Page 102 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
9 6
were sold in the Soviet Union since the October Revolution.
Some of his plays, particularly
are part of the repertoire
of the Soviet theatre, and is regularly produced in Ukrainian by
the state theatre of Kiev. In 1959, on the centennial of Sholom
Aleichem’s birth, the Soviet Post Office issued a postage stamp
with his picture to commemorate the event. (Rumania did like-
wise, also the Post Office of Israel.) A new edition of 225,000
copies of his works in Russian translation in six large volumes,
was offered to the public by subscription only. It was over-
subscribed within three weeks.
Sholom Aleichem is extensively translated and widely read
also in the other countries of Eastern Europe, even in Bulgaria
which never had an East European Jewish community since
Bulgarian Jews are Sephardic. On a recent visit to that country
I happened to be shown the library of a trade union center.
Conspicuous on a shelf was a translation of Sholom Aleichem
which looked well used. A comparison of the lending card on the
inside cover with similar cards of other literary works showed
the Sholom Aleichem book to have been taken out much more
frequently than the others.
The strangest triumph, which would have fascinated Sholom
Aleichem, is his growing popularity in Red China. At least two
books by Sholom Aleichem have appeared in Chinese in recent
years, and in fabulously large editions—one was published in
650,000 copies. Articles on Sholom Aleichem have appeared in
Chinese literary journals, and we know of at least one literary
function dedicated to his works. The Chinese translation must
have been made from the Russian translation. Judging by foot-
notes containing words in Latin characters, like
talis katan,
may assume an effort at a faithful translation rather than at an
In Japan Sholom Aleichem shares the honors with Ring
Lardner. For some reason two collections of stories by the two
authors were published together in one volume in a series of
classics of world humor. The Japanese translation apparently
was done from the English.
There must have been vast substance in those stories if they
could suffer so much loss, distortion and distillation in the process
of translation and still retain great meaning to the strange reader.
The Hurdles of Translation
There were formidable hurdles for the works of Sholom
Aleichem to overcome before reaching international readership.
First of all, there was the idiomatic turn of speech. Yiddish has
always been more than a means of communication. All through