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Olga Papusha

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Contemporary theories of childrens literature consider the question of translation in the context of the problem of functioning of artistic texts (of their genesis and of the mechanisms of their relating to the sphere of childrens reading). For childrens literature is a polymorphous and heterogeneous phenomenon that arises as a result of intercultural communication (understandably, the parameters of communicative types can be drawn in different ways: according to age, sex, gender, etc.; we are first and foremost interested here in the linguistic/ethnic dimension of intercultural communication). Like any other cultural phenomenon, childrens literature displays the features of a system. The kernel of every national type of childrens literature includes both domestic and foreign classics of the genre. The mechanism of this kernels formation includes the so-called translators canon which, according to the noted scholar Zohar Shavit, is based not only (and not so much) in the fact that unlike contemporary translator of adult books, the translator of childrens literature can permit himself great liberties regarding the text, as a result of the peripheral position of childrens literature within the literary polysystem (Shavit 1986: 112), but also in adhering to social conventions concerning childrens literature: translation (as process and result) must take into account, first, the abilities of a child-reader, and second, the educational ideals of the society in concrete historical conditions (Shavit 1986: 113).

Meanwhile, the modern era of the total destruction of established norms, standards, and canons influences the newest approaches to translated childrens books, both classic (such as those by Lewis Carroll, Selma Lagerlöf, Gianni Rodari, Astrid Lindgren, or J.R.R. Tolkien) and contemporary (such as J.K. Rowlings cycle about Harry Potter). These approaches model the communicative functions of the original and thereby represent the evolution of translations system of values in the realm of childrens literature. Thus the literary sphere of childrens reading incorporates translated texts that have undergone not only a transference (recoding) of information from one language to another, but also adaptation, transformation of meaning, tied to the conscious interpretative intentions of the translator and the vision of the addressee of such translations.

An excellent example of this process can be found in the functioning in the cultural realm of the communicative model of A.A. Milnes two-book fairytale cycle about Winnie-the-Pooh: Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926; The House at Pooh Corner, 1929.

The type of narrative mediation in Milnes text exemplifies the typical situation of childrens everyday life and the receptive position (Slavova 2002: 59): childs listening to stories in which the listeners themselves are depicted as narrators. The addressee of the narrator personified in Winnie-the-Pooh - the father - is the little boy Christopher Robin, who finds himself at the center of the narratives language games: he is the narrators interlocutor and simultaneously the participant of all the told adventures of his toy friends. Meanwhile, the signs of the possible ideal recipient of Milnes tales (the reader familiar with many charming details of this boys childhood - such as Christopher Robins mother1) are bracketed into the paratext, namely, into the dedications and introductory fragments of both parts of the cycle. Due to such a structural and semantic organization, Milnes tale about Winnie-the-Pooh, since its initial publication, came to be perceived as a realistic depiction of the visible (external) and imaginary (internal) attributes of childhood (a childs play life, its egocentric psychological space). It was recognized as a childrens work of art with the addressed intentionality of the texts appropriateness to the possibilities and interests of the little reader (The Continuum 2003: 548-549). Thereby a quintessentially modern situation began to arise: a text whose generative principle was language dissymmetry (Rudnev 2000: 335) constituted a new reader, represented by the metaphoric system of the mythological and the archetypal, through the forms and figures of speech2. Thus the functioning of Milnes narrative in the cultural context of the twentieth century began to be tied to two practices of reading: the inclusion of the work into the tradition (in its semantic and structural parameters) of childrens literature, and the hyperinterpretation in which the meaning of the text depended on the analytical method of a scholar3.

Among characteristic situations of childrens reading of the tale about Winnie-the-Pooh let us consider the phenomenon of its translation into other languages that enhanced the intentional meaning of the narrative. Such are the first versions of Milnes book undertaken in the Soviet era - the Russian translation by Boris Zakhoder (Vinni-Pukh i vse ostalnye, 1960; since 1965 titled Vinni-Pukh i vse-vse-vse) and the Ukrainian translation by Leonid Solonko (Vinni-Pukh ta ioho druzi, 1963).

