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Translation anthologies and British literature in Portugal and Hungary between 1949 and 1974

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Abstract

A comparison of translation anthologies published in Portugal and Hungary when both countries lived under differing forms of dictatorial rule reveals not only different attitudes towards British literary works, but also towards literature in general. The different role ascribed to literature in Estado Novo Portugal and Socialist Hungary is also well evidenced by their dissimilar approach towards the publishing industry. The total control over book publishing and distribution in Hungary appears to show that literature played a more significant role in the Hungarian propaganda machine than in Portugal. The dominance of crime fiction anthologies in the Portuguese book market, for example, may probably be explained by the fact that, due to the lack of adequate government funding, private publishing houses were obliged to rely mostly on profitable bestsellers. Conversely, the idealistic belief in the educational power of politically reliable classics in establishing Socialism might have had the effect of depriving Hungarian readers of light and entertaining literature, but also of providing them with thousands of remarkably low-priced high-quality books and anthologies. In fact, one of the main tenets behind the Hungarian cultural politics of this period was to re-educate society with the help of the “ideologically progressive” literary heritage of tried-and-true classic authors such as Shakespeare, Shelley, Dickens, or Hardy, while in Portugal, political control was principally based on a policy of keeping the population in relative ignorance with regard to social and cultural alternatives.

References

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