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Muffled Voices

"The Noise of the City Cannot Be Heard" was the title of a very popular song in the Soviet Union just after World War II. According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the song was so much in demand that "no singer, even the most mediocre, could perform it without receiving enthusiastic applause." The Soviet Chief Administration of Thoughts and Feelings was puzzled by all this, yet permitted performance of the song until "suddenly they discovered what it was all about—and they immediately crossed it off the permitted list." It seems that the songwriter had treated the theme of the "doomed prisoner" in the Gulag with a sly allusiveness quickly decoded by the masses but initially escaping detection by the literal-minded censors. The successful honest writer in Eastern Europe resembles Leo Strauss's Maimonides: his works have one message on the surface, but here and there encoded messages are inserted to alert the cognoscenti. Today the struggle to express forbidden truths continues in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and Nicaragua, as well as in many noncommunist states. Monitoring these courageous efforts are a number of magazines and newsletters deserving wider attention and influence.

Index on Censorship might well be considered the flagship of this doughty fleet of periodicals. Edited by George Theiner and published by Writers & Scholars International Ltd. (a nonprofit institution...

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