example, of Huxley, "do not pass" and apparently cannot pass. One must even struggle for the permission to mention their names. Nevertheless, many readers know them anyway. Orwell is not only read, but also passed on orally. His 1984 was the most important book in my own life. I have talked about it in very great detail and for hours to some people who could not read it themselves.

3. Western authors who once maintained but later rejected ties with Communism. It is difficult to determine the line that separates this group from the authors of anti-Communist works because the authors of the second group generally have gone through a stage of radicalism as well. Anyway, all those once enthralled by Communism who learned quite a bit about it and found the need to reject it, even if they did not write any major anti-Communist books, are included in one of the blackest lists. This is the case with André Breton, André Gide, André Malraux, John Dos Passos, Ignazio Silone. They are not forgiven at any time or place; I will mention the following illuminating experience. While editing for the press a volume of poems translated by the late Antanas Venclova, I included in it two totally innocent translations of Gide's poems, done by Venclova yet in 1936. Not only were the poems immediately taken out by the publishers but I was told that such pranks do not end happily.

4. Writers who have condemned one or another aspect of U.S.S.R. policies, such as the crushing of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the restriction of human rights, etc. After voicing criticisms, they are banished from publication and from the stage. Often this is the only way in which the public learns that some author has "sinned." Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, Arthur Miller belong here as well as Saul Bellow and Ionesco for agreeing to become members of the editorial board of Kontinent ( a Russian literary journal edited by exiled dissident Maximov). Since in recent times almost all the major Western writers have "sinned" in a similar way and since if these were banished forever there would be left rather nothing to translate, with a change in the circumstances one or another of these writers may once again be "brought back into circulation."

5. Catholics (Georges Bernanos, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Paul Claudel, Oscar Milosz) or mystics of a different kind (Gustav Meyrink). One or another of these authors can be published in microscopic quantities. Of course, there is no question of receiving permission to publish their clearly religious texts. Exceptions nevertheless are made for Graham Greene, Francois Mauriac, and Evelyn Waugh because the reader (and censor) do not immediately notice the metaphysical tinge in their works; both primarily see the adventurous or psychological plot.

6. Writers who have the reputation of "reactionaries," nihilists or supermodernists. As I have mentioned earlier, they are sometimes published with the help of "lightning rods." To this group belong, for example, Beckett, Borges, Broch, Eliot, Joyce, Kafka, Musil, Proust, Italo Svevo, Virginia Woolf, and the representatives of the French "new novel," namely, Michel Butor, Alain Robbe-Grillet.

7. Writers who at one or another time were affiliated with the movement of the extreme right, regardless of the degree or nature of their involvement (Hans Carossa, Ernst Junger, Giovanni Papini as well as Gottfried Benn, Louis Céline, Ezra Pound). Some of them (Knut Hamsun) are forgiven, but not at once. Pardon is refused, especially to pronounced modernists; for all practical purposes, for example, one can not even mention Ezra Pound.

8. The so-called "pornographic writers," i.e., writers who have openly explored the role of eroticism in human life (Georges Bataille, D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller). Soviet policy here paradoxically converges with the views of certain Western rightists. The low level erotic literature, which is so common in the West, is, of course, strictly forbidden as well. Some people might see in this the only positive aspect of Soviet censorship. I would not agree with such judgement because moral degeneration is most likely greater in the Soviet Union than in the West, and it is in no way reduced by such prohibitions. If some question is not discussed, it only becomes more acute. This principle holds equally well of politics as of ethics.

In conclusion, it is necessary to add that in the view of Soviet publishers not only individual writers "do not exist" but frequently even entire literatures (e.g., Israeli literature).

I learned the importance of these "black lists" in 1973 when all of a sudden the doors were slammed on many of my suggested translations — Antonin Artaud, Saint-John Perse and others. I was especially shaken by the experience of Velimir Khlebnikov. The only possible crime of this Russian poet, a contemporary and friend of Maiakovsky who died fifty years ago, very likely was only his innovative and interesting writing. It appeared that half a century later it was still more difficult for him to pass the censors than for many others. Working at the editorial offices of Soviet Lithuanian encyclopedia at that time, I discovered that it was not easy for many authors to reach even the first level of acceptance. On the example of the Russian encyclopedia, a list of approved names was made for the Lithuanian publication. The more enlightened (and courageous) specialists who were asked for advice added to this list about twenty typewritten pages of other names. Even now each of these newly submitted names is being endlessly evaluated, "politically screened" and often expunged or, if accepted, characterized in as primitive a language as possible, not avoiding harangues and denunciation. As a result of such policy, a large part of the encyclopedia actually is taken up by Soviet Russian writers whose entries must list not only literary achievements but also official duties, awards and medals received. In addition, encyclopedia space is used for the authors of the so-called brotherly nations though these, generally, are not known even in their own republics.

A factor which seems to help normalize the situation but in reality makes it more difficult is the Soviet adherence to the international copyright convention. The Soviets have to pay royalties to all foreign authors or their heirs for all works published after the Soviet ratification of this convention. While the amounts perhaps often are merely symbolic, the U.S.S.R. does not like to pay in hard currency even symbolic royalties. For this reason alone most of the new works probably will not be translated, an exception being made only for Communist authors and their fellow-travelers. In this way the retardation from the world literary process will be automatically integrated in the publishing mechanism. This situation, of course, can be fully evaluated only after a period of experience.

Cultural Consequences of Soviet Translation Policy

What is the result of all these deformations? In Lithuanian translation we have neither the contemporary giants of literary prose nor most of the world's best poets; neither in books nor on the stage do we possess the most interesting dramatists of recent times, and obviously we do not possess any works of literary theory which digress from the most dogmatically understood Marxism. The brains and energies are wasted on other projects. Lithuania does not breath the genuine air of world culture. One or another influence which reaches Lithuanian writers is very accidental, often coming not through Lithuanian books, but in amazingly roundabout ways.

The Iron Curtain is of course cracking, and this process, like the processes of nature, can not be halted. The time will come when it will totally crumble. In today's world the restriction of information is anachronistic and gradually becoming impossible. Here indeed lies the greatest weakness of the Soviet system. However, the curtain is still being patched up; therefore, the efforts of intellectuals, writers, artists and others involved in creative cultural activities in some way to compensate for these deformations are all the more valuable. These efforts are bearing fruit; the Lithuanian culture has not yet sunk to the level of the majority of other Soviet republics. Lithuanian migration in the West also can help. The "alternative" Lithuanian literature here in the West should include not only original books, but also, for example, translations of Orwell and Solzhenitsyn. They undoubtedly would reach Lithuania.