Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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STEINBACH / ON THE ART OF TRANSLATION
69
a veil,” both were uttering an unequivocal truism. Paradoxically,
Bialik himself provided the rare exception that often proves the
rule. His translation into Hebrew of Ansky’s Yiddish
The Dyb-
buk
so completely transmitted the text and context of Ansky’s
original work, that the latter, having lost his own copy, used
Bialik’s translation in converting his play back into Yiddish.
Tradu ttore , traditore
(translator, traitor) is certainly too harsh
a characterization of those who are engaged in translating from
one language into another. Granted that the translator, however
skillful and competent he may be, cannot possibly re-create an
author’s precise balance of thought, feeling and meaning, and
granted that he cannot reproduce the elusive qualities of style,
sense and essence that structure and flavor the original, it does
not necessarily follow that translation is a betrayal. The value
of literature lies not alone in original works; their dissemination
through the medium of translation to a world readership cannot
help but elevate the quality of literary, spiritual and cultural
standards. Many seminal works written in a language other than
English have been communicated to us through the felicitous
labors of dedicated translators: the Bible, The
R epub lic
of Plato,
Homer’s
Iliad
and
Odyssey,
North’s
Plutarch,
Florio’s
Montaigne,
Fitzgerald’s
Ruba iya t,
John Ciardi’s translation of Dante’s
In­
ferno,
to mention only a few.
Regrettably, the brilliant creator of the monumental
The
Cantos,
Ezra Pound, added credibility to the rubric
Tradu ttore ,
traditore.
In a letter to W. H. Rouse who had rendered a prose
translation of Homer’s
I liad—
a Greek epic poem describing the
siege of Troy and the anger of Achilles—Pound wrote, “ ’Taint
what a man
sez,
but what he
means
that the
word-traducer
(em­
phasis added) has to bring over.” The “word-traducer” here
refers to the translator. (It is painful to contemplate how this
gifted luminary degraded himself and debauched his poetic art
by exploiting a malicious racism and by embracing the Fascist
cause and anti-Semitism during World War 2.)
AVRAHAM SHLONSKY’S SO LU T ION
A perceptive and highly illuminating essay on the art of transla­
tion has been provided by the superb Israeli poet Avraham
Shlonsky (1900-1973), who has given us significant translations
into Hebrew from the Russian (Pushkin, Gogol, Sholokhov,