Both these translations were instances of adaptive reading in the terms of H. Porter Abbott (Abbott, 102) when as a consequence of contact-genetic ties in the interliterary space only the semantics of childhood was translated from the original. These translations came into being as a result of the translation boom of the 1960s - 1980s, when classical Western childrens books... became favorite reading material of the children of late Soviet era (Kelly 2003). This phenomenon was facilitated not only by radical political and cultural changes of the Khrushchev era in the USSR but also by the emergence of new reading opportunities in the society: the latent preparedness to the playful and the innovative even counter to the total co-creation of the power and the masses (Dobrenko 1997: 258). Thus, it was to this type of new reader that the childrens writers of the 1960s generation (V. Berestov, V. Blyznets, Mykola Vinhranovskyi, V. Goliavkin, Anatolii Dimarov, Viktor Dragunskii, Yuri Koval, A. Kostetskyi, Vs. Nestaiko, V. Rutkivskyi, M. Stelmakh, Eduard Uspenskii and others) addressed themselves, with all their non-engagé stance and artistic experimentation.

Boris Zakhoders translations from Milne were identified as authorial retelling, a peculiar artistic game (Zakhoder 2002: 68-69), and Solonkos contribution in essence brought back the fairytale into the realm of childrens reading ( Ivaniuk 1990: 106). Zakhoders and Solonkos versions of the translation also offered the readers childrens play as a literary project, conceptualized through several peculiar features. Let us name the most characteristic among them.

1. The textual articulation of properly childrens meanings. Thus, sawdust (opilki in Zakhoder, tyrsa in Solonko, fluff in the original) first of all comes across as a sign of Winnie-the-Poohs toy nature, and only later as a sign of his being slow-witted. Kanga becomes mama Kenga (mommy Kanga) in the translation, while Owl, masculine in Milne, becomes a female Sova in both versions4. The naming of fantastic creatures appealed to the unmediated conscious life experience of children, explicating normative intentions towards their expected associations: Woozle and Woozles are rendered as Buki and Biaki in Zakhoder, and Vova and Vovchyk in Solonko; Heffalump and Jagular are Slonopotam and Iaguliar in both versions, while Busy Backson becomes Shchasvirnus in Zakhoder and Skorovernus in Solonko. In general the characters names are interpreted not along the norms of phonetic transcoding, but following the rules of childrens play (the literary onomastycon of both Zakhoder and Solonko focuses not on psychological types but on gaming roles: Christopher Robin occupies the main position in the play universe, and this status is confirmed by the double name; the rest of the characters, with the help of their names, are minimized and characterizes as living toys).

2. Transformation of the event order. In Zakhoders translation the extra-narrative elements of the original are reduced5 (the dedications and the introductory parts of the two books of the cycle); modification of the order of events (Zakhoders version does not include some parts of Milnes text, and the narrative sequence of the second part is changed). In Solonko, while on the whole the intention of narrative identity is preserved6, the two dedications To Her and the Contraduction section are both transformed7. Thus both versions tone down the reflexive effect of the narrative voice and the vector of identification of the implicit reader with the child-recipient is highlighted.

3. The versification attempts of Milnes characters are transformed by Zakhoder into childrens wordplay (krichalki, shumelki, pykhtelki); they appeal to the reader by their paradoxical associative nature and the rhythmic/intonational unexpectedness.

Let us compare:

A. A. Milne

Boris Zakhoder

Leonid Solonko


, ͨ
On Monday, when the sun is hot I wonder to myself a lot:
Now is it true, or is it not,
That what is which and which is what?
, ,


On Tuesday, when it hails and snows,
The feeling on me grows and grows
That hardly anybody knows
If those are these or these are those.

, ,
, , ;
² - , ,

On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,
And I have nothing else to do,
I sometimes wonder if it's true
That who is what and what is who.

, ,
, ,
, ?
- .
, - ,
- ?

On Thursday, when it starts to freeze
And hoar-frost twinkles on the trees,
How very readily one sees
That these are whose - but whose are these?

On Friday (Miln 1963: 89-90)

, ,
, ,

- : ?

... (Zakhoder 1960: 368-369)

! - !
, ...


(Solonko 1963: 74)

As we can see, Zakhoders verse is ontologically interactive, while in the Ukrainian version the poetry derives its communicative status from the context. However, this does not diminish in the least the importance of the Ukrainian language version of Winnie-the-Pooh.

