Thursday, June 20, 2019

Article: How the Soviet Literary Establishment Censored Vasily Grossman

Robert Chandler has a short article in The New Yorker on the censorship of Grossman's book For a Just Cause (the recent English translation uses the title Grossman wanted—Stalingrad.
The original publication process of the novel is a case study of Soviet editorial practices and censorship. Grossman worked on the manuscript from 1943 until 1949 and then spent three years battling with his editors. Anticipating difficulties from the beginning, he recorded all relevant official conversations, letters, and meetings in a document titled “Diary of the Journey of the Novel For a Just Cause through Publishing Houses.”

While many of the required changes were made to soften any criticism of the Soviet political structure, other changes were for petty things and it makes for a revealing look at Soviet taboos. The last censored item mentioned, a story about a general using a goat to lead them out of a bog, is so silly I figure it's something Grossman actually heard during his job as a war correspondent.

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