Il compagno Ray

9 luglio 2012

In the last three decades of the Soviet Union’s existence, Ray Bradbury was the country’s most famous and widely read American writer. Only Isaac Asimov, Ernest Hemingway, and J. D. Salinger enjoyed somewhat comparable degrees of popularity.

The big Soviet cities boasted dozens of Ray Bradbury fan clubs. It was impossible, as well as extremely uncool, for any au courant Soviet teen-ager or intelligentsia-bound young engineer not to have read and be able to discuss, at a party or in a dentist’s chair, “Fahrenheit 451,” “Martian Chronicles,” or “Dandelion Wine,” and the iconic stories “A Sound of Thunder” and “There Will Come Soft Rains.” For broad swaths of the Soviet readership, it was literary love at its purest, one unencumbered by any extraneous political motivations, such as the all-too-natural (in the case of a foreign writer of non-Communist persuasion) desire to painstakingly search texts for hidden anti-Soviet messages.

The love felt for Bradbury by the rumbling machine of official Soviet propaganda, which ran the Soviet publishing industry, was, of course, not so selfless. There was a reason that his books were translated into Russian by masters of the craft, and were allowed to be printed in runs of millions of copies. Science fiction, in the Soviet Union, was an ideology-intensive literary genre, whose ultimate, overriding agenda lay in claiming the future for a unified, beautifully homogenized, meaningfully sterile, stateless, and classless world—patterned in its development, supposedly, on the Soviet model of society.

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