As noted by Oksana Zabuzhko, precisely thanks to the literal, at times even slightly clumsy Ukrainian translation by Leonid Solonko (just literal enough for the original to shine through!), it brought to childrens consciousness an aesthetics of a very different world. Thats a world, where a childs spontaneity, if it crosses the limits of politeness (that is, of respect towards others), does not result either in admiration or (the reverse of the same medal) in a rude shout, but is immediately surrounded (and thereby imperceptibly corrected) through delicate irony that smiles in a subtle and dignified fashion, the irony that in general constitutes a kind of oxygen for British culture (Zabuzhko 2002).

The new wave of translations of Milnes Winnie-the-Pooh in the late 1980s - early 1990s was tied to the tendency toward expansion of the general cultural horizons of a new generation of readers - the one belonging to the post-Soviet space. All these versions, however, circulated in the intertextual field of Milnes adaptations by the 1960s generation, even though the vectors of their interaction with the canonized (Arzamastseva 2000: 443) translations are different. Thus, Anatolii Kostetskyis project, Vinni-Pukh ta vsi-vsi-vsi (Milne, Zakhoder 2003), offers the reader a Ukrainian translation of the Russian language version by Boris Zakhoder and contains a unique double coding. The writer used the material that is part of the cultural consciousness of an entire generation of readers of Zakhoders text and the cult animated film by Fedor Khitruk based on it (an appeal to the known horizon of expectations). At the same time, Zakhoder in Ukrainian is an attempt at correlating a codified model of reading Milnes tale with the possibilities and needs of a new generation of readers within the framework of a national project of Ukrainian childrens literature (explication of a latent horizon of expectations). Such translators strategy even displaced into the sphere of the unconscious (of the translator and the reader, the translator-as-author, the translator-as-reader - is this the Bloomian anxiety of influence?) the textual precedent of Solonkos Ukrainian Winnie-the-Pooh. Recently, after I turned fifty, wrote Kostetskyi in his introduction, I reread with relish Milne and Zakhoders tale that refuses to grow old and wondered: why shouldnt Pooh start speaking Ukrainian? (Milne, Zakhoder 2003: 8).

The rhetoric of authenticity permeates another representation of Milnes text in Ukraine: Ivan Malkovychs edition of Vinni-Pukh (Milne 2001). Presented as a revision of the translation by Leonid Solonko, it is indeed marked by enhanced linguistic culture of the text (Solonkos prykazka becomes prypovidka in Malkovychs version; duzhe zhal is changed to shkoda; potim is replaced by zhodom; zapovidna becomes omriiana, and so forth: Solonkos text thus became actively Ukrainian). At the same time in Malkovychs edition a powerful connoting mechanism of childrens meaning is found in the paratext: the wonderful original illustrations by O. Petrenko-Zanevskyi and the general attractive design of the volume.

This type of new versions of well-known interpretations of Milne in general preserve the social conventions regarding childrens reading, concretizing the translation canon in the ethno-cultural dimension. As for the other attempts at rendering the English original, particular attention is warranted by the one undertaken by Vadim Rudnev, Vinnie Pukh8 and Dom v Medvezhem Uglu (first published in 1994). The source of this controversial project, surprising as it may be, was not so much the English original but once again the first free translation into Russian, or rather, the very underlying idea of Zakhoders reinterpretation of the stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, for

  • Zakhoders translation was incomplete, thereby raising the question about the reasons for the cuts from the original. Asserting that certain parts of Milnes text receive semantic emphasis precisely by their non-representation in Zakhoder, Rudnev back in 1990 translated the fifth chapter of Milnes text and published it in the journal Daugava, along with an article, Vinni-Pukh in a Wonderland: Issledovanie po semantike i modalnoi logike (Rudnev 1990). In 1993 he published a complete translation of Milnes text co-authored with T. Mikhailova;

  • Zakhoders text retained a monopoly on the Russian market, being the only Russian language version of Milnes text. Could the tale about Winnie-the-Pooh sound in a new fashion?

  • Zakhoders stylistically homogeneous and linguistically impeccable translation, in Rudnevs opinion, neutralized the English nature of the original, infantilized it. Was the preschool context the only appropriate one for reading Milnes masterpiece?

