Mary Poppins and the Soviet Pilgrimage: P.L.Travers's Moscow Excursion (1934)

John McNair


Like the journey it chronicles, Moscow Excursion, P.L.Travers’s account of her 1932 visit to Russia, was in part inspired by the genre it effectively parodies: the ‘Soviet pilgrimage’ ‘truth about Russia’ narrative characteristic of the Stalin decades and exemplified (in the Australian context) by Katharine Susannah Prichard’s The Real Russia, also published in 1934. The paper examines the ways in which Travers’s book is written against this genre to produce an avowedly ‘un-political’ record whose narrator rejects the restrictions of organized travel, and whose idiosyncratic and critical observations on Soviet reality contrast with the admiration of her more orthodox fellow-travellers for the usual showcase institutions on the official itinerary. At the same time, it is argued that in its blend of self-deprecating irony, whimsy and disillusioned idealism Moscow Excursion suggests parallels with Travers’s personal quest for ‘the truth’ and even with Mary Poppins, published only two months later.

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