Fields of Hundreds of Half-Forgotten Curses, Full of Usurpers

Came across a longish blurb about author Alisa Ganieva, who, though she writes in Russian, is an ethnic Avar and peppers her works with Avar words and phrases:

Ganieva is your window into a new world, a fascinating glimpse of what daily life is like in Dagestan today, with its people trying to live and love as authoritarian politics from Moscow collide with fundamentalist Islamic separatist movements, as her literary Russian narrative voice is interspersed with conversations in Avar and other Turkic languages of Dagestan.

First off – Avar is not a Turkic language. It is Northeast Caucasian, as are the majority of Dagestan’s indigenous languages.

Meanwhile I began reading the story “Шайтаны” along with the English translation, simply to avoid scrolling back and forth in the Russian text, where the footnotes explaining the Avar words are all given at the very end (in the English they are at the bottom of each page), and also as an exercise to test my own comprehension of the Russian text and check my own hypothetical translations against the official one.

And, as often happens, I inadvertently stumbled onto some curious things.

The Avar words are rendered in an academic-style transliteration as if they were Russian. For example – the letter гь is given as g’ – as if it were a palatalized Russian g, when in fact this letter is pronounced as English h; й is given as i or ĭ when y would have done just as well and been less confusing.

Thus,

Вай, диляй, гьание ячIе, эбелъул

Vaĭ, diliaĭ, g’anie iache, ėbel’ul (p 361)

could be rendered

Way, dilay, haniye yach’e, ebehlul

which, apart from more closely reflecting the actual Avar pronunciation, would be more intelligible to the average English-speaking reader who is not a linguist or Slavist.

The other thing was the mistranslations from the Russian, which, though minor, were enough to be distracting:

“Gh˙abdal,” Chamastak exclaimed.

“What?” Bika asked, not understanding the oath, and still too frightened
to retreat. (p 365)

– ГIабдал[10] – крикнула Чамастак.

– Чего? – не поняв ругательства, спросила Бика, еще не отойдя от испуга.

ругательство is a curse, a swear word. Not an oath (клятва).  “still too frightened
to retreat” – “еще не отойдя от испуга” – is also a mistranslation.

She was flung above fields of hundreds of half-forgotten curses full of usurpers from all ends of the earth. (p 374)

Ее метало над полями сотен полузабытых браней с захватчиками со всех концов света.

Брань, in addition to “curse-word”, also means “battle”. Given the context – Dagestan’s many wars with foreign invaders – the second definition is the better fit.

“Oh, this one boy came and brought some chh˙andu. He wanted Saida to marry him.(p 382)

– Да приходил один, чIанду[31] нес какую-то, что Саиду замуж за себя хочет.

чIанда, which the Russian footnotes give as чушь (and in English as “garbage”), means nonsense, and the expression “нести чушь”, means to “talk nonsense”, not “bring garbage”.
Furthermore, in the English the word is given as “chhandu” – which is the Avar word “ch’anda” put through the meat-grinder of Russian grammar (the -u is the Russian accusative ending).

To conclude – perhaps it’s too much to expect publishers to care enough about such a little-known language to make sure that it is transcribed properly, but they should have at least done a little research before lumping the Avars in with the Turks, and taken more care with the translation.

Nitpicking aside, Alisa Ganieva’s stories about Dagestan are well worth reading if one is interested in the goings-on of a particularly obscure corner of the world. (The language of the dialogues is also interesting, written in a peculiar Dagestani-accented Russian, but this inevitably gets lost in translation.)

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Two Avar Songs

1-я песня:

Дур гьаракь рагIичIого
ГIемераб мех ана дир
Урхъун вугин гьелъухъ дун
Даку, баче, цо наку.

Много времени прошло с тех пор,
Как я слышал твой голос
Скучаю по нему,
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

It’s a long time since
I heard your voice
I miss it
Play a song, Daku*.