It is notable that Rudnev does not deny the cultural semantics of childhood in Milnes text. However, he offers a different means of reading it, a lingo-psychoanalytic one: Just like the outwardly innocent and cloudless childhood... is saturated by intense sexuality, the entire text of Winnie-the-Pooh is saturated by representations of childrens sexuality (Rudnev 2000: 19). Rudnevs arguments for such a reading procedure arise from contextual factors: the authors personal myth (Rudnev 2000: 12-13), the texts chronological belonging to the discursive practices of European modernism (Rudnev 2000: 13-14). An important role is also played by the intentional methodological pluralism of the interpreter himself in the process of searching for an adequate referent for Milnes concepts (correspondingly, the methodology of working with the text lies in the interdisciplinary field of analytical philosophy, logical semantics, theoretical linguistics, semiotics, speech acts theory, the semantics of possible worlds, structural poetics, theory of poetry, clinical characterology, classical psychoanalysis and transpersonal psychology (Rudnev 2000: 14-48). Last but not least, the understanding of Milnes Winnie-the-Pooh as a symbolic sign of childhood and an articulation of the cultural unconscious is realized by Rudnev in an analytical translation9 that does not allow the reader to forget for a minute that in front of him is a text translated from a foreign language, a language that structures reality in a way fully different from his own, and focuses the readers attention on the speech games played by the author and the translator (Rudnev 2000: 51), since in Milne the object of narration is not the events themselves but the narration of those events (Rudnev 2000: 52). As a result the reader is offered a distanced text build upon the principle of intentionally complicated form in Viktor Shklovskys terms, which offers an auditory representation of a foreign original and integrates the modalities of interactiveness: the empty spaces, refutations and negativity (Sovremennoe 1996: 55).

Therefore, the reader of Rudnev and Mikhailovas book is offered the following rules of the game:

  1. Milnes narrative is read with the help of a particular device of grammar and syntax: the use of historical present, which marks the event of the narrative and differentiates narrative instances: ? - ; - . - (Rudnev 2000: 62). - - . , (Rudnev 2000: 89).

  2. The facts of language play in Milne are almost literally transcoded by Rudnev; the idiomatic expressions (Happy Birthday!, How do you do!, Hello!) and onomatopoeic expressions (Bump!, Crack!, Bang! - in Zakhoder Trakh!, Bum!, Pliukh!) - are given in the English spelling or are transliterated into Cyrillic (!, , ) or are combined (Winnie ), continuously reminding the reader that the inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest speak a language other than Russian10, that they are depicted, and therefore invented.

  3. The onomastycon in Rudnevs version became a functional clot of communicative indeterminacy of Milnes model; for the reader to decipher the meaning the entire experience of the text is necessary (Sovremennoe 1996: 55-56), the individual and collective unconscious: Winnie Pukh, Porosenok, osel I-Io, Sych, Kanga, Bebi Ru, Tigger, Woozle, Heffalump, Jagular, Busy Backson11.

  4. The rubric division in the analytical translation (the outer narrative chronology) is fully different from the original: the titles of chapters are condensed, and supra-synthesized (cf. Milnes Chapter 1, in which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some bees, and the stories begin vs. Rudnevs Glava 1. Pchely; Milnes Chapter 2, in which Pooh goes visiting and gets into a tight place - Glava 2. Nora in the translation). This is, in the author of the translations own terms, a Faulknerization of the text (Rudnev 2000: 53), and a kind of symbolic code to Rudnevs lingo-psychoanalysis (Rudnev 2000: 44-48).

Rudnevs version represents all the versificatory models of the original without exception (including the verse dedications to the two books of the cycle) in accordance with the following principle: where the formal metric plan seemed the most important, we [the translators - O.P.] preserved the meter at the cost of greater liberties in the lexical and semantic plane. In those cases where it seemed to us the semantics was more important, we varied the meter. We translated Winnie-the-Poohs verse in Russian verse meters with Russian metric/semantic allusions... In Winnie-the-Poohs iambics, trochees, amphibrachs, hexameters and tankas the reader will hear reminiscences from Pushkin, Lermontov, Akhmatova or Vysotsky (Rudnev 2000: 56).

