Nikolay Nosov: Neznaika trilogy
Layla’s review of Nikolai Nosov’s trilogy:
This is the first author whom I have read by myself at the age of 5. He was one of the most popular children’s writers in the Soviet Union who started off as a documentary film maker, although, I believe he can, and should, be enjoyed at any age. In fact, I use his Mite trilogy as one of the paradigms of social relations and knowledge presented for children in my doctoral dissertation. His books are full of wit, knowledge, irony, justice, joy and love and are presented in a lively and engaging manner.
Dunno & Mite trilogy, part I: The Adventures of Dunno in Flower Town, presents a socialist anarchist utopia of Flower town. This society is self sufficient and enjoys a variety of personalities. It raises questions of the role of science and medicine, travel and knowledge, self-subsistence and hierarchy in a simple, humorous and concomitantly lovely style. Margaret Wetlin, an American who had immigrated to Russia during Stalinism, made an excellent translation of this book into English.
In the Mite trilogy part II Dunno in Sun City, Dunno together with two friend-mites, a girl and a boy, travel to a technologically advanced city whose structure and social organisation reminds one of the communist state. However, in this organisation, we see problems that are not an issue in the first society, namely the presence of police and questions of crime. The plot builds a fascinating series of adventures around these questions and constantly returning to the question of science and technology, conscience and society, good and bad acts in an engaging manner. Unfortunately, this has not been translated into English yet. If anyone is interested to sponsor my translation, I’d do it with great pleasure.
In the final book of the trilogy, Dunno on the Moon , the mites become technologically advanced and fly out to space. Although Nosov tickles the scientific debates and institutions of knowledge, and he sees technological advancement as both problematic yet offering possibilities to travel and face the harsh realities of the capitalist society on the moon. Nosov depicts realistically and with great sensitivity the plight of the poor who toil for industrial enterprises owned by the rich – a reality that only exacerbates in our time and despite the seeming invisibility of the David Copperfields of our day because they have been moved to the so-called “third-world” which I know only too well but with which most “first-worlders” do not identify themselves and hence dismiss as a fickle of post-industrial imagination and paranoia. The book is an interesting read that raises many important social questions.
For an in-depth analysis of Dunno’s trilogy (and other children’s books) see part II of my doctoral dissertation (published in The Paulinian Compass, June 2010) titled: