Brent M. Colley

Online Education Resources by Brent M. Colley

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Banned and Challenged Classics (surprising!)

Each year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom records hundreds of attempts by individuals and groups to have books removed from libraries shelves and from classrooms.  See Frequently Challenged Books for more details.

According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.

The titles below represent banned or challenged books on that list ( see the entire list here).

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Mark Twain and Russia

The State Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries
Moscow, Russia (May 1959)

Dear Editor,

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of April 6, 1959. I fully agree with you that cultural communications between people of different countries is one of the surest mediums of maintaining peace. That is why it is especially important to strengthen cultural ties between the Soviet and American peoples.

I thank you for your letter and for the special issue of the “Redding Times” dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Mark Twain Library in your city.

My colleagues and I have read with interest the special features about the life of your great countryman. Mark Twain is immensely popular among the Soviet people. His works have been published and republished here in large editions which have rapidly sold out. In order to give the readers of your journal an idea about the popularity of Mark Twain books in the Soviet Union, we have asked a scientific worker of the Gorky Institute of World Literature to prepare for you a short article on the subject “Mark Twain in the Soviet Union.”

I take pleasure in forwarding this article and two volumes of Mark Twain’s selected works in Russian translation from my private library, together with my best wishes of success to you personally, Mr. President (Bradley Kelly), and to all the executives and staff members of the “Redding Times” and of the Mark Twain Library in Redding.

-A. Kuznetsov Vice Chairman, Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries  

Mark Twain in Russia
By A. Sarukhanyan, M.S. Philology

Mark Twain is one of the best known and most popular foreign authors in the Soviet Union. His productions were first introduced to Russian readers in the early 1870’s.

Mark Twain’s story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was translated into the Russian language in 1872, and “The Gilded Age” immediately after its publication in America; it was printed in “Otechestvenniye Zapiski,” a progressive Russian magazine headed by the great Russian poet Nekrasov and by the illustrious satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin.

The first collection of Mark Twain’s productions was published in Russia, in 11 volumes, in 1890. The second edition of Mark Twain’s works was published in the year of Mark Twain’s death, and a complete collection in 28 volumes appeared in 1911. Friend of Gorky Mark Twain was personally acquainted with I.S. Turgenev, S.M. Stephnyak-Kravchinsky and Maxim Gorky.

Recalling his meeting with Mark Twain, who was 70 years old at that time, Maxim Gorky wrote: “He had on his round skull a rich shock of hair-unruly tongues of some cold white flames. The clever, keen sparkle of his gray eyes was barely visible from under his drooping heavy lids, but when he looked you squarely in the face one could feel that all the wrinkles on that face were measured and would forever linger in the memory of this man…He seems very old, but it is clear that he plays the aged man, because his movements and gestures were so powerful, quick and graceful, as to make one forget about his gray hair.”

A great many biographical notes about Mark Twain and reviews of his books, may be found in the Russian press of the late 18th and early 19th centuries (1890-1900). Already at that time, progressive Russian writers saw that Mark Twain was especially brilliant as a satirist, and he was not accidentally compared with the great Russian satirist N. Gogal.

Mark Twain’s importance in the history of World literature was emphasized in the obituary written by the Russian author A.I. Kuprin, who paid tribute to the deceased for his “all-embracing humaneness and free understanding of the charm of a joke,” for his “inexhaustible love of man.”

Still Being Read

Mark Twain’s productions are extremely popular in the Soviet Union, as is strikingly shown by the following figures:

  • Between 1918 and the end of 1958, Mark Twain’s books were published in the USSR in editions totaling 10,260,000 copies in 25 languages.

  • In the first twenty years under the Soviets, “Tom Sawyer” has 18 editions, and three adaptations of it were made for the stage. In 1919, the book was issued by the World Literature Publishing House founded by Maxim Gorky, with a foreword by the well known author and translator K. Chukovsky.

  •  Mark Twain’s productions have been published in the USSR in separate books, in one-volume editions (1954-1959) and in a two-volume edition of selected works.

  • All the main productions of the celebrated American author will be included in the new edition, the publication of which is to be started in 1959.

There is hardly a schoolboy in USSR that has not read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” or “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”

Mark Twain’s stories have become reading books in English language classes of the Soviet schools, and adaptations of his “Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Prince and the Pauper” have become permanent features in the repertories of the theaters for children in Moscow and other Soviet cities.

Tom Sawyer, and even more so, Huck Finn, are favorite heroes of the Soviet boys, and Mark Twain’s Negro, Jim, holds there inalienable affection.

His Memory Revered

How well Mark Twain is appreciated in the Soviet Union may be judged by the fact that the dates associated with the life and death of the great American writer are widely commemorated in the Soviet Union.

A Mark Twain Memorial Meeting was held at Moscow’s Central Writers’ Club, on April 26, 1950. A report on the work of Mark Twain was delivered by the Soviet writer Valentin Katayev. It is noteworthy that the materials published for the 120th anniversary of Mark Twain’s birth marked by a special literary evening, included a bibliographical reference book covering the Russian translations of his productions. Soviet literary scholars have made their contribution to the study of Mark Twain’s work.

Mark Twain is rightfully called the founder of American realistic literature. He is studied as a satirist and humorist whose works give a deep and truthful picture of life in the United States over half a century.

Book, pamphlets and articles about Mark Twain in the Russian language, written in old Russia and in the Soviet Union, cover about 100 titles. Mark Twain is the subject of two treatises presented for an M.S. degree, and of a three-volume dissertation submitted for a D.Sc. degree. Special attention is paid to Mark Twain in University lecturers on 19th Century American literature.

Mark Twain’s place in the history of World literature was defined as follows by A. Fadeyev, one of the most outstanding Soviet authors:

“In the 19th century there was no greater realist in France than Balzac, than Dickens in Britain and than Mark Twain in the United States of America.”  

(Source: twainproject.blogspot.com)

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