Цебего щобил бакъан
ЩвечIин дий гIенеккизе,
ГIодов чIа дида аскIов
Даку, баче цо наку.

Утреннюю мелодию
Не удалось мне послушать
Садись рядом со мной
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

I couldn’t hear
The early morning song
Come sit beside me
Play a song, Daku.

Киналали лъаларел
Маймалакалъул бакъназ
ГIинкълъизавун вугин дун.
Даку, баче цо наку.

Непонятно какие
Мелодии обезьян
Оглушили меня
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

Incoherent
Monkey melodies
Made me deaf
Play a song, Daku.

Цересел умумузул,
Аваразул халкъалъул
Хазина дагьлъилалде
Даку, баче цо наку.

Пока не иссякнет
Сокровище предков,
Аварского народа,
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

Until the treasure
Of ancient ancestors
Of the Avar people, disappears
Play a song, Daku.

Концертазде хьвадула,
Хьул буссун нахъе уна,
Огь, дур гьаракь, дур гьунар,
Даку, баче цо наку.

Ты ходишь на концерты
Доволен возвращаешься
О, твой голос, твое искусство
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

You go to concerts
Satisfied, you return
Oh, your voice, your talent
Play a song, Daku.

Цеве-цеве дихъе мун
Гьоболлъухъе щолаан,
ЩибгIаги ккараб дуе?
Даку баче,цо наку.

Раньше ты ко мне
В гости заходил
Что с тобой случилось?
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

You used to come
To visit me
What happened to you?
Play a song, Daku.

Дуйилан хъварал кучIдуз
Кив вугилан гьикъула,
РакI бакъван бугин дие.
Даку, баче цо наку.

Песни написанные тебе
Cпрашивают где ты
Печально мне от этого
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

Songs written for you
Ask where you are
My heart grows sad
Play a song, Daku.

Кивго мун чIоларин,
Чlараб бакI щиб дур гьанже?
Цощинаб, огь, щакдари
Даку, баче цо наку.

Где-либо ты не останавливаешься
Где же ты остановился теперь?
Наверное, сомневаешься
Сыграй, Даку, одну песню

You never stop anywhere
Where are you now?
Maybe you’re doubtful
Play a song, Daku.

*Avar singer Daku Asadulaev.

2-я песня:

Вилълъа дунгун цадахъ гIахьвалазухъе,
ГIолохъанго ругищ нилъгоян лъазе.
Рилълъа ТIад Магъилъе тIаргъал рехизе,
Рохелалъ гьоболлъухъ риччалищ нилъан.

Пойдем вместе со мной в ахвах
Чтобы узнать, молодцы ли мы
Пойдем в Тад-Магитль бросать папахи
Чтобы узнать, примут ли в гости нас с радостью

Let’s go together to Akhvakh
To see if we’re real men
Let’s go to Tad Maghitl to throw our hats
To see if we’ll be received warmly

Дида рекIелъ буго рикIкIадисеб их,
МаркIачIуда росдахъ балагьараб моцI,
Гьелдаса балъго ниж гIанчIал гIолилал
ГIахьвахъ цо ригьалъул рагьдухъе щвана.

В моем сердце далекая весна
В сумерках на село смотревшая луна
Мы, храбрые молодцы, втайне от нее
В Ахвах пришли к дверям одного дома

Faraway spring is in my heart
The moon looking out onto the village at dusk
Hidden from it, we, brave youth
Arrived at the door of a house in Akhvakh

Рагьун буго гордо, гордухъ йиго яс,
Ясалъ кечI ахIулеб буго хIайранго.
Зобалъул цIвабзазде харил тIегьалде,
Хурив данде ккарав цо гIолиласде.

