Jabberwocky Variations
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Russian Jabberwocky Translations

Vladimir Shkurkin

My impression is that the best translation into Russian would require either a conscious or intuitive perception of the image each non-word brings forth, and then to attempt to evoke that same image by synthesizing a Russian word with perhaps the same Indo-European roots. As an example, the "gr-" words in both English and Russian have similar inimical images. Russian "grom", "groza", "gryzha", "grob", "griaz'", etc. are negative images. The "wr-" words suggesting rotation or twisting appear in both English and Russian.

Following this reasoning, the construction of words to evoke images becomes a matter of simultaneously evoking the image and making things rhyme, with a coherent meter. Exceptionally talented poets can do this subconsciously, and careful artisans using conscious analysis can craft something given enough time.

The best of the translations translate the image with image-evoking nonsense words of parallel structure, often using classical Russian poetic inversions.

The above material on issues of translation (focusing on translations into Russian) was sent to me in email by Vladimir, who kindly gave permission for me to use it "in any way you deem appropriate".

So here it is. Hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Vladimir also gave a short bio of himself to explain where he stood "in psycho-linguistic conceptual space" (catchy phrase):

I was born in Seattle, Washington in 1930, and spoke no English until I started school, because English was forbidden in the home. My parents and grandparents were Russian, but until coming to the United States lived in Manchuria, where my grandfather taught Chinese to the Russians and Russian to the Chinese. I could read and write Russian at a very early age, and later was graduated in Russian grammar (and other fields).

I was raised in a bilingual, bicultural environment, which allows me to appreciate nuances in the translations which might not be caught by someone just knowing the language.

Now retired, I do writing, editing, and translating.

Vladimir Shkurkin's email is shkurkin@ix.netcom.com.


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