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150 Years of Alice In Wonderland


150 Years of Alice In Wonderland


In 1862, on a hot summer day in Oxford, a young man made up a story to placate a tireless ten year old and her sisters while they sat by the riverside. The man was mathematician Charles Dodgson, and the child, today immortalized by this very story, was Alice Liddell. From an extemporized fairytale told to a child, Alice in Wonderland grew to become a universally beloved novel with translations in over 170 languages according to the Wall Street Journal, and more still being produced to this day. Tiny Mulder, translator of Alice into Frisian said, “A language is not complete if there are no translations of the bible, Shakespeare, and Alice in Wonderland.” For its 150th anniversary, Alice is being translated into Pashto, Esperanto, emoji and Blissymbols.


When Dodgson first put the tale to paper it was at Alice’s urging, so that she could have it forever to keep; it was titled  “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.” When he was convinced to submit it for publication he first changed the title to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” included his own personal drawings to embellish the pages (before hiring John Tenniel to produce the well-known published illustrations), added new characters (such as the Mad Hatter), and adopted the pen name (to which he became inextricably linked), Lewis Carroll.


Now, to celebrate 150 years since its publication, The Morgan Library and Museum in New York is holding an exhibit –  Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland, opening June 26th and running through October 11th. We will have the rare opportunity to see the original manuscript itself, on loan from the British Library in London for the first time in thirty years. It’s a first edition 1885 copy, one of only twenty two believed to still exist today. See the words that were written painstakingly by Carroll himself, so that Alice could read it herself. Also included in the exhibit is an assortment of letters, vintage photographs, and other strange and fascinating objects from Carroll’s collection.


If this exhibit leaves you feeling ‘curiouser and curiouser,’ might we suggest you visit another Alice and Wonderland inspired creation, Then She Fell; a critically acclaimed immersive production written, produced, and performed by Brooklyn based Third-Rail Projects. Tickets are on sale now through August 30th. Then She Fell is performed in the old Kingsland Ward in Williamsburg. Without giving too much away, it’s an eerie, hypnotic, and thought provoking experience that leaves you feeling like you too have spent the evening down the rabbit hole.

It’s true that while there are many interpretations of Alice, its grim undercurrent is always agreed upon. The story evoked the darkness of a dream that few others have been able to capture, perhaps lending to its permanence and allure 150 years later. The protagonist follows, even chases the unknown (the white rabbit), rather than running away from it. “In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.” This little girl showed bravery and self trust in a world that was lonely, confusing, and unforgiving. Menacing personalities were not what they seemed and the answers to her questions could only be found within her. Interestingly, Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical wonderland is actually a homology to the world we call our own. Perhaps Alice could teach us a thing or two about living in it.

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