Окно открыто, там стоит девушка
Девушка живо поет песню
Звездам в небе, травяному цветку
встретившемуся в поле юноше

The window is open, in the window – a girl
The girl sings a spirited song
To the stars in the sky, a flower in the grass
To a young man encountered in the field

Керен хIеккана дир гьелъухъ гIенеккун.
ГIахьвалаз жидерго цIахIилал тIаргъал
«ТIаса вище, ясай, бокьарав васин»
Иргадал рехана гордухъа жанир.

Послушав ее мягко стало на сердце
Ахвахцы свои серые папахи
По очереди бросили в окно:
“Выбери любого, кого ты пожелаешь”

Listening to her my heart grew lighter
The boys of Akhvakh took their grey hats
“Girl, choose the boy you want”
And threw them into the window

Дицаги, гьоболас гьеб гIадат цIунун,
Гlолилай ясалде салам гьабуна
Дирги шапка-тIагъур щурун ккун маян
ГьитIинаб гордухъе хьуризабуна.

Я тоже, как гость, следуя тому обычаю
Поздоровался с девушкой молодой
Свою шапку, шепнув – на, возьми
Кинул в маленькое окно

I, as a guest, also following the custom
Greeted the young girl
And whispering – here, take it
Threw my cap into the small window

Гьоркьоб мех иналде цIахIилал тIаргъал
Цlорол гордазухъан рехун рачIана.
Дир щурун бекараб шапка-тIагъурги
ХIорихъан къверкъ гIадин къватIиб кIанцIана.

Немного спустя серые папахи
Вылетели из окна
Моя шапка тоже со сломанным козырьком
Выпрыгнула, как лягушка из болота

After some time, the grey hats
Came flying out of the window
My cap, too, with a crumpled visor
Jumped out like a frog from a lake

Къварилъарав дида ясалъ абуна:
“Вас мун гьитIин вугин, цIакъ хекко кканин,
Хадуб михъ баккигун вакке гьаниван,
Гьеб дурго тIагъургун, гьеб дурго ракIгун.”

Грустившему мне девушка сказала
Ты еще мал, слишком поспешил
Как появятся усы приходи сюда
Со своей шапкой, с сердцем со своим

Heartbroken, I heard her say
“You’re too young, boy, you came too early
When you’ve grown a moustache come back
With that hat of yours, with that heart of yours.”

Дида рекIелъ буго ниж гIолилазул
ЦохIо бетIералъе тIагъур батичIо.
ТалихIав гIолихъан михъалги кьурун
КьинчI гIадин харана къадахъа тIаде.

Я помню, только одной из голов наших молодых
Не нашлась папаха
Счастливый парень закрутив усы
Как ящерица влез на стену

I remember, for only one of our boys
A hat could not be found
The lucky one twirled his moustache
And darted up the wall like a lizard

Гьев жанив лъугьингун, Халгьаби ясалъ,
ХантIан къана гордал бакъ баккизегIан.
Гьоркьор санал ана, сапарал, рагъал
Ралъадал, шагьарал щвана ГIахьвахъе.

Как только вошел, всмотрелась девушка.
Быстро закрыла окно до восхода солнца
Между тем прошли годы, поездки, войны
Моря, города. Добрался в Ахвах

He went in, the girl looked out
And quickly closed the window until sunrise
Since then years passed, journeys, wars
Seas, cities…I came back to Akhvakh.

МоцI балагьун буго гьадабго росдахъ,
Ясалъул кечI буго гьадабго гордухъ,
ГIахьвалаз гордухъе рехула тIаргъал.
Дицаги рехана гьаб дирго шляпа,

Луна смотрит на то же село
Девушка поет у того же окна
Ахвахцы бросают в окно свои папахи
Я тоже бросил свою шляпу

The moon looks out on the same village
A girl sings at the same window
The boys of Akhvakh throw their hats
I also threw mine

Цогидав харана къадахъан тIаде
Къварилъарав дида абуна ясалъ:
“Мун кватIун кканилан, хъахIлъулев вугин
Борхатаб магIарде гIазу бан бугин.”

