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I am currently studying the film Barbara directed by Christian Petzold for my undergraduate dissertation. This film is based in the former German Democratic Republic=GDR (East Germany). The protagonist Barbara reads Mark Twain's book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to a young girl called Stella. It is possible that this plot point is symbolic if the book was banned in the GDR. Therefore, I'm trying to ascertain if the book was in fact banned. I have Google searched for a list of banned books in the GDR but cannot find anything. It would be much appreciated if anyone could shed some light on the matter.
And, well, yes. It was an examplary piece of world literature. Not to be ignored.
Indeed: Much well liked by the governmental censors. But the very word "censors" brings up the problem. It was a bit shortened - for anti-authoritarian tendencies - and sometimes a bit strangely translated.
One thing was that Huck was seen as a potentially problematic role model for the youth (which he clearly is, in man authoritarian eyes. Going about stealing stuff was seen as a problem… ). This was as a tendency cut short, ad usum delphini.
Then we had an early example of 'politically correct language'. Examplified in the translation choices. Especially in the character of Jim a certain coloured language was tried to be avoided, to fifferent degrees in different editions. For example in the edition published in 1963 GDR (re-translated to English):
"What they mean? I'll tell you what they mean. When I was exhausted from work and the constant crying for you and fell asleep, my heart was almost broken because you were lost and I didn't care what happened to me and the raft. And when I woke up and found you here, all healed, my tears came, and I would have gotten down on my knees and kissed your feet, so happy I've been. And all you could think of was how you could fool old Jim with a lie. "This stuff is junk, and junk is people who put dirt on their friends' heads and embarrass them." Then he got up slowly, went to the wigwam and disappeared inside without saying anything else. But that was enough. I felt so mean that I wanted to kiss his feet and make him take it back.
- Quoted from: Emer O ́Sullivan: "Zuhause im fremden Text. Sprachliche Identität in Übersetzungen", 1000 und 1 Buch, (1), 4-13. 2013. (PDF)
Whether 'they' juistified that as again as idealised role-model English lifted to a more standard one or not may be up to debate.
'The book' was printed, and available, the exact version usually not. But that is also translation hell. Jim's exact language was subject to considerable variation in West German translations as well. And also the 'unwanted language' is still a big issue for most modern editions. (Noteworthy: Huck was strictly seen and marketed as 'a children's book'.
(- Dieter Petzold: "Die Rezeption klassischer englischsprachiger Kinderbiicher in Deutschland", in: Hans-Heino Ewers, Gertrud Lehnert & Emer O'Sullivan: "Kinderliteratur im interkulturellen Prozeß. Studien zur allgemeinen und vergleichenden Kinderliteraturwissenschaft", J.B. Metzler: Stuttgart, Weimar, 1994.)
Other examples for editions printed in the GDR:
- Mark Twain; Illustrator Hanns Langenberg: "Die Abenteuer des Huckleberry Finn", Greifenverl: Rudolstadt, 1952.
- Mark Twain & Barbara Cramer-Nauhaus (transl): "Huckleberry Finns Abenteuer - [Vollständige Ausgabe]", Dieterich: Leipzig, 1956.