Page 80 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
to this “sabra” sort o f read ing o f Bialik is in the ten essays
On Bialik
by Shlomo Zemach, recently collected by his daugh ter Ada (Dvir,
1978).
On the whole, within the limits o f a relatively b r ief selection,
Professor Nevo has managed adm irably to rep resen t many
dimensions o f Bialik’s complexity, and to convey a strong impres­
sion o f the poet’s imaginative presence, in terms o f her own fine
taste and sensibility.
Ano ther Bialik, then — and in yet ano ther translation; and this
is also the first ex tended bilingual edition I know — aside from
Bialik poems in anthologies o f Hebrew poetry by Ruth F iner
Mintz, Burnshaw-Carm i-Spicehandler, and the like. Having the
Hebrew text on the opposite page certainly makes a big d if fe r ­
ence. But Bialik
in English
is my special concern, and it is a fine
language we get here — British, ra th e r than American; Ruth
Nevo has a rich prose style o f her own. Both the strengths and
limitations o f he r book come out o f the fact tha t this Bialik is all
h e r own.
EARLIER EFFORTS
Looking back over ha lf a century, we realize tha t trying to
achieve “the impossible” goal o f Englishing Bialik has usually
been something o f a collaborative effort. In the 1920’s, we have
L.V. Snowman’s
Poems from the Hebrew
(London, 1924), with an
in troduc tory essay by Vladimir Jabotinsky, plus fine renderings
o f “T he Talmud S tuden t” and “In the City o f Slaughter” (from
the Yiddish version) by Helena Frank; and in Maurice Samuel’s
b r ie f
Selected Poems
(New York, 1926), F rank ’s “City o f S laugh ter”
was rep rin ted . When Israel Efros (New York, 1948) began the
project o f publishing a
Complete Poetic Works
(only one volume
appeared) , the chief fault was an ex treme eclecticism o f styles
(eighteen d ifferen t translators!), which made Bialik seem like a
sort o f m ixed-up imitation o f various o the r poets. At least, Nevo
has given the poet a style and personality o f h e r own.
T he reader o f English may gain some indication o f the difficult
challenges Nevo undertook , by studying Tuvya R iibner’s
discussions in
The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself
(Schocken, 1966 —
ed. S. Burnshaw, T. Carmi, E. Spicehandler). He draws atten tion ,
fo r example, to subtle rhythmical pa tterns (in “Alone”: “an urge
to break from the control o f the m e ter is conveyed by the many