Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
50
tale. I t reads a very successful translation. And Lask concluded
his riposte: “
Y isroe l
may be a sociologist's scrap-book and a
Gathering of the Exiles, but first and foremost it is a literary pro-
duction, containing a great deal of material hitherto unpublished
in English.”
TH E M ISS ION OF TH E T R A N S L A T O R
Which brings me to my theme. For isn’t that the mission of the
translator, from whatever language to whatever language? To
acquaint people whose language is different with literary work
otherwise unknown to them, so that it will impregnate their
thinking and their writing, influence their literature, carry out
that most necessary task in life and culture, literature and art,
of cross-fertilization. It is the recognized way in which cultures
influence each other and make each other fruitful. My friend
Richard Friedenthal in his monumental volume on Goethe quotes
a letter Goethe wrote to Carlyle, where he “observes with pride
how the German language has been enriched by numerous trans-
lations and has become a general market place of foreign litera-
tures.” We know what an immense influence Goethe had on Eng-
lish and world literature. The French Flaubert on the whole de-
velopment of English literature after
M adam e Bovary.
And the
Russians, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chechov on the literature of
the world. Or the influence of the English Shakespeare and the
English Defoe with his
R ob in son Crusoe,
and Swift with
Gu lliver .
Nor should false modesty silence us about the influence of our
Hebrew Bible on world literature. The achievements, all of them
of translations.
At bottom we are all people, subject to the same human needs
and emotions. So that we can find the English non-Jewish writer
Alan Sillitoe telling us in
T h e T im e s :
“I felt a semblance of
spirit to the people in Sholom Aleichem, so that any volume of
his so far unread may become another of my favorite books.” Of
course, he reads them in translation
If Jews have influenced or can influence modern writing it can
be unly by translations from the Yiddish and Hebrew literatures
of tne immediate past and of our own times. And the problems
that face translators from Yiddish and Hebrew are very much the