The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

July 2, 2013

July 2, 1977

Vladimir Nabokov (April 22, 1899 to July 2, 1977) translated Alice in Wonderland into Russian. Although I cannot evaluate his success, the combination sounds glorious -- Nabokov and Lewis Carroll (January 27, 1832 to  January 14, 1898). 

Nina Demurova wrote about the translation Nabokov did, in a book titled Nabokov at Cornell: Subjectivity and Recognition in Feminist Politics
(2003) edited by Gavriel Shapiro. Demurova's chapter is titled "Vladimir Nabokov translator of Lewis Carroll." Her discussion of some difficulties Nabokov faced caught my attention. There is no Russian equivalent for the phrase: Cheshire Cat. If you retranslate it back into English, Nabokov's solution reads, to the question Alice asks, "why is your cat grinning so": "because it's a shrovetide cat, that's why." So reads Ania v strane chudes (1923).

The Lewis Carroll Society of North America in their Winter 2004 newsletter, provides some light on what a "Shrovetide" cat is.

[T]he Cheshire Cat .... was merely replaced by his possible Russian brother, ... a "Shrovetide Cat." It plays upon the Russian proverb... ("not every day is Shrovetide for a cat") . If we try to retranslate this character back into English, he might be called a "Sunday Cat," a cat for whom "every day is Sunday."

Of course, in Russia, in 1923,  it wasn't Shrovetide for much.

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