Reflection of Ideology and Politics in Travel Writing: America and Russia in Each Other's Mirror, 1930s-1940s

Reflection of Ideology and Politics in Travel Writing: America and Russia in Each Other's Mirror, 1930s-1940s

Xenia Liashuk (Trnava University in Trnava, Slovakia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9444-4.ch004
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The chapter focuses on the ways in which politics and ideology are incorporated into travel writing. The analysis of two travel books involving the U.S. American and the Soviet Russian cultures, namely Little Golden America (One-Storied America, 1937) by Soviet humorists Ilf and Petrov, and A Russian Journal (1948) by American novelist John Steinbeck, reveals the two factors of importance influencing the depiction of politics and ideology in travel writing, namely the authors' identity including their personal ideologies and the polarity of bilateral political and ideological relations between the nations concerned. These two factors predetermine the specific issues of political and ideological nature described and explained in travel writing and the angle and character of their interpretation and evaluation by the authors.
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Travelling has always been one of the most alluring and illuminating way of exploring the unknown cultures, communities and spaces. Throughout centuries and up to the present times, the creation of travel writings has been a highly inclusive activity since the only tangible prerequisite to be met here has been the possibility to go on travel coupled with willingness to document one’s experience. Thus, travel writing constitutes a cultural artefact which reproduces the intercultural encounter conducted by a traveler, who attempts to discover and comprehend a new cultural reality by applying cultural patterns from his or her home environment. The present study focuses on two travel books embracing two cultures that constitute the two opposing poles of the world, both literally as far as their geographic location is concerned, and metaphorically in terms of the prevailing ideology of the historical period in question. The first travelogue, One-Storied America by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov, provides an account of a more than four month long trip across the USA and back to New York, which the two famous Soviet humorists undertook from October 1935 till January 1936. The original Russian version was first published in the USSR in 1937, while the authorized translation into English by Charles Malamuth was published in the USA under the title Little Golden America in the same year. The second travelogue, A Russian Journal (1948) by John Steinbeck, covers the forty days between July 31 and mid-September 1947 that the well-known American novelist spent on a trip to the Soviet Union, including the Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia, being accompanied by Robert Capa, a famed war photo journalist. The chief objective of the present chapter is to explore the forms and ways in which ideology and politics are reflected in the selected travel writings, both as an object of description, explanation or interpretation and a factor that might influence the authors’ choice of cultural elements to be described, explained and interpreted for the domestic readership.

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