The idea that language changes over time isn’t very controversial, but how it changes and whether or not we can or should try to control those changes certainly is controversial. Without thinking about what they are doing in these terms, many groups both along the political spectrum and among the religious sects seek to control language to some degree.
Saturday began the ALA’s annual Banned Books Week, its effort to call attention to censorship and attempts to censor books in the United States. The good news is that the number of challenges (attempts, usually unsuccessful, to restrict or make a book unavailable at an institution–library, school, etc.) has hit its lowest level in 20 years. But last year an LDS author’s work made the top 10 most challenged books for the second year in a row.
The great and greatly censored Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov wrote a letter to the Soviet government dated March 28, 1930. In it he expressed his frustration with how his work had been treated (it was routinely savaged by reviewers and the media and his plays were often in rehearsal for years or were accepted, but then never stage dby theater companies) and asked for employment at the Moscow Arts Theatre as an assistant director.
This was not his first communication with the government; however, this one led (a month later) to a phone call from Stalin in which the dictator told him to reapply to the Moscow Arts Theatre (where was accepted for a job he had previously been denied).
I won’t go through all the trials of Bulgakov’s life and literary career. But I do want to quote a line from his letter to the government (from Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov – A Life in Letters and Diaries by J.A.E. Curtis):
“Am I thinkable in the USSR?” Continue reading “Thinkable”