Page 28 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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20
JEW IS H BOOK ANNUAL
to the masoretic text of the Bible. In addition to the
ketiv,
or the written text, there is the
keri,
the suggested oral reading.
The discerning reader, Shlonsky says, must take both into
account if he is to plumb the true meaning of his work.
Shlonsky’s collected works fall into two equal parts—five
volumes of original verse and five of translation. His prowess
as a masterful translator is proverbial. Several Hebrew poets
have produced translations from world literature bu t few
equal him in skill and versatility. The five volumes of his
translations comprise only a fraction of his amazing output.
His many renditions include the works of Pushkin and other
classic Russian writers and of Shakespeare
(King Lear
and
Hamlet
) . In addition, he has translated from the French (e.g.,
Charles De Coster’s
T ill Ulenspiegel)
and from the German.
His anthology
Songs of Our Days,
1946, is a collection of anti-
Fascist poetry by several European poets, including Yiddish
poets. Of particular note is his rendition of the moving Song
of the Vilna Jewish Partisans, which begins with the words,
“O never say at all, this is the final way.”
In addition to his phenomenal achievements as a translator,
Shlonsky contributed to the literature of the stage and to
children’s poetry. His gift for everyday language imparted a
special resiliency to the drama in Hebrew garb. In his child­
ren’s poetry his playfulness and inventiveness were fully ex­
hibited.
For a good part of his career Shlonsky served as an editor and
literary mentor. He was editor of Sifriat Poalim, the publishing
arm of Mapam, and of various literary organs and supplements.
As an editor, he gathered around him various modernist writ­
ers, of whom Nathan Alterman and Leah Goldberg are among
the best known. His contributions to the development of the
Hebrew language were manifold, and his special talents in this
regard received notable recognition when he was elected a
member of the Hebrew Language Academy in 1945. He was a
recipient of all of Israel’s leading literary awards, including
the Tchernichowsky Prize for translation which was conferred
upon him twice.
The noted Hebrew literary critic Baruch Kurzweil had long
decried the secularization of modern Hebrew literature. Still,
in defining the special role which Shlonsky played as innovator