LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Copyright © 2008 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Volume 54, No 4 - Winter 2008
Editor of this issue: M. G. Salvėnas
Discovering the Lithuanian
of Robinson Crusoe:
A Literary Construct of Nineteenth Century Cultural, Political and Historical Discourses in Lithuania
Lina Lamanauskaitė Geriguis
Lina Lamanauskaitė Geriguis is a doctoral candidate in English Literature at Claremont Graduate University. Her primary research interests are postcolonial literature and theory and Lithuanian fiction.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is a colonial paradigm pivotal to Eurocentric discourse and has been grafted onto culturally diverse discourses in many cultures. The Lithuanian Robinson Crusoe, translated in 1846 by Simonas Daukantas as The Life of Rubinaitis Peliūžė, was not published until 1984. This analysis shows that Daukantas’ text emerges as a version of an anti-imperial critique re-created into a piece of national literature which could not have been received favorably under the pressure of Russification and Polonization of Lithuania at that time. While The Life of Rubinaitis Peliūžė has not yet received the attention it deserves in scholarly discourses, it also belongs to the family of Robinsonades and well reflects complex and important realities of nineteenth century Lithuania.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is one of the most internationalized myths to ever disseminate into diverse cultures and graft onto a variety of discourses. Since its first publication in 1719, the original text has undergone multifaceted metamorphoses as it was reshaped into a wide range of literary genres and multiple adaptations.1 Robinson Crusoe was also rapidly reworked into a number of translations. Many of them became interpretations of the original English text reconstituted for culturally, geographically, and historically different audiences. In the hands of different translators, Defoe’s text became a new creation or, as Albrecht Neubert and Gregory Shreve classify this type of literary translation, “a specific vehicle for cultural values.”2 In fact, some of the subsequent translations and adaptations of Robinson Crusoe surpassed Defoe’s original novel in popularity, as was the case with Joachim Heinrich Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere (1779).3 Campe’s text became a best-seller and served to further communicate Defoe’s myth to many different languages, including Eskimo, Greek, and Yiddish.4 While Campe’s translation was only one of the many German imitations of Robinson Crusoe, it was used as a model since it was taken to be the original version.5 Among the generations of readers to whom Campe’s translation became the epitome of Robinson Crusoe was the renowned Lithuanian historian Simonas Daukantas (1793-1864), who chose to translate Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere into a story in his native tongue.6 Renaming it Rubinaičio Peliuzes Gyvenimas, (The life of Rubinaitis Peliuze) (1846), Daukantas invited the character of Robinson Crusoe, or what John Richetti calls the “archetype personage of the last two hundred and fifty years of European consciousness,”7 to enter upon Lithuania’s cultural terrain for the first time. In the hands of Daukantas, Crusoe’s character undergoes a transformation, fostered by his culturally and historically grounded ideas of Lithuanian nationhood. By taking on different cultural forms, and thus consciously departing from Campe’s text and inadvertently from Defoe’s, the Lithuanian Robinson Crusoe becomes a story twice removed from the original novel. Akin to Marx, Rousseau, Campe, and others who modified Defoe’s narrative “in the light of their own philosophies of life,”8 Daukantas takes liberties with Crusoe’s myth by infusing the text with a patriotically Lithuanian point of view, thereby creating a work of national literature.9
According to Vytautas Merkys, the censorship committee reviewed Daukantas’s manuscript in the mid-nineteenth century but the first Lithuanian re-inscription of Crusoe’s colonial paradigm remained in manuscript for over a century.10 It is important to consider the possible political and antinational forces that relegated Daukantas’s text into dormancy from its appearance in the manuscript of 1846 until its first publication in 1984. The peculiar fate of this literary document calls for a study of the historical space in which the manuscript was concealed. In this essay, I will examine how the text of The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze, placed in conjunction with Daukantas’s historical writings and situated in the contemporaneous historical context, functions as a suppressed creation stimulated, as well as silenced, by national concerns and political influences.11
