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“I felt it was a great book.” Alexander Gruzberg became the man who opened the Lord of the Rings to the Soviet people KXan 36 Daily News

Date: May 31, 2023 Time: 17:12:28

With Gruzberg’s light hand, this book got its name in Russian as “The Lord of the Rings.” It all started in the second half of the 70s. Even then, Alexander Abramovich was engaged in translating English fiction into Russian. He did it selflessly, but he used his official position a bit. Since 1962, Gruzberg worked at the Perm Pedagogical Institute, and once a year he went on a business trip to Moscow. It was believed that a university professor was going to dedicate himself to scientific activities. Travel and lodging expenses were paid.

And Gruzberg, having visited the Lenin Library and quickly solving all the service issues, went to the library of foreign literature. Here he looked at catalogs with information about incoming books: science fiction in English.

– There were thousands of them, – recalls Alexander Abramovich. – Few people were interested in foreign fiction, but for me there was expansion. He chose several books, looked at them, and if he liked one, he would ask her to microfilm it.

Subsequently, a film with the filmed book was sent to Perm. Here Gruzberg’s friend Alexander Lukashin printed it, and then it was time for translation.

“I liked The Lord of the Rings right away, I felt it was a great book,” says Gruzberg. – But the question arose, how to translate the name? There are many options.

The Lord of the Rings could be called in Russian both “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Master of the Rings”. But Alexander Abramovich chose The Lord of the Rings. Since then, the whole world has called this work of Tolkien in Russian.

“By the way, I discovered the first mention of this book in Soviet newspapers,” recalls Alexander Lukashin, founder of Perm KLF Rifey. – It was in 1968, in the newspaper “Abroad”. There Tolkien’s saga was called “The Lord of the Circles”.

Alexander Gruzberg translated many books, he did not calculate exactly how many, because apart from those that had already been published by publishers, there were many in samizdat. But he still assures everyone that he doesn’t fully speak English.

– Conversational, for example, it is very difficult for me, – he says. – When I translate, I always work with dictionaries. And I try not to allow deviations from the author’s edition.

Gruzberg was first introduced to English in 1946, when his family lived in Yoshkar-Ola. There she avidly read all the books that came to her hand. Edgar Allan Poe’s “Golden Beetle” 9-year-old Sasha quickly read and remembered how the letter about the treasure was deciphered.

“The book told in detail how cryptography was solved, and it was written in English,” he recalls. – It was then that I first encountered this language.

Gruzberg’s translation of The Lord of the Rings is now considered the most accurate. By the way, an interesting story happened in the 1990s. Gruzberg’s son Ilya worked in the United States in those years, now he is a professor, a well-known physicist. And then, on an Internet forum, he saw an announcement that an American philologist was looking for a translator of The Lord of the Rings, Dmitry Arseniev. Gruzberg Jr. told him that she was his father. But he is not Dmitry at all, but is signed “D. Arseniev” in honor of his grandson Arseny, that is, Arseny’s grandfather. The interest of the philologist lay in the fact that already at that time there were 10 translations of The Lord of the Rings into Russian. And the closest to the original, the classical translation was made by Alexander Gruzberg.

This is what the Lord of the Rings saga looked like, translated into Russian for the first time in samizdat (1978). Photo: Social networks

Until now, disputes have not ceased, which is the best translation of Tolkien. There are real battles on the sites dedicated to the “Lord of the Rings”, almost all of them make their own ratings. After all, this book opened a new world for millions of people, Tolkien created a new genre of literature – fantasy. And now it is extremely popular.

In total, as fans of the saga have calculated, there are 15 versions of the translation of “The Lord of the Rings” into Russian. And here everyone has their own preferences. But the matter is not limited to this. Only Alexander Gruzberg’s version was published in five editions. But many are inclined to believe that his translation is the most accurate, there are fewer additions than translators sometimes sin. Opponents agree with this. As an example, a translation of a phrase is given, in the original it looks like this: “Boromir smiled.” Here, who could, and translated. One wrote “And Boromir, overcoming death, smiled”, another “The shadow of a smile flashed on Boromir’s pale and bloodless face”, the third – “Boromir’s lips were touched by a faint smile.” And only in Gruzberg – “Boromir smiled.”

In May last year, Alexander Abramovich Gruzberg turned 85 years old. The anniversary of him was celebrated in Perm. The main celebration took place in the Perm socio-political history archive. Gruzberg delivered here all the samizdat “stamps” from him, along with the manuscript of The Lord of the Rings.

“These are absolutely unique documents and texts,” says Sergey Neganov, director of the archive. – My hands were shaking when I took the first handwritten translation of The Lord of the Rings. This manuscript for all lovers of literature is the same artifact as, in fact, the Ring of Omnipotence for Middle-earth. Alexander Abramovich Gruzberg, who has translated so many books, creates a magical space around him.

Gruzberg’s favorite writers are Leskov, Gogol and, of course, Bulgakov. There was such a case. Alexander Abramovich’s wife, Lyudmila Alexandrovna, worked in the GDR, at the University of Rostock in the 1980s. And there, in the library, she saw the complete edition of The Master and Margarita in Russian. In the USSR this novel by Bulgakov was published at that time, but with clippings, and it was also very difficult to get it. Lyudmila Alexandrovna took home The Master and Margarita and copied everything by hand. And she every day she sent letters to Perm with a page from the novel, and in the evenings Alexander Abramovich read the children The Master and Margarita in such an unusual way.

Now the Master continues translating books from English. In his work is Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz. Gruzberg translates his action novels. He gets up early in the morning, eats breakfast, and immediately sits down at his desk. His three-bedroom apartment is like a huge library, there are books everywhere. And most of them are fiction, to which the translator has been faithful for 50 years.

Strokes for a portrait

Read and Pirozhkov

By the way, the Perm and Tolkien books are connected not only by Gruzberg’s translation. Now the world of Middle-earth is dominated by Permian Konstantin Pirozhkov. He is considered Russia’s foremost expert on the biography of the Cambridge professor. In translation from him, the book by John Garth “The Worlds of JRR Tolkien” was published two years ago.

– This year “Tolkien and the Great War” was published in Russia, – says Pirozhkov. I was one of the consulting editors of this book. And now, together with colleagues, we are translating from English “The Nature of Middle-earth”, prepared by Karl Hostetter. It should be released in 2023.

This book is based on Tolkien’s drafts. Describes the landscapes of Middle-earth, as imagined by the author, the plants of this world, the living animals. Readers will even be able to learn how Tolkien solved the demographic problems of elves. After all, according to his books, they had few children, but they lived forever. But how then to explain where the armies of the elves came from, who fought with the orcs and other enemies? Tolkien decided that the elves once had many children, and then the birth rate dropped, just in time for the events described in The Lord of the Rings.

Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor is a full-time editor for ePrimefeed covering sports and movie news.

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