Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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TARNOR / ON TRANSLATING HEBREW
67
room my fa the r had allocated
to him, studying the T o rah in
a sadly sweet and yearn ing
chant. My whole life hung on
this chant.
Generally speaking, the translator is u n d e r constant pressure
from the conflict between form and meaning. Ms. Kaplan’s tran s­
lation o f
davka bo nafshi
is a case in point. Had she translated it
literally, Ms. Aberdam ’s soul would have clung o r adhe red o r
cleaved to h e r new husband as did Shechem to Dinah (Gen. 34:3).
Ms. Kaplan would then have been faithful to the text but, since a
translation is also “a medium o f communication which is con­
stantly in process o f change,”10she would have been as hopelessly
dated as the seventeenth cen tury King James version o f the
Genesis passage: “And his soul clave un to D inah.” While “being
strongly drawn” to Dinah, as in the new Jewish Publication Society
translation, is an improvement in understand ing the biblical text
there nevertheless remains a h in t o f physical attraction in the
connotation which is absent in Barash’s use o f the phrase. Ms.
Kaplan’s use o f “my h ea r t went ou t to him” emphasizes spiritual
attraction. H e r translation is therefore more felicitous and any
potential conflict between form and meaning is avoided.
T o “allocate” a room to someone has an unfam iliar ring to the
American ear although a cursory check o f the
Oxford English
Dictionary
indicates it has been used in the sense o f to assign “to a
special person o r pu rpo se” as early as 1833. T h e usage is British
and suggests Ms. Kaplan’s nationality. An American translator
would have used “assigned to him” o r “set aside fo r him .”
T he use o f
kelot ha-nefesh
presents an interesting problem: How
bold dare the translator be in departing from the text to convey
the kernel o f meaning embedded in the form? Cultural contexts
and literary styles often impose restrictions upon one. T he literal
translation is the easier way ou t bu t it is no solution. A “yearning
chan t” is a poor choice. How does a chant yearn? On the o the r
hand , if it be argued tha t the yearning is an emotion stimulated in
the hea r t o f the listener, a ren ’t we runn ing into a welter o f poorly
defined modifiers, qualifiers, and all the ensuing confusion?
More questions are raised than can be immediately answered.
The fact is tha t d iffe ren t cultural contexts requ ire d ifferen t
10 Nida, p. 3.