Sabit Mukanov’s Poem about the Chelyuskintsy: An Original without a Translation and a Translation without an Author
This article considers the topic of Soviet heroism as reflected in The Polar Bear (Rus. «Белый медведь») by the Kazakh poet Sabit Mukanov, a poem dedicated to the rescue of SS Chelyuskin wreck survivors. The poem came second in a competition of works about Chelyuskintsy held in 1934. After the competition results were announced, a Russian translation of the poem by Pavel Vyacheslavov was released. Of all the works presented at the competition, only the translation of Mukanov’s poem was published in the central press: excerpts appeared in the Novy Mir and 30 Dney magazines. The fact that a work by a representative of a national minority was published in Moscow magazines demonstrates the significance of the text for the entirety of Soviet discourse. This article discusses the translation features of the excerpt published in Novy Mir and analyses the structure of the original text. In addition to the obligatory components of Stalinist social realism, such as the glorification of Stalin and the heroism of the Soviet man, the poem contains elements that mark it as a text from a different cultural tradition, i. e. specific similes and Kazakh proverbs and sayings. The poem contains references to the works of Pushkin, Heine, and the Kazakh classic Abai Qunanbaiuly. Mukanov uses these references to demonstrate that he is familiar with the literary canon and is learning from the literary classics. Based on an analysis of the text, it can be concluded that it is the Moscow Kremlin, not the polar ice floe, which is at the centre of the rescue operation. Thus, the key topic of the poem is not the rescue of the Chelyuskintsy, but the glorification of the Soviet system under Stalin. An examination of differences between the original text and the translation makes it possible to understand what was directed at the Kazakh-speaking reader in the text – and therefore what disappeared in the translation. The Kazakh text contains many clarifying footnotes, including explanations of words by means of synonyms. It may be presumed that by incorporating new Soviet words into the Kazakh language, Mukanov acts as a transmitter of imperial ideology.
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