Monday, September 26, 2011

Modern Hebrew Stories

In October 1971 Bantam published a dual English/Hebrew edition of a series of short stories by contemporary Hebrew writers.  This was part of a series of other dual language books published by Bantam.  The justification of such an odd book, original text on one side, translation on the other, is that we can have a sort of running dialog with the original language (if we know it) and the translation.  We don’t have to accept the translation as writ.  We can argue and tangle with the two texts. 

I do this with the JPS translation of the Tanakh.  I constantly scratch my head at the translator’s choices.  Instead of rendering the Plains of Moab the Plains of Moab, they are called the Steppes of Moab.  How justified is this translation? Maybe steppes is closer to the Hebrew original, but in English it conjures up images of snowy, vast Russian open spaces.  Something is lost here in this choice.

You will find this and more in the translations of several short stories by Agnon, Hazaz, Yizhar, Megged, Amichai, Aloni, Appelfeld and Yehoshua.  If you can find this old book scarf it up.  Read it and tangle with it.  Make meaning out of this fraught enterprise called translation.

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