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ENGLISH MATHEMATICIAN Charles Lutwidge Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll really started something 150 years ago with his 1865 publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There have been many movies, including the classic 1951 Disney animated version now available as Alice in Wonderland (Two-Disc Special Un-Anniversary Edition), Tim Burton’s wonderfully dark 2010 Alice in Wonderland, even a 1976 porn-musical (it was the 1970s, after all). There have been other less salacious musical adaptations, including my favorite, Tredici: Final Alice. Composed by David Del Tredici, it’s for amplified soprano/narrator, folk group and orchestra, and ends with an Italian pun on his surname.
Alice and her Wonderland cohorts even made the good grey pages of R&T. In the late 1990s, when automakers were confronted with Onboard Diagnostics Phase 2, artist Hector Bergandi was commissioned to illustrate seemingly bewildering regulations.
Alice is well represented in the printed word, with an astonishing number of books discussing her adventures in aspects from Freudian to Friendly (this, only part of the “Frs”). Here, let’s look at three examples of Aliciana, two of which on my shelves, the third on my wish list.
Classic analysis of Alice comes from Martin Gardner, another mathematician of sorts, wouldn’t you know. The Annotated Alice gives complete text, original John Tenniel illustrations and erudite marginal notes on Alice. Of her EAT ME cake experience, for example, Gardner observes, “Alice’s earlier expansions have been cited by cosmologists to illustrated aspects of the expanding-universe theory.”
Concerning “mad as a hatter,” he explains how it “owes its origin to the fact that until recently hatters actually did go mad.” The mercury used in curing felt for hats gave rise to tremors known at the time as hatter’s shakes. As for “mad as a March hare,” springtime is mating season for these animals.
The Cheshire Cat receives several extensive notations, one harking back to Plato’s Theaetetus and a conversation with Socrates. Another of the notes especially resonates with me: “The phrase ‘grin without a cat’ is not a bad description of pure mathematics.”
Linda Sunshine’s All Things Alice collects Aliciana ranging from original texts, quotations, recipes and games to Alice in film and television, in stores and businesses and in cyberspace. Its 352 pages display art from sources that take four pages of fine print to acknowledge. Even if you’re not into Alice, the book is a bibliophile’s delight.
Says Sunshine about composing All Things Alice, “Looking back on the journey, I join Alice in wondering if this was, after all, only a splendid dream. If so, I can’t wait to fall asleep again.”
In 1866, Carroll/Dodgson [a Mathematics Lecturer at Oxford] wrote his publisher, “Friends here seem to think that the book is untranslatable.”
Were his friends ever wrong!
Celebrating 150 years since the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this new three-volume compendium of 188 essays from 251 contributors and 1201 illustrators runs to 2656 pages. The year 1869 was the original Alice’s first translation (this one, into German). Since then, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into 174 languages, including Middle English, Esperanto, Yiddish and just about any other language one might name.
There have even been really bad translations: Alice in a World of Wonderlands notes that the 1961 Finnish version got banned by Finland’s Supreme Court under a “classics protection paragraph” of the Finnish Copyright Act.
Others are less problematic, but fascinating nonetheless. In a 1910 Japanese version, Alice doesn’t argue with the Mad Hatter: It would be unthinkable showing such disrespect for one’s elders.
In his review of Alice in a World of Wonderlands in The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2015, Edward Rothstein cites a translator’s view: “A language is not complete if there are no translations of the Bible, Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland.”
Whan that Aprill with his shorues soute/The mad Conyng of March hath…. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015