Другой влез на стену
Грустившему мне сказала девушка
Ты опоздал, поседел
На высокой горе снег выпал

Another climbed up the wall
Heartbroken, I heard the girl say
“You’re too late, your hair has turned gray
On the high mountains snow has fallen.”

ХъахIилаб зодихъан бортун ана цIва.
Кибе бортараб мун, дир гIолохъанлъи?
Я хекко ватула, я кватIун ккола.
Кивего ккечlо дун цо цIараб гIужда.

С синего неба выпала звезда
куда ты пропала, молодость моя?
То поспешу, то опоздаю
никуда вовремя не прихожу

A star fell out of the indigo sky
Where did you go, my youth?
Either I’m too early, or too late
I never come at the right time

Васалам, вакалам!

I have now finished reading “My Dagestan”. Rather than write my own review, I’ll let you read someone else’s.

And then you can read it yourself (English, Russian, Avar).

As for the translation – while generally more florid and verbose than the Avar (put side-by-side, the Russian is noticeably longer) it is in most parts close enough to the original to make some sense of it.
But it is not without problems. Large parts remain untranslated, including many amusing anecdotes, and, notably, poems. Gamzatov justifies his choice of a Russian translator who does not know Avar, saying that only a poet can properly convey another poet’s thoughts. Yet it’s exactly the poems that often go untranslated, or the translations of other translators are quoted; in some cases, they even get “translated” into prose.
Apart from the omissions, many texts appear jarringly out of sequence, leading one to skip back and forth in the Avar original to find the matching parts. Incomplete parts are puzzlingly omitted as if torn off mid-paragraph, and “sewn together” in the Russian, yet one can still sense their absence.
And there are unexplained additions and mistranslations (some of which have been pointed out by a reader). It all gives the impression of a rushed and even indifferent job.
I talked about translating directly from the original. But it’s not possible now – I still don’t know Avar all that well, the task is enormous, and there’s simply no demand for it.

So I will leave it for now. But perhaps, in some far-off future, it could happen.
Or, if you can’t wait, you could just learn Avar yourself, to get the full flavor (and “volume”) of the original – something that no translation could give you.

Гьалеха лъугIана. Гьанже нилъее ратIалъизе заман щвана. Цо-цояз абухъе, аллагьас хъван батани, нахъе-нахъеги дандчIвала.

Вот и все. Пора нам расстаться. Как говорится, бог даст, еще встретимся.

That’s it. The time for us to part has come. As they say, we’ll meet again, God willing.

Thus “My Dagestan” bids goodbye to the reader.

And with that I bid goodbye to “My Dagestan” as well. Васалам, вакалам!

The Sounds that are a Pleasure to Pronounce

Кинидаго лъачIезда мун лъазабизе захIмат буго.
Дур ругелщинал гьаркьал, рикIкIинищ цо анцIгоялде щвезегIан: цо, кIиго, лъабго, ункъо, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ичIго, анцIго — магIарул мацIалда анцIгоялде щвезегIан рикIкIине кIварав батIияб миллаталъул чи чвахулеб гIорул цояб рахъалдаса цояб рахъалде, кодоб борхун кIудияб гамачI ккун, вачIарав гIадин вукIуна. АнцIгоялде щвезегIан рикIкIана, хадусеб рикIкIине захIмат гьечIо. Гьанже дуда лъин лъана, квачI бай.
Цогияб миллаталъул чагIини щай, магIарул лъималазда чIахIияз абулаан, къосинчIого, тIатIала, лъабго нухалъ «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIанин» ункъо рагIи абеян. Ниж, кинабго росдал лъимал хIорил рагIалда, хъазал гIадин цоцалъ ран хъудулаан. «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!» «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!» «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!» — ян. ГIемерисезда гьеб лъачIого къосунаан.

