Page 88 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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The superiority of the JPS version is quite patent; its au­
thentic rendition is complemented by its precise English diction.
Fox, on the other hand, reveals shocking lapses in English dic­
tion. The “now” in the second verse is not in the Hebrew, and
his phrases “be there light” and “evening was and morning was”
are simply not English. The contrast becomes even more marked
in the rendition of verse 9. JPS: “Let the water below the sky
be gathered into one area.” Fox: “Let the waters under the
heavens be blocked-up to one place.” Further comment is hardly
called for.
It seems paradoxical that in this difficult and highly complex art
in which consummate skill and the mastery of the principles of
translation are a sine qua non for successful execution, few (if
any) media are available for training in this field. I know of no
academic institution that offers such courses. I t is imperative
that this need should command serious attention.
Occasionally, there are literary works, especially in poetry,
that cannot be translated; they are adamant in refusing to wear
the garb of another language. There is something “unnatural­
ized” in the “new immigrant”; the foreign accent shows; it
isn’t the original looking at itself in a mirror. A parallel may
be educed in the insoluble problem in surgical heart transplan­
tation when the “new” heart is rejected by the old body.
When a translation is undertaken, the translator should resist
the temptation to resort to the easy course of clinging to the
literal reading of the original text and to its precise words and
idioms. Rather, he should strive to keep within the framework
of three basic principles: (1) the idea and message that are
central in the original should emerge as central also in the
translation; (2) the sense and spirit of the original should be
absorbed into the translation so that it will duplicate the re­
sponse evoked by the original; (3) the quality of the transla­
tion should, as much as possible, impress the reader as an origi­
nal presentation.
As a final word, perhaps Robert Frost’s caveat should here be
added that “for self-assurance there should always be a lingering
unhappiness in reading the translation.”