Monday, November 28, 2011

The song of the goat fills my heart in the night

A brief break from hunting Snark …

Alice in Wonderland is the Admirable Carroll's most famous work and I thought it high time to discuss some of its lesser-known translations, in particular, Áloþk's Adventures in Goatland (Áloþk üjy Gígið Soagénliy). It's available from Amazon here, UK buyers go to my "Available from this Artist" for the UK link.

It's been back-translated into English by Byron Sewell (the infamously good-humored Carrollian and bon vivant), published by Michael Everson at Evertype Publications and illustrated by this artist.

Let's let Byron do the talking for a change … 

Róaž Wiðz (1882-1937), the locally-admired though otherwise little-known Zumorgian translator, spent seventeen years of his miserable life (when he wasn't tending to his beloved goats) translating Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" into Zumorigénflit and transposing it into Ŋúǧian culture.

Sadly, Ŋúǧ was swallowed up by the Soviet Union in 1947. Most of its citizens were either purged (lined up and summarily shot when they refused to combine their goats into a communal herd) or transported to the Gulag for political re-education and attitude adjustment … 

For those interested in such esoteric things, "Áloþk üjy Gígið Soagénličy" was first published by the Itadabükan Press in the capital city of Sprutničovyurt in 1919. The city, which was mistakenly thought to be a German forward supply area, was literally flattened and burned to the ground by Royal Air Force saturation bombing in 1943, and all that remains of it are a few remnants of the ancient Palace's foundations and a gigantic reinforced concrete statue of Joseph Stalin, whose face has been shattered by what was probably machine gun target practice.

The original story has here been updated to modern times, as if this strange, harsh, and dangerous land still existed in the modern world. It doesn't, except in my imagination and that of Mahendra Singh, whose heart swells with the Song of the Goat …

The book comes with a glossary and besides being a very funny book to read (especially for anyone who loves  the Alice books), my own meager, visual contribution is meant as an homage to the great Sir John Tenniel. Until you've inked in another illustrator's footsteps, you can't truly know him … 

And for those who wonder about such things, this artist really did spend many happy years of his life tending and milking dairy and meat goats (French Alpine and Nubian mostly) and despite the urban Quebecois blight I live in now, la chanson du chevre still fills my heart at night … 

The ladies of Unicorn Farm contemplate things …