The author of the first Lithuanian Robinsonade was also the author of the first Lithuanian history written in Lithuanian.12 Although historians refer to Daukantas as one of the most active “forerunners of the Lithuanian national rebirth,” both as a literary and as a historical observer, the author remained largely unpublished during his lifetime.13 Daukantas’s historical chronicle, Deeds of the Old Lithuanians and Samogitians, written in 1822, was not published until 1922;14 the manuscript of A Samogitian History dates back to 1838; but it was only published in the U.S. in two parts in 1893 and 1897 after the author’s death.15 Most of Daukantas’s historical chronicles focused on idealizing, romanticizing, and valorizing Lithuanian language, history, and customs. The historical context in which these texts were engendered, however, was not favorable toward such nationalistic propagation. Daukantas lived when Lithuania was still under the effects of Polonization and direct attacks of Russification. In fact, he wrote during the period after the Napoleonic wars, when “Russification slowly began to replace Polonization” in his native land.16 In 1816, under the pressure of Polish influences, Vilnius University declared Polish as the official language of instruction.17 Daukantas graduated from Vilnius University in 1825 – less than ten years before it was closed under the order of the Russian Czar Nicolas I.18 Under such rigid conditions and without sufficient funds, Daukantas could not afford to publish many Lithuanian documents,19 including The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze. Seeing his native land as occupied by foreign forces aiming not only to diminish or devalue but to eradicate the cultural heritage of Lithuania as a separate nation, Daukantas employed his pen in defense of his national culture and literature both in his historical chronicles and in some of his translations. Daukantas pioneered in coherently formulating “anti-Polish attitudes.”20 The author was also devoted to writing Lithuanian textbooks and pedagogical readings, from which he encouraged Lithuanian pupils to study their native language.21
Although Daukantas’s major concern was the Polonization of Lithuania, one might also take into account the mechanisms of Lithuania’s Russification, prevalent during a large portion of the author’s lifetime. From 1815 till 1918 (which partially coincided with the time of Daukantas’s writing), Lithuania “was exposed to the worst of the Tsarist oppression,” under which the country “lost all its personal liberties.”22 Russification followed Polonization in denationalizing Lithuanians: the Russian forces banned the Lithuanian language in both the private and the public sphere.23 The material conditions of Lithuania’s occupation, then, lend themselves to the argument that some of Daukantas’s historical and fictional writings were silenced because of its uniquely Lithuanian point of view and its symbolic call for national resistance. In the face of the Poles and Russians, Daukantas was one of the voices not to be heard. The emergence of The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze in the form of a Lithuanianized tale communicates through Defoe’s myth the same political implications that Daukantas’s historical writings expressed to cultivate a stronger sense of national awareness and unity.
Along with the historically determined impetus that motivates the author’s non-fictional writings, the Lithuanization of Robinson der Jüngere is the author’s attempt to remind his readers about Lithuanian ideology and its values. Daukantas translates Campe’s text not into Polish or Russian but, pointedly, into Lithuanian. By doing so, he is contributing to the recovery of the Lithuanian language from the effects of Polonization and Russification. By translating this work into Lithuanian, Daukantas practices his beliefs as expressed in his nonfictional writings, wherein he accentuates “that Lithuania and its languages (dialects) were alive, beautiful, and useful.”24 By writing in Lithuanian, Daukantas incorporates his translation of Robinson der Jüngere into his patriotic agenda to preserve the Lithuanian language and manipulates it away from the task of merely introducing to his Lithuanian readers the myth of the West’s triumphant colonial efforts. He formulates a didactic piece of prose that reminds Lithuanian readers of their own cultural heritage and equips them to resist its eradication by foreign forces.25
Central to Daukantas’s anti-imperial strategy is the reformulation of Defoe’s hero, who is renamed Rubinaitis Peliuze – a fellow native of Western Lithuania, or Samogitia.26 By reconditioning the main hero of the story into a Samogitian, Daukantas postulates a culturally grounded argument. During the early nineteenth century, historians identified Western Lithuanians as distinctly different from Eastern Lithuanians. Samogitia is recorded to be a part of Lithuania that was less Polonized and, thus, as a native of Western Lithuania, Daukantas considered the Samogitians to be “more pure in [their] Lithuanianism than the Polonized Lithuanians of Eastern Lithuania.”27 Equally important to this geographical distinction is the fact that most Russification was successfully enacted in the Central and Eastern parts of the country, whereas the Duchy of Samogitia persistently resisted