Friday, May 29, 2015

In Silent Hours?

Gele Shveyd Fishman’s collection of Yiddish verse, In Shtile Shoen (In Silent Hours?), is not a translated collection, but transcribed into Roman characters.  Therefore, unless your Yiddish is extremely good, this collection of poems is only truly helpful for beginners trying to learn how Yiddish is pronounced (at least in a poetic register). The author explains at the conclusion of this work why she made this exclusionary move:

“A translation of a poem is a new poem based on the original text and creatively interpreted by the translator within the linguistic and cultural parameters of a different language.  A translation of my poetry is not my voice.  It is the voice of the translator.  I write my poetry only in Yiddish and I would like readers who cannot, as yet, read Yiddish to see, hear and read authentic lines, metaphors and imagery, the sound and sense that I have created in my beloved language.”

Well, I believe Ms. Fishman is a bit off in this regard.  Certainly a translation can never carry the complete sense of a text from one language to another.  Translation always involves innovative creativity.   But no translator would ever agree that a translation is “the voice of the translator.”  More likely, it is collaboration between the translator and the original work, in the original language.  What is created is not new, but a bridge between two worlds. 

And certainly, as Yiddish becomes a language exclusively of the ultra-frum community, translation is now a paramount exercise. Very few people will learn Yiddish.  If not translated, we consign secular Yiddish literature to its grave.

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