It’s difficult to teach you to those who don’t know you from birth.
How many sounds you have, just counting from one to ten: цо, кIиго, лъабго, ункъо, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ичIго, анцIго – for a non-Avar to count from one to ten in Avar is like crossing from one bank of a rushing river to the other with a large stone in one’s arms. If you can count from one to ten, it’s not difficult to count further. Now you know how to swim as well – now go and start paddling.
Forget about non-Avars – Avar elders instruct children to say, without stopping, these four words, three times in a row “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана” (“A frog jumped down from the cliff”). We village children would all be making a noise like geese at the shores of a lake. “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!” “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!” “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!” Most could not do this without making a mistake.

Трудно мне, мой родной язык, сделать так, чтобы все знали тебя. Как богат ты звуками, как много их у тебя, так трудно неаварцу научиться произносить их, но как сладко их произносить, если умеешь! Вот хотя бы простенький счет до десяти: цо, к1иго, лъабго, ункъго, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ич1го, анц1го. Когда я встречаю человека, который на аварском языке может правильно сосчитать до десяти, я сравниваю это с мужеством, нужным, чтобы перейти разлившуюся реку от одного берега до другого, держа на плече огромный валун. Если сумеешь считать до десяти правильно, то сумеешь и дальше. Теперь ты уже умеешь и плавать. Смело иди вперед.
Что говорить о людях других национальностей! Даже нашим аварским детям старики говорили: “Попробуй без запинки, подряд три раза скажи: “Къода гъоркъ къверк къвакъвадана”. Это значит: “Под мостом квакала лягушка”. Всего четыре слова, а бывало, мы, аульские ребятишки, целыми днями тренировались, чтобы правильно и быстро произнести эту фразу.

It’s hard for me to get others to know you, my dear native language. Your wealth of sounds, so many are they, that it’s difficult for a non-Avar to learn to pronounce them, but what a great pleasure it is if you can. Take the numbers from one to ten: цо, кIиго, лъабго, ункъго, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ичIго, анцIго. When I meet a person who can correctly count to ten in Avar, I compare it to the bravery needed to cross from one bank of a river to the other with a beam balanced on one’s shoulder. If you can do this, you can count even further. Now you know how to swim as well – go ahead and try.
Never mind non-Avars, even our Avar children are told by their elders, “Now try to say three times, without making a mistake “Кьода гъоркь къверкъ къвакъвадана“, which means “A frog croaked under the bridge”. Four short words, but we village children practiced all day to pronounce this tongue-twister quickly and without mistakes.

On Grammar, Literature, Poles and Mules

1962 абилеб соналда совет хъвадарухъабазул делегациягун цадахъ дун вукIана Польшаялда. Цо нухалъ Краковалда дир гостиницаялъул номералъул нуцIида кIутIана. Балагьана. НуцIил кIалтIа вугес бацIцIадаб магIарул мацIалъ гьикъана Расул ХIамзатов гьанив вугищан. «Вай дур рукъ бухIаяв магIарулав, мунго кинан гьаниве ккарав», — ян дица гьев гьебсагIат жаниве вачана, гIодорчIана, ниж гIемераб мехалъ гара-чIварана.

In 1962 I was in Poland as part of a delegation of Soviet writers. One day in Krakow I heard a knock on the door of my hotel room. I looked out, and at my doorstep stood a man asking in perfect Avar, “Is Rasul Gamzatov staying here?”.
“May your house burn down, brother! How on earth did you end up here?” I exclaimed and invited him in. We sat down and talked for a long time.

Несколько лет назад в составе делегации советских писателей я был в Польше. Однажды в Кракове ко мне в номер гостиницы постучали. Я открыл дверь. Незнакомый человек на чистом аварском языке спросил:
– Здесь живет Гамзатил Расул?
Я растерялся и обрадовался:
– Чтобы не сгорел и не обрушился дом твоего отца! Как же ты, аварец, оказался в Кракове?
Я чуть не бросился обнимать своего гостя, затащил его в номер, мы проговорили до конца дня и целый вечер.