imperial efforts and rebelliously fought to remain untainted by foreign influences. According to David Kirby’s historical observations, “the clergy and nobility of Samogitia had been in the forefront of the ‘Lithuanian movement’ during the 1820s.”28 Thus, by selecting a native of Samogitia to embark on his adventure into the Baltic Sea (or the Samogitian Sea29) Daukantas seems to be devising a narrative that Zohar Shavit identifies as “attaching the text”30 to a particular cultural model – in this case, to a patriotic model of Lithuanian culture. These nominal revisions, then, are enough to empower the text with strong nationalistic implications that indicate the author’s attempt to revive, or reconstruct, a sense of national identity and its importance.31 As a typical multilingual communicator, Daukantas brings his cultural inheritance to the text. When he renames Friday Sunday, he inserts “linguistic indices”32 that demonstrate the translator’s own thinking. Furthermore, that is repeated when Daukantas reforms Crusoe, who is a Protestant in the original text, into a devoutly Catholic Peliuze, in order to appropriate him for Lithuanian readers. Thus, in the process of translating, to borrow Neubert and Schreve’s terms, Daukantas “creates the right text to match the right goal.”33 The narrator stresses that the Catholic way is “the right way of believing.”34 By inserting this into the text, Daukantas emphasizes the value of his own as well as his country’s cultural beliefs, rooted in the Catholic tradition since the medieval era.35 At the time Daukantas was translating Robinson der Jüngere, authorities attempting Russification tried to eliminate the Catholic Church, because it had become an integral part of Lithuania’s national culture. It seems that it is for the sake of sociocultural appropriation that the Lithuanian historian reverses such a major aspect of the story to enact his agenda of protecting Lithuanian cultural values grounded in Catholicism against Russian attempts of deculturalization. In fact, the Russians equated Polishness with Catholicism and “therefore adopted not only a strongly anti-Polish but also a sharply anti-Catholic policy in Lithuania.”36 Because Daukantas’s reinscription of Robinson Crusoe occurred when the Russians were trying to do away with the influence of the Catholic church in Lithuania, to close learning institutions, and ban the native language, the translator must have regarded it important to stand firmly against the Russian attack on Catholicism and reject the imposition of the Russian Orthodox church, thereby making a pro-Catholic argument in The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze.37
Peliuze shows his love for the Lithuanian seaports – the towns of Palanga and Klaipėda as well as the rivers Šventoji, Nemunas and Venta, etc.38 Daukantas introduces these locations into his translation by replacing German settings in Campe’s text with places pertinent to Lithuanian geography.39 Critics have read these geographical revisions as Daukantas’s attempt to relate the foreign text to the local people of Lithuania.40 But one must also consider that, by including the latter geographical locations specific to Lithuania, Daukantas’s act of revising the original text becomes more than an attempt to help his readers identify with the translated story. Based on his patriotic viewpoint in his historical writings, the latter gesture can be read as a politically charged argument on the translator’s part. In 1840, only six years before Daukantas finished the manuscript of The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze, “the name of Lithuania was abolished by ukaz and the nation came to be identified on maps and in official documents simply as ‘The Northwest Territory.’ ”41 Thus, by inscribing into the text specifically Lithuanian geographical locations, Daukantas attempts to reintegrate Lithuania into the map of Europe. With the help of these geographical revisions and additions, the author symbolically reinscribes the country of Lithuania into the geopolitical landscape of Europe, thereby reasserting its place on the map as a rightful national domain with its own name and in its own language. In resituating the story in Lithuania, Daukantas uses the myth of Crusoe to deal symbolically with “the national problem” and rejects Russia’s project to impose what Partha Chatterjee calls a “cultural homogeneity.”42 By centralizing the Samogitian character of Peliuze and choosing Western Lithuania as the center from which the hero departs and returns to, Daukantas confronts the Russification project to transform Lithuania into a “Russian province.”43 By writing in his own tongue and talking about a representative of his own nation, Daukantas attempts to un-otherize and reinscribe the national identity of an independent Lithuanian. To borrow Chatterjee’s words, Daukantas’s sense of “nation-ness [becomes]… virtually inseparable from [his] political consciousness.”44 On a symbolic level, the portrayal of Peliuze in the Baltic region, then, becomes a means of ensuring the survival of Lithuanian culture.
