Censorship and Betrayal in Russia

Russian ArtistsRachel Donadio‘s article for The New York Times, “Russian Artists Face a Choice: Censor Themselves, or Else,” discusses the difference between legislation and enforcement of censorship in contemporary Russian theater.

“Russia has a thriving theater scene and a constitution that bans top-down, Soviet-style censorship. But in a time of economic turmoil and growing nationalism, with society polarized in unpredictable and emotional ways over the new laws and the war in Ukraine, cultural figures say the message from the government is clear: Fall in line with the emphasis on family and religious values, or lose funding, or worse.

“‘It’s about betrayal — those who betray are put in the Ninth Circle of Hell, like in Dante,’ Kirill Serebrennikov, a prominent theater and film director and the director of the Gogol Center, a cornerstone of Moscow’s theater scene, said in a recent interview here. The result, he said, was to put writers and directors ‘between Scylla and Charybdis — between censorship or self-censorship.'”    —The New York Times

Read the entire article here.

“Yale Press Bans Images of Muhammad in New Book”

cartoons-that-shook-the-world

“So Yale University and Yale University Press consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, “The Cartoons That Shook the World,” should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005. What’s more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children’s book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Dore’ of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante’s Inferno that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dali'” [. . .]    –Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, August 12, 2009

Matthew Pearl, “The Dante Club” (2003)

matthew-pearl-the-dante-club-2003“1865 Boston, a small group of literary geniuses puts the finishing touches on America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and prepares to unveil the remarkable visions of Dante to the New World. The powerful old guard of Harvard College wants to keep Dante out–believing that the infiltration of such foreign superstitions onto our bookshelves would prove as corrupting as the foreign immigrants invading Boston harbor. The members of the Dante Club–poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and publisher J. T. Fields –endure the intimidation of their fellow Boston Brahmins for a sacred literary cause, an endeavor that has sustained Longfellow in the hellish aftermath of his wife’s tragic death by fire.”    —Matthew Pearl