A few years ago I was in Poland as part of a delegation of Soviet writers. One day in Krakow I heard a knock on the door of my hotel room. I opened it, and the stranger there asked in perfect Avar, “Is Rasul Gamzatov staying here?”
“May your father’s house not burn down and not collapse, brother! How on earth did you end up in Krakow?” I nearly flung myself around his neck and pulled him into my room. We talked until well into the night.

Гьев магIарулав ватичIо, магIарул мацI цIаларав, гьелъул грамматикаялда тIад ургъулев Польшаялъул гIалимчи ватана. Гьес магIарул мацI лъазабун буго концлагералда аскIоре ккарал кIиго магIаруласдасан. Цояв магIарулав хун вуго. Цояв тIурун ворчIун жеги чIаго вуго.
Дие тамашаяб асар гьабуна гьев Польшаялъул гIалимчияс. Дица гьев Дагъистаналде гьоболлъухъдин ахIана.

It turned out he was not an Avar, but a Polish professor who had studied Avar and worked on its grammar. He had first heard it being spoken by two fellow inmates in a concentration camp. One of them later died; the other escaped and is still alive.
The Polish professor made quite an impression on me, and I invited him to Dagestan.

Но гость не был аварцем. Это был польский ученый, занимающийся языками и литературами Дагестана. Аварскую речь он впервые услышал в концлагере от двух узников-аварцев. Язык понравился ему, а еще больше понравились сами аварцы. Поляк начал изучать наш язык. Впоследствии один аварец умер, а другой перенес заключение, был освобожден Советской Армией и жив до сих пор.
Мы говорили с поляком только по-аварски. Это было для меня удивительно и непривычно. В конце концов, я пригласил ученого в Дагестан в гости.

But my guest was not an Avar – he was a Polish professor who studied the languages and literatures of Dagestan. He had first heard Avar from two fellow inmates in a concentration camp. He took a liking to the language, but more than that, he took a liking to the Avars themselves. The Pole began studying our language. Eventually one of them died, but the other survived, was liberated by the Soviet Army and is still alive to this day. I found the whole thing quite surprising and unusual. In the end I invited him to Dagestan.

Гьай-гьай гIемерисел мацIалъул гIалимзабаз гIадин гьес мацI захIматго, кIвахIалго, грамматикаялъул законалда рекъон бицунеб букIана. Литератураялъул, гьаб дир тIехьалъул мацI гьедин гIаммаб законалъе мутIигIлъуларо. Щибав поэтасул гIаммаб гуреб, жиндирго хасабги букIуна грамматика.

Of course, like many linguists this professor spoke slowly and carefully and according to the rules of grammar. But the language of literature, of my book, does not obey these rules. There is no one common grammar for all poets – each has his own personal grammar.

Да, мы оба говорили с ним в тот день на аварском языке. Но все же между моей речью и его была огромная разница. Он говорил, как подобает ученому, на очень чистом, очень правильном, но слишком правильном, даже равнодушном языке. Он думал больше о грамматике, а не о красках речи, о схеме, о конструкции фразы, а не о живой плоти каждого слова.

Yes, we both spoke Avar that day. But nevertheless there was an enormous difference between his speech and mine – he spoke like an academic, in a very clear and correct, but almost too correct and even indifferent Avar. He was thinking more about grammar than the beauty of the language, about tables and construction of phrases and not about the living substance of each word.

Дие бокьун буго литература грамматикаялъе гуреб, грамматика литератураялъе мутIигIаб тIехь хъвазе.
Гьедин хъвачIони, литература релълъуна жиндаго нахъа, хIамида хIажат гьечIев нухлулав рекIинавурав гьоцIалъесда: хадуб гьев нухлулас хIамаги, хIамида къараб къайиги жиндир бугилан дагIба гьабула.

