Saturday, April 07, 2007
Alice in Bulgarialand
I stumbled across this curiouser and curiouser article by Victor Sonkin in a recent Moscow Times about the 1967 Soviet translation of Alice of Wonderland:
An official responsible for non-Soviet socialist literature was leafing through the list of books recently published in the countries of the "people's democracy," as the Eastern European satellite states were called back then, when he stumbled upon the Bulgarian publication of a book about a girl called Alice. Thinking it was a Bulgarian book, he ordered a Russian translation to be done and published in Sofia for future importing into the Soviet Union (this was a standard procedure for such publications, which were sponsored by Soviet money). The Bulgarians were surprised, and it took some effort and persuading to find someone to translate the book from English and not from Bulgarian....
"After the publication, I had to collect my fee at the central bank in Sofia, and the director could not understand why I was getting Bulgarian levs for translating an English book into Russian," [says translator Nina Demurvora]. "He was shocked I didn't speak any Bulgarian."
The dark-blue book with a key on its cover was coveted by everyone, and its black-market price amounted to an engineer's monthly salary. When I was 10, I spent several months in a hospital, and a young nurse once saw "Alice" by my bed. She was completely overwhelmed and begged me to loan her the book for just one night.