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Type: Journal article
Title: A 'Homeric' hymn to Stalin: performing safe criticism in ancient Greek?
Author: Baltussen, J.N.
Citation: Classical Receptions Journal, 2014; 7(2):223-241
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
Issue Date: 2014
ISSN: 1759-5134
Statement of
Han Baltussen
Abstract: This article offers an analysis of an unusual ‘Hymn to Stalin’, written in Homeric Greek, but found in a twentieth-century Czech novel. The examination of the style and context of the Ode reveals the allusive use of language, which illustrates how veiled criticism in a fictional account can inform us about historical events, even if it has an autobiographical origin. The analysis shows how the author, the Czech Václav Pinkava (pseudonym Jan Křesadlo), skilfully appropriates the hymnal style of both Stalinist and ancient Greek precedents, and argues that the use of Homeric vocabulary ingeniously transfers shades of meaning from the original Homeric context into the modern context (‘cracking the code’). The elaborate framing of the poem (authored by the protagonist in the novel, which is published under a pseudonym) also contributes to the overall impression that Pinkava used this format both as a send-up of the Stalinist literature of praise and as an example of ‘safe criticism’ or ‘Aesopian language’ — the subversive strategy of criticizing an oppressive regime by way of a cleverly constructed literary work for a knowing reader.
Description: First published online: May 20, 2014
Rights: © The Author 2014
RMID: 0030015955
DOI: 10.1093/crj/clu008
Grant ID:
Appears in Collections:Classics publications

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