[Evertype]  Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There in Belarusian Home

На тым баку Люстра і што там напаткала Алесю
Through the Looking-Glass in Belarusian

На тым баку Люстра і што там напаткала Алесю

By Lewis Carroll, translated by Max Ščur

First edition, 2016. Illustrations by John Tenniel. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-149-1 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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«Кінь мармытаць там сабе пад нос абы-што,» запа­трабаваў Яўпат Няўпад, упершыню зірнуўшы на яе, «а скажы лепей, як тваё імя й што ў цябе за інтэрас.»   “Don’t stand chattering to yourself like that,” Humpty Dumpty said, looking at her for the first time, “but tell me your name and your business.”
«Што да імя, мяне зваць Алеся, а вось—»   “My name is Alice, but—”
«Ідыёцкае, трэба сказаць, імя!» нецярпліва перарваў яе Яўпат Няўпад. «Што яно азначае?»   “It’s a stupid name enough!” Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. “What does it mean?”
«Хіба імя павінна штосьці азначаць?» засумнявалася Алеся.   Must a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully.
«Натуральна, павінна,» запэўніў Яўпат Няўпад упод­сьмех, «маё імя азначае, што я, як ні круці, усебакова ўраўнаважаны і, да таго ж, у ідэальнай форме. А вось пры такім імені, як у цябе, можна мець якую хаця форму.»   “Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: “my name means the shape I am—and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”
Humpty Dumpty
Both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There were widely known and enjoyed in Belarus in Russian translations a long time before the first Belarusian translation appeared. The main character, Alice, was quite popular due to a number of films and cartoons. The delay with a Belarusian Alice translation can be attributed to the government’s cultural politics during Soviet times, when translations of “bourgeois” Western writers, even the classic ones, into a small national language were not encouraged.    
The first attempt to translate Alice into Belarusian was made in the late 1990s by Dzmitry Zakharchuk, a student of the Minsk State Linguistic University, whose abridged translation was part of his master’s degree thesis. The first full translations of both Alice and Through the Looking-Glass were mine, completed in 2001. The next year my version of Alice was published in Minsk in the magazine Arche No. 2 in its special issue called “Our Children” (2002). In the following years, several other Belarusian translations of both Alice books appeared (see References), but the only version of either work to appear in book form was my translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was eventually published by Evertype in 2013.    
Although I sent Through the Looking-Glass to Arche magazine in 2002 together with my translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it wasn’t published in Belarusian then, because the publisher considered the second Alice book somewhat “inferior in meaning” compared to the first one, an opinion which I never shared. In fact, I always liked Through the Looking-Glass best, and I was therefore, in a rather Carrollian way, actually happy that it had not been published, since I was still looking for a more com­petent professional proofreader who could help me to find a definitive and congenial Belarusian form for this famous English classic.    
It was in the year 2004, when I was working for Radio Liberty in Prague, that I met Dr. Yuraś Bushliakou, CSc., one of the best young Belarusian scholars, whose translations of Jaroslav Seifert and Zbigniew Herbert were known to me from Belarusian radio and press. In a short time we became close friends, and we often discussed my ongoing translation activities as well as general questions concerning the Belarusian language, because Yuraś was what you might call a “language fanatic”. Along with sports and his dog, the Belarusian language was his main interest in life, and he struggled passionately against its Soviet, Russified form, as well as against many doubtful neologisms introduced into the language in the 1990s. Being one of the authors of the newest ‘tarashkevitsa’ standard (a statement of traditional Belarusian orthography rules), he was especially thorough with his colleagues, and all the more so with such young and ambitious Belarusian writers as myself, who were sometimes too revolutionary for him, a born traditionalist. The first time we worked together was not on a book but on a film, namely Pulp Fiction, which I translated in 2005, let’s say, just for fun—and indeed, it was such fun that I immediately asked Yuraś to help me with editing my long-abandoned Through the Looking-Glass version, which almost no one in Belarus at the time knew existed.    
We didn’t start immediately, however, mainly due to our own work and writing activities. The text was finally ready only in 2011, two years after Viera Burlak’s translation appeared in Arche. This is to say, we took our time (Yuraś, in fact, never hurried with anything in his life), but it was a really wonderful and fruitful time we spent with Alice. It became almost a ritual for me, once a month or so visiting Yuraś in his house in Prague and reading Through the Looking-Glass in Belarusian together, first checking and then enjoying every word or even comma in it as we tried on the one hand to be true to Carroll’s text and on the other hand to make the text sound natural in our mother tongue, as if it had been written directly in Belarusian. (And Yuraś actually did read out loud every single passage, several times, in order to verify whether it was melodic and well-paced enough for him.) He never forgot that the book was supposed to be read by children, for which reason clarity of expression was something that he cared about above all. (It was with this concern that he suggested slightly reorganizing the text, dividing certain long sentences into shorter phrases.) Luckily for me, Yuraś’s English was good enough to understand Carroll’s plays on words, so it was quite easy for him to come up with new (usually better) formulations or to inspire new formulations in me. Of course, not all of our spontaneous ideas and puns could be eventually used in the final version, because the funniest of them were simply not publishable. But working together was not only about laughing and having a good time: for me, it was about learning from one of the best Belarusian language masters. Yuraś made me understand (at least, I hope I finally did understand) the difference between spoken Belarusian and its high literary standard (which I never studied on his professional level), with all its subtleties and irregularities; he even taught me words that were new to me, but are in fact just rare or a bit archaic. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs— … however, you can manage the whole lot of them!” I quoted to him in jest, comparing him to Humpty Dumpty. His friends often made fun of him in the same way, saying that he “had memorized the whole Belarusian dictionary,” which sometimes seemed to be not a joke at all… By the way, collecting dictionaries was another of his passions, and the best gift you would get from Yuraś on any occasion was a good dictionary of his choice, in most cases a Belarusian one, but sometimes also Czech or English.    
No one could know then that Through the Looking-Glass would be Yuraś’s last big project as an editor (in the meantime, however, he managed to proofread several other books, the Belarusian version of Pippi Longstocking among them). In the year 2012, knowing already how grave his disease was, he supervised the new and definitive version of my Alice translation, which was reworked by me especially for Evertype, so both books, in fact, bear his figurative “imprimatur”. Many times, when he happened to be in his native Minsk (Yuraś visited the country much more often than most Belarusian living abroad usually do), he contacted publishers trying to promote the publication of the full Belarusian Alice there, unsuccessfully. He did, however, have the chance to welcome good news from Ireland instead, when Michael Everson offered to publish the book there, and saw the first Belarusian Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in print just months before he died in June 2013. As this present book would have never appeared without Yuraś, I’d like to dedicate my Belarusian version of Through the Looking-Glass to his cherished memory.    
—Max Ščur
Prague 2016

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2016-07-16

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