Crossing a River Twice presents the basic translator’s dilemma: how to tell a story set in a specific time and place in a way that is universally relevant. This problem is compounded in the first three chapters with the character of Itamar, who is alienated from modern society in a way that readers worldwide will recognize, but has a distinctly Israeli way to express this alienation. His stream of consciousness, often undistinguishable from the narration, is comprised of Israeli-specific references and expressions, and he has a habit of using these references and expressions in a literal and figurative sense at the same time. The solution I found was to have Itamar use slightly altered versions of English idioms. This way, צרת רבים חצי נחמה (literally, “there’s consolation in shared troubles”) became “there’s comfort in numbers” rather than “misery loves company,” since Itamar emphatically does not want company. Similarly, וטובה שעה אחת קודם (“and better an hour sooner”) became “an hour saved is an hour earned,” rather than “the sooner the better,” since Itamar means exactly one hour.
The story is set in Tel Aviv, and Itamar’s attachment to the city, and specifically the Yarkon River, is a major aspect of his character. To emphasize this (and to add some clarity for readers not familiar with Tel Aviv and Israel) I added subtle reminders throughout the text. For example, מישור החוף (“the coastal plain”) in the second line of the prologue I translated as “Israel’s coastal plain” to provide an early point of orientation for the international reader. Similarly, I added terms for terrain and infrastructure features (e.g. river, bridge, interchange) that will be obvious to the Israeli reader but perhaps necessary for the international reader. Ultimately, I tried to achieve a translation that would not sound foreign to the international reader, but that would engage their curiosity towards the setting.
– Tom C. Atkins
Though Abraham Sutzkever is largely known for the poems he wrote during the Holocaust, Yiddish readers and experts consider the collection Poems from My Diary, which was published in 1977 as a collection of roughly 75 poems but later expanded to around 190 in the 1985 volume Twin Brother, to be his masterpiece. These poems range from musings on his daily life in Israel and memories of life in Vilna, to highly imaginative lyrics. They are much like what they sound like they would be from their title, while they are also much more: unlike diary entries, they are polished and mature. Most of the poems in the volume are sixteen lines long, divided into four quatrains–though there are exceptions, such as the collection’s most famous poem “Who Will Remain, What Will Remain.” Poems from My Diary is a remarkably consistent collection–it led to Sutzkever being awarded the Israel Prize in 1985, the only time the prize has been awarded for original literature written in Yiddish rather than Hebrew.
– Maia Evrona
Set in Haifa in 1988 during the first Intifada, The Admission is a play about memory and denial in the context of what Israelis call their “War of Independence” and the Palestinians call their “Nakba.” It portrays one Jewish and one Palestinian family. Some of the families’ members are trying to reveal the events that took place during the 1948 war between Jews and Palestinians, hoping that an open and truthful discourse will heal their wounds–but some are trying to deny the events and bury their memories deep in the ground, hoping that peaceful co-existence without exposing the painful memories will heal those same wounds.
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).