Itaalia konstrueerimine nõukogude reisikirjas. The Construction of Italy in Soviet Travelogues

Anneli Kõvamees

Abstract


The focus of the article is Aimée Beekman’s travelogue Plastmassist südamega madonna (Madonna With a Plastic Heart, 1963). It also covers Juhan Kahk’s travelogue Alpide taga on moonpunane Itaalia (Behind the Alps Lies Poppy-Red Italy, 1967), Artur Vader’s Itaalia päikese all (Under Italy’s Sun, 1973), the chapters on Italy in Voldemar Panso’s travel novel Laevaga Leningradist Odessasse ehk Miks otse minna, kui ringi saab (From Leningrad to Odessa by Boat or: Why Go Straight When You Can Go Around, 1957), Max Laosson’s Nato-blokk turisti bloknoodis (Notebook of a Tourist in the Nato Bloc, 1962) and Debora Vaarandi’s Välja õuest ja väravast (From the Yard and the Gate, 1970). My aim is to analyse Soviet Estonian authors’ image of Italy in order to see what characterises the Soviet travelogue. The theoretical background of the article is the research field of imagology within literary studies. Imagology and image studies deal with the depiction of countries and peoples. With the basic concepts of imagology as a starting point, the typical topic developments of the Soviet travelogue are covered, such as the thematic features of the worker, Western society and its mechanics and idiosyncracies, faith and the church, the question of the so-called ’real Italy’ and the characteristic perspicacity of writers of Soviet travelogues. When it comes to Estonian travelogues, one can talk about a Tuglasesque travelogue tradition; Friedebert Tuglas is considered one of the pioneers behind the Estonian travelogue with his works Teekond Hispaania (A Journey to Spain, 1918) and Teekond Põhja-Aafrika (A Journey to North Africa, I–III, 1928–1930). In the Tuglasesque travelogue, books of history and art, fiction and personal impressions are intertwined. The travelogue is educational and makes for good reading. The Soviet travelogue spans certain topics from a Soviet point of view and uses Soviet rhetorics and logics. The authors usually don’t even make it to the ’second level’: the travelogue remains a one-level description about things seen, and doesn’t catch any deeper train of thought or developments of the topic. The focus of the writing style is ’been there-seen that – went there, saw that.’ No intertwinement of books of history and art, fiction and personal impressions takes place; in that sense the travelogue does not belong in a Tuglasesque travelogue tradition. The Soviet travelogue is written from within the tradition of Soviet travelogues, which aims at pointing to the problems of life in capitalist countries and to the negative influence of faith. In this depiction of the Other and construction of the capitalist West, Soviet society is also depicted. You could say that the situation in the home-country is implicitely and explicitely reflected against the background of the image of Italy. It is important to note that the writers in several instances identify themselves with the Soviet Union; a Soviet Russian filter lies between the Estonian’s gaze and that which is depicted. Simultaneously, a sense of belonging, of we, can be discerned with both Russians and Communist Italians. Thus, their self-reflection in the image of the Other shows a ’self’ which contains a mixed identity of Soviet citizen and Estonian, reflecting their own world-view.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v5i7.543

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