During the dinner at the king's palace, Rumata has a conversation with Father Gur, the poet. Rumata offers him a copy of the poets work, in exchange for a promise to write something new:
“Very well put, Father Gur. By the way, is it still possible to find your book?”
“I don’t know… And I don’t want to know.”
“Just in case, you should know: one copy is in the metropole, in the library of the emperor. Another is kept in the Museum of Curiosities in Soan. The third is with me.”
Gur spooned some jelly onto his plate with a trembling hand. “I… don’t know…” He looked at Rumata mournfully with his huge sunken eyes. “I’d like to read it… reread it…”
“I’ll be happy to lend it to you.”
“And then you’ll give it back.”
“And then you’ll be given back!” Gur said sharply.
Hard to be a God, chapter 5. Emphasis mine.
I am confused by Father Gur's reply. In original Russian, the last two lines of the conversation are as follows (with bold part matching that in the translation):
— Потом вы вернете.
— И потом вам вернут! — резко сказал Гур.
A literal translation in this case is "And then they'll give it back to you!". While all three versions mean the same thing, I found the tone to be different, and it caused me to question the meaning of Father Gur's line.
When I read it in Russian, I assumed he was referring to future generations of poets that would be inspired by Father Gur's work. This thought of mine was prompted by an earlier line by Rumata:
“Look at your plate and keep eating. I’ll tell you who you are. You’re a brilliant storyteller, the founder of a new literary movement — the most fruitful one there is.” Gur’s cheeks slowly started to glow. “In a hundred years, and maybe even earlier, dozens of storytellers will follow in your footsteps.”
Ibid. Emphasis mine.
But then, Father Gur may be just too humble and skeptic to accept that possibility.
When reading the English translation, however, the tone suggested that Father Gur may somehow be referring to Don Reba, and persecution of artists in Arkanar, as if he was saying "And then you'll be given back [after they kill me for possessing it]!". This, I think, is supported by the line that follows immediately after:
Rumata shook his head.
“Don Reba really scared you, Father Gur.”
So which one is it? Is Father Gur telling that Rumata will be rewarded for lending Gur his book? Or is he telling that Rumata and Gur will be prosecuted for the possession of this banned work?
On a related note, today (15th of April) is the birthday of Boris Strugatsky, one of the authors of this terrific book!