Following the structure of Campe’s version, Daukantas eliminates the first person narrator, Crusoe, found in Defoe’s novel, and replaces him with a father figure, who communicates Crusoe’s adventures as a third person storyteller, framing the travel tales to his listening children. Perhaps for this reason, among many others, some critics have regarded The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze to be the first piece of children’s literature in Lithuanian.45 As the narrator and the children are given analytical voices to assess Peliuze’s behavior, the story becomes markedly infused with criticism that points to Crusoe’s flaw – his mistake of leaving his native country and disobeying his parents. Together with Campe, Daukantas extends Defoe’s critique of disobedience to one’s parents into betrayal of one’s fatherland. Such disapproval of Peliuze’s actions supports Daukantas’s patriotic agenda. The narrator and his children denounce Peliuze for disobeying his parents by abandoning Lithuania in order to find his fortune abroad.46
Daukantas departs from Defoe’s argument when he imitates Campe by inscribing a statement destabilizing the notion of Friday’s voluntary compliance with servitude. In Daukantas’s version, Sunday “had to be kept in submission”47 and is referred to as being “made into a slave.”48 In the voice of a Lithuanian father figure, Daukantas denounces slavery as an “unjust practice of human exploitation.”49 While Daukantas might have followed Campe’s ideas on the indictment of slavery in Robinson der Jüngere, the issue of slavery was of particular interest and concern to Daukantas himself. He expands his commentary on slavery in his historical writings, wherein he blames “the Poles for the national and moral enslavement of Lithuania.”50 In The Character of Lithuanians, Highlanders and Samogitians of Old Times, Daukantas writes: “the Poles having invaded Lithuania wanted to turn the Lithuanians into slaves… Poles did not work for the betterment of the economy, but only so they could eat well and not work.”51 Daukantas’s fear for Lithuanians being exploited as slaves in the context of the Lithuanian-Polish relations symbolically grafts onto the narrator’s perspective in The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze, thereby defining slavery on Crusoe’s island as an abominable undertaking.
In Defoe’s novel, Crusoe teaches Friday to speak English to meet Crusoe’s needs but the native’s knowledge of the language remains at the level of pidgin English.52 Conversely, Daukantas narrative, more like Campe’s German version, empowers Sunday to learn the Lithuanian language perfectly well.53 This linguistic element links itself with Daukantas’s historical chronicles, which signal the author’s sense of historical imperative to protect his “language, history, and culture from extinction.”54 It was politically and culturally important for him not only to write in Lithuanian and to have Peliuze speak Lithuanian, but also to have the proper Lithuanian language persist throughout the entire text for the sake of preserving the beauty of the language.55 By writing in Lithuanian and enabling all of his characters to use Peliuze’s native tongue properly, Daukantas participates in the task of proving to “the Poles that the Lithuanians had a distinct language, folklore, history, and customs.”56
The closing scene of Daukantas’s translation centralizes the hero’s triumphant return to Lithuania: he falls down on his knees and kisses his native land with tears in his eyes.57 After twelve years of living on a faraway island, Peliuze returns to his native town in Lithuania to share with his friends and family that parents should educate their children about the importance of obedience, piety, and a proper work ethic.58 In a didactic tone, The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze, then, remains politically centered not on the hero as a successful colonizer, but on what the hero learns while being away from home and the values he brings home to make it a better place to live. Peliuze celebrates his return to Lithuania and starts a carpentry shop where he works with Sunday and remains content residing in his native country for the rest of his life. No Further Adventures of Rubinaitis Peliuze are required because, perhaps according to Daukantas’s calculations, by returning to Lithuania and being reintegrated into its culture and society, the best possible ending has already been supplied.
