- John Steinbeck in East European Translation: A Bibliographical and Descriptive Overview by Danica Čerče
by Danica Čerče
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017. 136 pp. £58.99 cloth.
Since the 1960s, numerous bibliographies devoted to John Steinbeck have appeared, cataloguing both the writer's literary output and the growing body of criticism on his fiction. While the volumes by Tetsumaro Hayashi, Michael J. Meyer, and Kenneth and Karen Holmes have demonstrated Steinbeck's wide-ranging impact, they do not dedicate sufficient attention to the author's publications or translations outside the United States. This issue is especially pronounced regarding Steinbeck translations in Eastern Europe. Danica Čerče's John Steinbeck in East European Translation: A Bibliographical and Descriptive Overview narrows this gap in the existing scholarship. In this important work, Čerče illuminates the scope of Steinbeck's international impact, while also engaging with the political and aesthetic concerns that inform the translations of his fiction in Eastern Europe.
The centerpiece of the volume is the second chapter, "A Catalogue of Steinbeck Translations in the Languages of Eastern Europe." Based on archival research throughout Eastern Europe, this chapter offers a comprehensive overview of Steinbeck translations—including novels, story collections, sound recordings, and stage performances from the early 1940s to the present. Each entry includes the foreign-language title of the book, its title in English, the name of the translator, publisher, year of publication, and number of pages. Rather than cataloguing these entries by nation, Čerče has organized the bibliographical entries by language. The Russian grouping, for instance, contains [End Page 212] works that were published in the contemporary states of Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and others. As Čerče notes, this organization reflects how "the political, economic, and socio-cultural changes caused by the disintegration of the political system in the early 1990s occurred in parallel with the change in the linguistic situation in the region" (viii–ix). The final chapter also displays Steinbeck's international impact by listing Easterm European scholars who have either translated Steinbeck's work or written critical studies on this author.
In addition to these bibliographical elements, John Steinbeck in East European Translation makes a valuable contribution to scholarship through Čerče's discussion of the political complexities underlying Steinbeck translations. The first chapter, "Steinbeck and East European Publishers," illustrates how ideological considerations have determined which of Steinbeck's works have been translated and the resulting view of the author in Eastern Europe. As Čerče observes, the majority of Steinbeck translations during the Soviet period were his novels of social realism, and critics viewed these texts in terms of their alignment with Communist ideology rather than on their aesthetic merits. Within this context, Čerče offers a particularly insightful discussion of In Dubious Battle, a book that was rarely translated during the Cold War because of Steinbeck's portrayals of the Communist organizers. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been more interest in the breadth of Steinbeck's literary output, and the number of new translations has increased rapidly in recent years. For example, twenty-four Steinbeck translations have appeared in Poland since 2006, twenty-seven works have been produced in the Czech Republic since 2000, and thirty-two texts have been issued in Romania during this period. Such publications—which range from Cup of Gold and To a God Unknown to The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication and The Winter of Our Discontent—allow for a fuller understanding of the philosophical, formal, and thematic complexity of Steinbeck's work.
The third chapter, "Steinbeck in Slovenia," offers further insights about Steinbeck's critical reception in Eastern Europe and the practical difficulties of translating his fiction. The first section analyzes how critics in Slovenia viewed Steinbeck's literary output. These analyses often mirrored the response to his work throughout Eastern Europe, with critics emphasizing his novels of social realism and denigrating his more philosophical or experimental texts until after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, Čerče offers a comprehensive catalogue of Steinbeck translations in Slovenia, including in newspapers and...