Page 55 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JOSEPH LEFTWICH
About Translation from the Yiddish
A
t r a n s l a t o r
b y
p r e d il e c t io n
,
and largely too by trade,
I
nat-
urally turn to anything in my reading that has to do with trans-
lation. So when I turned to the Jewish Book Council’s recent
volume of forty-three reprinted essays from the issues of the
Jewish Book Annual ,
I quickly found my way to the section
called “From One Language to Another,” where I too am repre-
sented. I stopped at David Patterson’s essay “The Art of the
Translator,” in particular at his paragraph, “A translation ought
not to read like a translation is a generally accepted criterion,”
and “The verbal closeness of the translation is less important
than the atmosphere it creates. What matters is the ability to
recapture the spirit of the original.” Patterson was dealing with
translation from the Hebrew with which I have little to do,
though he evoked a memory in me with his reference to Ben
Halpern’s translation of Hazaz’s
Mor i Sa’id.
I was asked by the
publisher to go through the translation and tighten and quicken
the slow dragging repetitious talk. Halpern objected, with some
reason, that my tightening and quickening changed Hazaz into
a different kind of writer—it was no longer Hazaz.
I was in the same way interested in what Patterson says about
I. M. Lask’s translations: “Lask’s rendering might well pass for
a piece of original English writing.” I am interested because
Lask translated Hazaz, as well as Bialik and Agnon and others for
the Hebrew section in the
Yisroel
anthology I compiled in 1933,
forty years ago. Lask got into a controversy when
Yisroel
was
published over his introduction of Hazaz. He had described the
Hazaz story as “the first successful literary fugue.” Lask retaliated
in the
Palestine Post:
“It is apparently not Hazaz’s work that is
in question, but my note on him.” He defended his application of
the musical term to the story, “an evocation of the background
of the first half of the Bible.” The story is about Zipporah, the
wife of Moses, whom he had left in the wilderness when he went
to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, and their son, whom she circum-
cised with a flint—a “bridegroom of blood,” the title of the
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