For instance, Rudnev rendered one of the original texts (How sweet to be a Cloud /Floating in the Blue! /Every little cloud /Always sings aloud /How sweet to be a Cloud /Floating in the Blue! /It makes him very proud /To be a little cloud) using the varied-foot trochee 4343 AbAb, the traditional Russian meter of the lullaby , , / -... (Rudnev 2000: 294):


, ׸ ,

(Rudnev 2000: 68).

At first glance the undisguised allusive nature of Rudnevs verse contradicts his declared orientation towards intentionally difficult form of the entire text, offering models-clichés, already familiar to the audience, having turned into a set of rules (Lotman, 223). But this device creates a peculiar pulsation of the text, projecting a constant alteration of automatized and actualized reception, that is, offers a peculiar play with modes of reception up to parodying them in the postmodernist sense as a play with senses on the endless field of intertextuality. In fact, Rudnev himself does not hide the notable (and desired) postmodernist shade (Rudnev 2000, 55) in his own project, inserting his translation of Milnes cycle about Winnie-the-Pooh into the complex system of a book with a telling adult title - [Winnie-the-Pooh and the Philosophy of Everyday Language]. Under its cover, the analytical translation is found side-by-side with analytical articles. Thus, the preface dwells on the synchronic aspect of the new representation of Milne: the intellectual bestsellers of the 1990s Russia, such as Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, Language and the Unconscious by Roman Jakobson, [Gerasims Silence] by Sergei Zimovets. In this way the author puts forth postmodernisms crucial idea of neutralization of discourses, of the fold (Postmodernizm 2001: 738-741). Introduction to the Pragmatic Semantics of Winnie-the-Pooh offers a foundation for the principle of translation offered (an explication of the method of postmodern non-differentiation of the original and the copy). The extensive commentary of the translation (as it were, an etymologization of Rudnevs metalanguage) is delivered in postmodernist fashion, when commentary attempts dominating what is being commented upon. The bibliographic sources at the end of the book add to the readers model of the fictional world of Winnie-the-Pooh, forcing a retrospective rethinking of the texts network12.

Thus, the reader is faced with an undisguised project of deconstruction, an act of destruction of a structure with an intention of showing its skeleton, directed at rethinking of reading principles and translation of the classics and overcoming of all strict conceptual oppositions (speech - writing; masculine - feminine; nature - culture; reality - illusion and so forth) in order not to handle these concepts in such a way as if they differ from one another (Rudnev 2000: 239). And if one considers that the book is addressed to the children of all ages and the adults of all professions (Rudnev 2000: 4) and is dedicated to Asya13, while the translation itself is marked as new, complete, adult (Rudnev 2000: 8), it becomes obvious that the author of the analytical translation decenters the opposition adult - childrens, and neutralizes it as well. At the same time the communicative model of Milnes original is seen through new parameters: author - text - reader/interpreter/author - text - reader. The depth of discovery, granted by the post-modern intellectual sensitivity characterizes the first reading of the original by Rudnev and Mikhailova. Their Winnie-the-Pooh becomes not simply a translation (a rereading, a rewriting, an adaptation), but an instance of écriture in Barthess sense, a point of freedom between language and style (Barthes 1989). The addressee of the Russian language narrative is seduced, but this time not by a childrens rules-based game, but by a free play, the adventures of language. This is a modernized reader who comes into being in the midst of post-totalitarian heterogeneity - cultural, geopolitical, ethnic - focusing his/her sophisticated demands even at these modern propositions and acknowledging a desire to take part in one more translation experiment.

Thus the analysis of the functioning of A. A. Milne cycle of tales about Winnie-the-Pooh in this cultural space, on the one hand, demonstrates the validity of interpretive supra-goals in the process of translation of texts of childrens literature (the versions by Boris Zakhoder, Leonid Solonko, Ivan Malkovych, Vadim Rudnev and T. Mikhailova), and, on the other, highlights the role of the addressee as the main factor in the pragmatics of artistic expression.