The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze is instrumental to Daukantas’s historical and literary agenda in recreating and reshaping national consciousness and preserving national values. Giedrius Subačius identifies Daukantas’s place in the national history of Lithuania by celebrating him as “the initiator of the concept of a new modern Lithuanian nation” and a “symbolical creator of it.”59 Today we read Daukantas’s translation of Robinson der Jüngere as part of his larger goal “to prove to all the enemies of Lithuanian and Samogitian that everybody endowed with sufficient will and ability could write in Lithuanian successfully as in any other language cultivated at the present time.”60 The text of The Life of Rubinaitis Peliuze is a monument to the way literature can function as a geopolitically and culturally determined construct, in this case, fostered by Lithuanian nationalism and foreign threats of imperial occupation. In the context of nineteenth century Lithuania, Daukantas’s text functions as “a counter-discourse,”61 sharing the tone of his historical writings that contested “the label of who a Lithuanian was.”62 The translated text centralizes the Lithuanian personage, marginalized on the historical landscape of international politics.
Auryla, Vincas, Urba, Kęstutis, and Zabarauskienė, Jolanta. “Kodėl –Rubinaitis?” In Rubinaitis: Vaikų Literatūros Informacijos Svetainė http://rubinaitis.lnb.lt.index.php.
Campe, Joachim. Robinson der Jungere. English. The New Robinson Crusoe: designed for the use and entertainment of the youth of both sexes. Translated from the original German embellished with cuts. Hartford: Printed by John Babcock, 1800. http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.libraries.claremont.edu
――. The new Robinson Crusoe: an instructive and entertaining history. / Translated from the French. Vol. I-II. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by W. Woodhouse, at the Bible, no. 6, South Front-Street., M.DCC.XCII. . http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.libraries.claremont.edu
Chatterjee, Partha. “Nationalism as a Problem.” In The Postcolonial Studies Reader, edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.
Daukantas, Simonas. “Rubinaicio Peliuzes gyvenimas.” In Vertimai ir sekimai, edited by Vytautas Merkys. Vilnius: Vaga, 1984.
――. The Character of Lithuanians, Highlanders and Samogitians of Old Times. In “Lithuanian Anthology of Classic Literature,” http://www.anthology.lms.lt.
――. Lietuvių būdas. Kaunas: Sakalo Leidykla, 1935.
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Merkys, Vytautas, ed. Simonas Daukantas: Vertimai ir sekimai. Vilnius: Vaga, 1984.
Neubert, Albrecht and Shreve, Gregory. Translation as Text. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1992.
Richetti, John. “Robinson Crusoe: The Self as Master.” In Robinson Crusoe, edited by Michael Shinagel. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1994.
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Sužiedelis, Simas. “Lithuania from Medieval to Modern Times: A Historical Outline.” In Lithuania Under the Soviets: Portrait of a Nation, 1940-65, edited by Stanley Vardys. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965.
Tamošiūnaitė, Aurelija. “Simono Daukanto Rubinaitis Peliuze: Vertimas ir Adaptavimas.” Archivum Lithuanicum 9. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007.
Tiffin, Hellen. “Post-Colonial Literatures and Counter-Discourse.” In The Postcolonial Studies Reader, edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.
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Watt, Ian. Myths of Modern Individualism: Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Robinson Crusoe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996