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Russia 2007: Dr. Spock in Translation

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If everyone has a guardian angel, mine is Benjamin Spock. His book Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, a present from an American pediatrician at the Karachi, Pakistan, hospital where I gave birth, saved my sanity. It was a breath of fresh air from the obedience-heavy Soviet literature on child care, which was fit for raising soldiers, not human beings. I made a vow that I would see the book published in Russia, my home country.

The Soviet government was initially resistant but gave me the okay to translate it. I worked in longhand late at night in the corridor of the communal apartment my family shared with three others. The money I earned was enough for the first installment on a one-family apartment—a luxury in those days—in which I still reside. Dr. Spock was repeatedly on and off the list of state enemies, but his "bible of baby care" still spread like wildfire. My payment seemed to be a singular windfall, but one day Dr. Spock came to the rescue again. I re­­ceived an unexpected call from a large publisher offering a sizable lump sum for my translation. Not only can I thank him for help­ing me with my apartment but my daughters are now sensible people who avoided the strict authoritarianism that plagued many children their age. —Natasha Perova is editor of the Russian publisher glas.


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