Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Enduring Legacy of Alice in Wonderland

Why does it still enchant us so?

From a story on the Oxford University Press blog...

For example, how did a satire on literary fashions in the early 1900s, centred on the retreatist, misogynistic fears of middle-aged men ever become a cosy national icon?* How did a series of novels satirising the British middle-class, and closely based on the 19th-century mores of the public-school system (which scarcely exists elsewhere) become the world’s biggest seller?** Or how did an anti-heroic, anti-empire broadside, whose narrator is corrupt and whose most memorable (and most admired) character is a brutal multi-murderer, become a classic for boys?*** Perhaps most curious of all, how did an intensely personal present from an eccentric bachelor to a little girl, packed with intimate in-jokes, ever come to be translated into most of the languages on earth?

Since its first translation in 1869, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has become, in Ireland Eibhlís i dTír na Niongantas, in Denmark, Maries haendelser I vidunderlandet, in Finland,  Liisan seikkailut ihmemaailmassa, in Iceland, Lísa í undralandi, and in Wales Anturiaethau Alys yng Ngwlad Hud and Alys yn nhir swyn. Alis, Alisa, Alicja, Alicji, Alenka, Elenkine, Elisi, Elsje, or Else, has her adventures im Wunderland, du pays des merveilles, nel paese delle meraviglie, csodaországban, I eventyrland, w krainie czarów, ülkesinde, or, in Slovak, divotvornej krajine (literally, the mad country). And, perhaps most improbably, the native peoples of northern South Australia, whose lands include Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock, and whose language is Pitjantjatjara, can read about Alitjinja ngura tjukurtjarangka  (Alitji in the Dreamtime). The book was translated into Russian by Vladimir Nabokov, a link that has not escaped critics; an Italian edition in 1962, La meravigliosa Alice was subtitled Una lucida invenzione, la creazione poetica di una ‘lolita’ vittoriana.

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