... in TRANSPOSING: ... the story between translation and adaptation - The night before Chrismas


By Nikolai Gogol

Transposed from the Russian by Henry Whittlesey

Original title: Ночь перед Рождеством

And up there,
from a cabin's chimney,
balls of smoke billowed and spread in clouds across the sky.
And up there,
a witch also rose on her broom.

If the Springfield Selectman had been passing in his SUV with tinted windows,
his sheepskin fur hat made in the Russian manner,
his waterproof jacket with thermal lining and a convenient detachable hood,
which he often used to hunt deer,
then he probably would have seen her because not one witch in the world had eluded the Springfield Selectman.
He knows everything:
He knows how many jobs each parent works to survive,
and how much they have in the bank
as well as what share of their salary and labor a good worker spends in the bar each Friday.
But the Springfield Selectman was not riding by,
what does he care about others?
He has his own district.

In the meantime, the witch had already risen so high that only a black dot flickered above.
And wherever the dot surfaced, the stars,
one after another,
fell from the sky.
Soon the witch had collected a full sleeve of them.
Three or four still glimmered,
when suddenly,
from the other side,
another dot
began to stretch out,
and soon was no dot.
A shortsighted man,
even with a telescope rather than his usual bifocals,
would not have recognized what it was.
From the front, the thing looked completely like Porky Pig:
It had a narrow muzzle
that ended,
like our pigs,
in a round snout;
it constantly wheezed and sneezed at everything that came its way;
its legs were so thin that
if the Londonderry town manager had them,
he would have broken them at his first contra dance.
But for that,
from the back,
it looked like a real head of state in a tux because
a tail
- a sharp and long tail -
in the vent
of his coat.
Only by the goatee below his muzzle,
by the small horns protruding from his head
- all as white as a chimney sweep -,
only by this could you figure out that
he wasn't Porky Pig,
wasn't a head of state,
but was simply the devil
who had a last night to roam this world and teach good people to be sinners.

Entire text is available in the first collection of transpositions titled From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin