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Di Avantures fun Alis in Vunderland
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Yiddish

Di Avantures fun Alis in Vunderland

By Lewis Carroll, translated into Yiddish by Joan Braman

First edition, 2015. Illustrations by John Tenniel. Portlaoise: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-063-0 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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“Oyf der zayt,” hot der Kats gezogt, fokhendik mit der rekhter lape, “voynt a Hutmakher: un oyf yener zayt,” fokhendik mit der anderer lape, “voynt a Marts Hoz. Kum tsu gast bay oder der oder yener: zey zaynen beyde meshuge.”   “In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw around, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”
“Ober ikh vil nit mishn zikh mit meshugoyim,” hot Alis gezogt.   “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“O, dos ken men nisht farmaydn,” hot gezogt di Kats: “do zaynen mir ale meshuge. Ikh bin meshuge. Du bist meshuge.”   “Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“Vi azoy veyst ir, az ikh bin meshuge?” hot gezogt Alis.   “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“Dos muzstu zayn,” hot gezogt di Kats, “anit volstu nisht ahergegekumen.”   “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn't have come here.”
Cat Clárach
Lewis Carroll is a pen-name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was the author’s real name and he was lecturer in Mathematics in Christ Church, Oxford. Dodgson began the story on 4 July 1862, when he took a journey in a rowing boat on the river Thames in Oxford together with the Reverend Robinson Duckworth, with Alice Liddell (ten years of age) the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, and with her two sisters, Lorina (thirteen years of age), and Edith (eight years of age). As is clear from the poem at the beginning of the book, the three girls asked Dodgson for a story and reluctantly at first he began to tell the first version of the story to them. There are many half-hidden references made to the five of them throughout the text of the book itself, which was published finally in 1865.    
I have avoided the temptation to make this translation a “Yiddishized” one, in which the characters live, move, and have their being in a now-vanished traditional Eastern European Jewish world. To do so would be an exercise in nostalgia and would, I believe, deprive the original of its ageless, fairytale charm. For Alice’s world is that of proper, middle class Victorian England, with its manners, morals, prejudices, and idiosyncrasies, and the world she visits is that same world turned on its head, so to speak. My intention, therefore, was to produce, as nearly as possible, a thoroughly literal translation that would allow a hypothetical Yiddish-literate reader to experience the work as located in its own time and place. Thus, for instance, I have refrained from introducing traditional Jewish foods, customs, or verbalisms. But beyond that, I have attempted to reproduce in Yiddish the style, diction, grammatical usage, and syntactic structures of the original book. This goal of linguistic veri­similitude, however, required a tradeoff. The Yiddish had often to be bent out of shape, its natural rhythms distorted to conform to Carrol’s quaint, formal Victorian prose. Likely a fluent Yiddish speaker would find it lacking in the true music and flavor of echt mame loshn. I acknowledge and accept full responsibility for this difficulty, and for any unintentional grammatical faux pas that I may have perpetrated.    
Among the ways in which I have striven to replicate Carroll’s writing, I have retained the characteristic long, tortuous sentences formed from the piling up of clauses punctuated by colons and semi-colons, and the frequent passive constructions, which in Yiddish are typically rendered in the active mode (using the impersonal pronoun me or men: for example, me hot geboyt a hoyz ‘a house was built’). I have avoided gratuitous Yiddishisms and favored literal over idiomatic renderings wherever possible (an exception, is the irreplaceable halevay, meaning ‘I wish that … would that … if only’. I have attempted to differentiate between the speech patterns of the various characters, and have given preference to more commonplace words of Germanic origin over more sophisticated ones of Hebrew-Aramaic derivation, as befitting a work for children. Moreover, I have translated the songs and verses, as closely as was possible, instead of substituting Yiddish equivalents, while also keeping the rhymes.    
Not of least importance, I have been faithful to Carroll’s whimsical predilection for puns and wordplay, a genre of writing found often in English literature but, to my knowledge, rarely in Yiddish. Such linguistic play is usually not readily trans­lateable into other languages; however, I have not hesitated to take liberties with Yiddish words so as to create comparable puns, neologisms, mispronunciations, and malapropisms, that capture the humor and spirit of Carroll’s own.    
A word on the subject of gender, as Yiddish is a gendered lan­guage. My policy has been to refer to specific personified animals or other non-human creatures using their “real” gender rather than their grammatical one. I believe that this is customary in some gendered languages, such as with pets. Thus applied to the Dremlmoyz, who is grammatically feminine (di moyz ‘mouse’) but whom I take to be of male gender (its Tea-Party companions would hardly treat a female so outrageously), I use the appropriate masculine articles and pronouns. Whereas the sex of the majority of the non-human characters mentioned individually is unspecified, I arbitrarily assume them to be male, the exceptions being the canary and the old Crab at the Caucus, the Pigeon, and of course Dinah the cat. Among the former group, the Cheshire-Cat I likewise assume to be male and refer to accordingly (a generic ‘cat’, di kats, is feminine; der koter or ‘tomcat’, would have been another option).    
In the transliteration from Hebrew to Romanized letters, I have followed the standardized spelling adopted in 1936 at a conference in Vilna sponsored by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. There are no capital letters in Yiddish print or script, but they are naturally required in an English transliteration.    
—Joan Braman
New York, April 2015

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2015-04-29

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