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Gianni Rodari and Tamara Lisitsian: Western Communist Parties as Vehicles of Cultural Encounter


Abstract. The case of Gianni Rodari, an Italian communist children's writer whose books were received by the Soviet public with exceptional favour, proves how relations with western communist parties happened to be instrumental in opening up the Soviet cultural system to the world. Rodari became, in fact, well-known in the Soviet Union before attaining fame in his homeland; from the Sixties on, however, things became to change, and from this point on, it may be argued, children from different sides of the iron curtain were brought up reading the same books. Rodari's works were the expression of the point of view of a western communist – in many cases, more western than communist – and they were published in the USSR with very little interventions by the censor (due, probably, to care of the relations with friendly parties), which made them a space were forbidden names and ideas could appear in print. An analogous mediating role was played by Tamara Lisitzian, a Georgian-born film director, who spent several years in Italy as the wife of the son of one of the Communist Party leaders and, after her return, worked as a translator of Italian films and started her own career with films based on Rodari's works. Although Lisitzian was far from liberal in her views, her children's films, usually very faithful to the literary models, display rare nonconformist qualities that go even further than Rodari's books in their irony, sometimes clearly directed at the Soviet system itself.