I want to write a book where grammar obeys literature and not where literature obeys grammar. If I don’t write this way, then literature will become like the man from Gotsatl who let a traveler he encountered on the road climb up behind him on his mule. The traveler then started arguing with him, claiming the mule and everything attached to it as his own.

Я хочу написать книгу, в которой не язык подчинялся бы грамматике, а грамматика языку.
Иначе грамматику уподоблю путнику, идущему по дороге, а литературу уподоблю путнику, едущему на муле. Пешеход попросил подвезти его, и путник, едущий на муле, посадил пешехода сзади себя. Постепенно пешеход осмелел, вытеснил ездока с седла, стал прогонять его, крича: “Мул этот мой, и все имущество, привязанное к седлу, тоже мое!”

I want to write a book not where the language obeys grammar, but rather where grammar obeys the language. Otherwise grammar becomes like a traveler walking along a road, and literature becomes like a traveler riding on a mule, where the former asks the latter to let him climb on behind him. Eventually he will become bolder and push the owner out of the saddle before chasing him away altogether, saying “this mule, and everything attached to it, is mine!”

First Contact

Cyril Graham – The Avar language. The first (and very likely, only) grammatical description of Avar in English, from 1873.

He first called my attention to the peculiarities of the Lesghian or Avar language. He said he had not yet been able to master it on account of the interminable intricacies of its construction, and the difficulties in its pronunciation. He, however, was able to quote me the numerals, which, loaded as they are with “clicks”, excited my curiosity.

… that which most surprises is the paucity of words taken from absolutely foreign tongues, such as the Persian, the Georgian and the Tatar with which the Avars cannot fail to be brought in contact. The few Arabic words of course have found their way into the language through the Kuran.

We now come to the question, who are these Avar? By the Persians and the Russians they are called Lesghians, but they themselves repudiate this name. Their legends are few, history, properly so called, they have none. Their poems and stories only tell us of quarrels – for which, by-the-bye, they have three words – and raids on the part of the Russians and Persians.

When I come to the alphabet and grammar I shall say a few more words with regard to a certain peculiarity which at once strikes the stranger; the extraordinary “click” found in the beginning, the middle and the end of words, and resembling nothing in our continent, but reminding us of the terminal sound so exuberant in the Aztek language. Whence it came – for as far as I can gather it is not to be found amongst the neighbouring tribes – I cannot imagine. Except to those who have heard it uttered, it is impossible to explain it. It differs entirely from the many South African “clicks,” and used as it is by a race who are in possession of a highly developed language, offers itself as a phenomenon which requires careful investigation.

Comandante, Djigit…

Дун Кубаялде щвана. Дица Фидель Кастрода тIад ретIана дир магIарул буртина. Гьесда гьеб рекъон ккараб куц! Гьес гьикъана:
— Маргъалал щай гьечIел гьалда?
— Тушман вачIаравго, вачIинахъего гьесул бохдукьеги рехун, ярагъ циндаго къватIибе цIазе санагIат букIине,— ян жаваб кьуна дица.
Фидель гьелдаса разилъана…

I visited Cuba and put my Avar burka* on Fidel Castro. It looked quite good on him. He asked me, “Why aren’t there any buttons on it?”
I answered, “to make it easier to throw off and pull out a weapon if an enemy comes.”
Fidel agreed…

На Кубе я подарил Фиделю Кастро нашу бурку.
– Почему нет пуговиц? – спросил удивленно Фидель.
– Чтобы в случае нужды быстрее сбросить с плеч и схватиться за саблю.
– Настоящая партизанская одежда, – согласился партизан Фидель Кастро.

In Cuba I gave Fidel Castro our traditional burka as a gift.
“Why aren’t there any buttons?” he asked, surprised.
“So that if necessary one could throw it off and pull out one’s sword.”
“Clothing fit for a guerrilla,” agreed guerrilla Fidel.

*Not to be confused with the Afghan women’s garment, the Caucasian burka (Avar буртина) is a square-shouldered sheepskin cloak.