I’m about two-thirds of the way through Kuzechkin’s novel (see this post), and I thought I’d pass along some more of the interesting tidbits I’ve been noticing in this very enjoyable book. First I should say that my earlier thoughts about the title and its translation are no longer operative and my doubts about the relevance of Peter Pan were entirely misplaced, since it is referred to explicitly and frequently, first on page 84: “Peter Pan is a story too, but everything in it is just like in real life. It had kids who didn’t grow up, too, but all their discipline was supported by the authority of a boss.” [“Питер Пэн” — тоже сказка, но там все как в жизни. Там тоже были дети, которые не старели, но у них вся дисциплина держалась на авторитете вожака.] And the book’s title is taken from a song (quoted on page 76) by the fictional group Plastika, which has a female singer, hence the feminine forms in “Перестала быть ребенком,/ Но уже не стану взрослой./ Никогда не стану взрослой…” [I’m no longer a child,/ but I’m not going to grow up,/ I’ll never grow up…] So the gender of the adjective is not as important as I thought it was, and the proposed translation “Young 4 Ever” seems fine.

I continue to be struck by the number of English words, both borrowings (эмо-кор ’emo-core,’ айпод ‘iPod,’ фаст-фуд ‘fast food,’ кидалтс ‘kidults‘) and actual words in the Roman alphabet (bodycount, reset, “The cake is a lie”). It reminds me of Anthony Burgess’s Nadsat, English larded with Russian borrowings, except that that was, of course, fictional. I can only imagine how this English-infused youth jargon must strike Russians of older generations. It does make it easy on the English-speaking reader, though!

Here’s a paragraph describing a very different style of Russian:

The foreman, Nikita, enchanted Sanya by his manner of speaking, his entirely correct Russian language, by the fact that he never made long pauses between words, didn’t use superfluous garbage like nu, mmm, or vot, and what’s more, never cursed. And his voice was pleasant: not severe but weighty, not loud but clear.

[Десятник Никита завораживал Саню своей манерой говорить, своим исключительно правильным русским языком, тем, что никогда не делал длинных пауз между словами, не использовал сорных “ну”, “эммм”, “вот”, и тем более никогда не ругался. И голос у него был приятный: не строгий, но веский, не громкий, но четкий.]

On page 87, the protagonist, Max, has fun playing with the word сюрприз [syurpriz] ‘surprise’ (a loan from French, not English, going back at least two hundred years): “Sur-prise. A strange word. Surrealistic prize? Maybe. A surprise is an unexpected gift. A gift you were afraid to believe in. An unreal gift. SURreal. And any gift is a sort of PRIZE.” [“Сюрприз. Сюр-приз. Странное же слово, — подумал Максим. — Сюрреалистический приз? Да, пожалуй. Сюрприз — это нежданный подарок. Подарок, в который ты боялся поверить. Нереальный подарок. СЮРреальный. А любой подарок — это своего рода ПРИЗ”.] And here’s a passage (from page 108) full of interesting linguistic stuff (I’ll bold the words that are in the Roman alphabet in the original):

The desktop had a picture of some slant-eyed children with automatic weapons, maybe Vietnamese guerrillas, or Cambodians.

Kids with guns,” said Karina automatically. Maxim, equally automatically, translated: “Deti s oruzhiem [Children with weaponry].”

“No,” she said severely. “In English there are phrases that you can’t translate literally. It’s better not to translate them at all. In Russian, children with weapons are just children with weapons; abroad, it’s a whole social phenomenon. And not only in backward countries, but even in America.”
“Sure, schoolkids who shoot their classmates.”

“Yes. A child with a weapon is a lot scarier than a grownup. They don’t understand what’s a game and what’s reality. They can kill a person just for fun, and not even realize what they’ve done. It’s a robot, a terminator.” Karina said the last word in English. Her pronunciation was excellent.

“Have you gotten hooked on linguistics?” Maxim turned in the swivel chair and faced Karina.

“Courses in American English. We don’t study just the language so much as the way of life.”

[Картинка на рабочем столе — какие-то узкоглазые дети с автоматами, не то вьетнамские партизаны, не то камбоджийские.
— Kids with guns, — машинально произнесла Карина. Максим так же машинально перевел:
— Дети с оружием.
— Нет, — строго сказала она. — В английском языке есть такие фразы, которые нельзя переводить дословно. Их лучше вообще не переводить. По-русски “дети с оружием” — это просто дети с оружием. А за рубежом это целое социальное явление… И не только в отсталых странах, но даже в Америке.
— Ну да. Школьники, которые одноклассников расстреливают…
— Да. Ребенок с оружием — это куда страшнее, чем взрослый. Он же не понимает, где игра, а где реальность. Он может убить человека просто для забавы — и даже не поймет, что натворил. Это робот, terminator, — последнее слово Карина проговорила по-английски. Произношение у нее было отменное.
— Лингвистикой увлекаешься? — Максим развернулся во вращающемся кресле лицом к Карине.
— Курсы american english. Изучаем не только и не столько язык, сколько образ жизни.]

It was fun running into Kenny G under the guise of Кенни Джи and hikikomori as хиккикомори (abbreviated by Maxim to хикки ‘hikkie’), but my very favorite Cyrillicization took me a minute to figure out. On page 118, Maxim says “твой брат — обычный битард,” ‘your brother is an ordinary bitard.’ I puzzled for a moment, then it came to me: /b/tard! I laughed heartily.

I’ll report on the book as a whole when I’ve finished it, but I’m sure glad the publisher provided free copies for LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.


  1. “The cake is a lie”, nice, another gaming reference, this time to Portal.

  2. Yeah, the protagonist is a champion gamer, so there are quite a few such references.

  3. Kári Tulinius says

    “Kids with guns” might be a reference to the song of the same name.

  4. I imagine it is (though I didn’t know about the song); I’m pretty sure anything that looks like it might be a current cultural reference is intended.

  5. Сюр “sur” is a regular Russian word, long on its way from slang to mainstream, meaning (of course) surrealist, Kafkaesque sometimes. So Max isn’t being particularly linguestically inventive when he dissects the word “surprise”

  6. b/tard must be for bastard?

  7. The novel is now available in ‘zhurnalny zal’.
    There is a well-known group called Plastika. But it’s all-male.
    The title: I think it might also refer to dying young. It is often used in Russian in this sense.

  8. b/tard must be for bastard?
    That’s certainly an intended subtext/reference.

  9. b/tard must be for bastard?
    A /b/tard is a regular patron of the “random” board, often denoted /b/, on a site like 4chan. It sounds like “retard.” Any similarity to “bastard” is coincidental.

  10. A /b/tard is a regular patron of the “random” board, often denoted /b/, on a site like 4chan.
    Yes, see my link in the post.
    Any similarity to “bastard” is coincidental.
    How can you be sure of this? It certainly looks and sounds similar.

  11. Seeing “Karina said the last word in English”, I initially assumed that this was added by the translator — obviously the Russian readers could simply see that the word was written in English — but no, “последнее слово Карина проговорила по-английски” is right there. I wonder why?

  12. Maybe to make it absolutely clear that she pronounced it as an English word rather than like Russian терминатор (there’s a scene at one point where the latter is discovered in a Russian encyclopedia from the ’70s).

Speak Your Mind