27 August 2006

What's Russian for Kalidah?

Out of the Munchkinland blue, I got an email from Ross Boundin asking me to publicize his father's illustrations for a Russian edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Yeah, yeah, I thought. I've never been as interested in what Soviet Russia did with Baum's book as some other Oz fans, nor in unsolicited email, but I'll look at the link.

And then I saw this dramatic picture of Dorothy and friends escaping from the Kalidahs. I also liked Boundin's picture of Oz as a giant head, which is creepier than Denslow's disembodied floating head. His Dorothy seems to have stepped out of comic strip, and some of the other compositions didn't please me as much, but they're well worth a look.

The artist, Victor Boundin (1926-2000), was the son of a rural carpenter who, the website says, obtained his first pencil by trading horns and hooves left over from soapmaking. He was drafted into the Red Army at seventeen and doesn't seem to have entered art school until his mid-twenties. Then he did a lot of work for children's publishers as well as other parts of the industry. In October, there will be an exhibition covering Boundin's whole career in St. Petersburg.

This edition of The Wizard of Oz was translated by Alexander Volkov, who took liberties with Baum's text and then spun off several sequels all on his own. I've read that the book was immensely popular in the USSR, and there have been post-Soviet sequels as well. Ironic that what's often called the quintessentially American fairy tale also struck such a deep chord in America's chief 20th-century rival.

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