Friday, July 3, 2015

Elkin Selph Translation into English of the Beginning of Anthony Burgess' novel "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE"

Translation by Elkin (Own) Selph of first page of Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange into English. All words in Cyrillic are Russian.

“What’s it going to be, then, eh?”
                There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs [ друг, friend], that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really Dim, and we sat in the Korova [корова, cow] Milk Bar, making up our rassoodocks [рассудок, intellect, common sense (here: mind)] what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard, though dry. The Korova Milk Bar was a milk-plus mesto [место, place], and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry [скорый, quick, fast] these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence  for selling liquor, but there was no law against prodding [продать, to sell] some of the new veshches [вещь, thing] which they used to put into the old moloko [молоко, milk], so you could peet [пить , to drink] it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom [three words here for drugs made up, not Russian] or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow [хорошо, good; adverb used consistently throughout the novel as an adjective] fifteen minutes admiring Bog [Бог, God] And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg [мозг, brain]. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting [drinking; third time used already; by now the reader has learned the Russian word “to drink”: пить] this evening I’m starting off the story with.

                Our pockets were full of deng [truncated version of деньги, money], so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting [красть, to steal] any more pretty polly [Cockney rhyming slang for money] to tolchok [толчок, push; a noun; throughout the novel Burgess uses it as a verb, meaning hit, strike, attack] some old veck [no such word in Russian; Burgess arrives at it by truncating the word человек (man, person); at other points in the novel he uses the word un-truncated, spelling it ‘chelloveck’] in an alley and viddy [видеть, to see] him swim in his blood while we counted the takings and divided by four, nor to do the ultra-violent on some shivering starry [старый, old] grey-haired ptitsa [птица, bird] in a shop and go smecking [смех, laughter, a noun; throughout the novel Burgess uses it as a verb] off with the till’s guts. But, as they say, money isn’t everything.

SUMMING UP: I count twenty Russian words in the brief passage above.  Did Burgess really expect that non-speakers of Russian could cope with such an onslaught of unfamiliar terms? And yet they did cope, and they read the novel, which remains his most popular. Of course, nowadays I suspect that the Kubrick film--featuring far fewer Russian words-- is watched much more frequently than the Burgess novel is read.

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