Page 90 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
“Yoo-ooh, woe to your head!" Mori Sa’id clapped his two hands
together in grief. “You are already famous for your speaking. Muddled
from mind, mouth and tongue! Ba, ba, ba, ba . . . Lo, the King of
Kings hears your speech and sees you, how you are already queer
beyond all the multitudes. . ."
“O me, O my, O father.” Sion rolled his eyes and stood in various
postures. “He who suspecteth the innocent. .
“Yoo-ooh, may your tongue be frozen! Are you still talking?”
“But you suspect me, O my eyes, but you suspect me! It is forbidden,
forb idden
you by the laws of Heaven, O light of my eyes. I am a poor
wretch, with children clinging to my neck, and period, dot and be
dashed for a slice of bread, the slime has climbed to the neckline, with
nowhere to stand. A little more bitter than death, may darkness and
death redeem it!”
As the greater part of Hazaz’s novel is equally difficult to trans-
late, the sum total of the English version evokes a reaction which
bears little relation to the effect exerted by the original. Nor does
it afford the English reader any real insight into the quality of
Hazaz’s work. And yet the following fragment of Lask’s version
of an equally difficult work, Agnon’s
Bridal Canopy ,
quite how successful a translation can be:7
“I ’d shifted all the earthenware and the flax could be seen. Along
came a robber, hit me over the head and knocked my hat off. But he
didn’t want me to go bareheaded and have a sin on my conscience, God
forbid, for he immediately clapped a pot over my napper; what’s more,
he slipped a cord between its two handles so as it shouldn't tumble off,
and tied both my hands to a tree. To finish off he landed me another
blow as a parting gift and went his way; and it goes without saying
that he took my horses with him, for horses are useful when you’re
in a hurry.”
The striking difference in quality between the two passages
just quoted lies in the fact that whereas the latter has both cap-
tured the spirit of the original Hebrew and transfused it into
idiomatic and pleasing English, the former has accomplished
neither. Lask’s rendering might well pass for a piece of original
English writing, but scarecly a single phrase of the passage
quoted from Halpern’s version reads naturally in English. Much
of it, indeed, is hardly comprehensible at all. The failure lies
inherent in the technique. The component elements of the
Hebrew have not been adequately broken down nor made suffi-
ciently pliable to be re-fashioned within a radically different
In cases where the material is so difficult to remould, far
greater liberties must be taken with the ingredients. The basic
ideas must be allowed to range over a far wider linguistic area
to produce a comparable effect in the new conditions. Nothing
is more emasculating than to restrict the entry of the original to
literal equivalents of its idiom, which the language of translation
does not naturally possess. It is easy enough to squeeze tooth-
TNew York, 1937, p. 25.