1. In the dedication the addressee is referred to as "you" and "my joy." [back]

2. In the avant-garde works of that era "children's" comes to symbolize otherness, beyondness, deviation (Rudnev 1997: 179, Dvoriashina 2000), as compared to the conceptualization of "children's" as "freedom" and "fullness of life" in Romanticism (Skuratovskaia 1992: 4-12). [back]

3. Gerard Genette called such practices "psychoreading" (Genette 1998: 150, vol. 1). [back]

4. Here Kornei Chukovsky's brilliant rendering of Kipling's "The Cat that Walked by Himself" as "Koshka, guliavshaia sama po sebe," where the change of the character's gender influenced the underlying idea of the entire work, serves as a precedent. [back]

5. Milne's textual symmetry of a two-book cycle (also with two dedications), and also the dichotomy of the introductory and basic parts of both books supports the figure of an extra-diegetic narrator with the function of "testimony, when the narrator names the source of his knowledge, or judges the degree of exactness of his reminiscences, or recalls the emotions produced by this or that episode" (Genette 1998: 263, vol. 2). [back]

6. This strategy is revealed, for instance, in the Ukrainian version's preservation of the order of events and the text's division into twenty chapters, as it is in Milne's original. [back]

7. Solon'ko builds a different symmetry: the introduction is called "prykazka" ('a saying'; literally, 'that which comes before the tale'), while the entire text is marked as "kazka" ('fairytale'), which is proper for the traditional (folkloric) model of communication. [back]

8. "Winnie" is in Latin characters, while "Pukh" is in Cyrillic. [back]

9. "Analytical translation" is Rudnev's metalanguage, an attempt at getting closer to those primordial languages where grammatical meanings are expressed by auxiliary words, intonation, word order; it is the device of "defamiliarization." [back]

10. For this even the typographic representation of the characters' speech is done in the English tradition, with quotation marks rather than dashes. [back]

11. Rudnev uses the names of virtual "monster plants" (Rudnev 2000: 22-25, 54), just like the deconstruction/rendering of the language games of the characters, to reconstruct the sexual symbolism of the original text as a narrative representation of a child's psyche. For example, "Kristofer Robin daval mne semena masturbtsii, i ia ikh posadil, i u menia teper' vyrastut masturbtsii priamo pered dver'iu." - "Mozhet, nasturtsii?," robko govorit Porosenok, prodolzhaia prygat'. - "Net!," skazal Pukh. "Eto drugie. Moi nazyvaiutsia masturbtsii" (Rudnev 2000: 209). In the original Pooh says "mastershallum"; Zakhoder rendered it as "kogotki i gvozdiki. Ili vintiki"; Solon'ko has "nosyky i rotyky." // Malkovych's version, from the intertextual point of view, a 'trace" of Rudnev's text can be found in Babai and Babaichyk (instead of Solon'ko's Vova and Vovchyk) as a legitimate appeal to the collective unconscious and an insertion of national archetypes into the text. [back]

12. The mention of Frederick Crews and his 1963 book The Pooh Perplex: A Freshman Casebook is notable in this respect (Rudnev 2000: 317). In essence, this was the first attempt, undertaken in the West in the middle of the twentieth century, to textualize the "other" experience of reading Milne, following the analytic schemes of formalism, Freudianism, and so forth. Later Crews published another volume, Postmodern Pooh (2001), imitating readings of Winnie-the-Pooh by theoreticians of deconstruction, feminism, New Historicism, cultural studies, and postcolonial theory (Jacques Derrida, Edward Said, Jonathan Culler, Fredric Jameson, Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, Helene Cixous and others) (Susina 2002). The parodic intention of this book can be viewed already as a stage of criticism of "endless interpretation" and an implicit call to "intentional reading," that is, the one that follows the intentions of the author. [back]

13. From the preface we learn that Asya is Vadim Rudnev's nine-year-old daughter who became the first listener of the translation (this fact also plays with the creative discourse situation of the original Milne's tale, whose first listener was the writer's son Christopher when he was aged six to nine). [back]




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Olga Papusha is a candidate of philology, an associate professor of the department of humanity disciplines of Ternopil Commercial Institute (Ukraine). In 2004 she defended the thesis "The Narrative of the Children's Literature". She is the author of 12 articles on the problems of the children's literature.



Olga Papusha
LiterNet, 09.11.2005
. / Adaptation as a Strategy of Children's Literature. . . . : LiterNet, 2005.