Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yehuda HaLevi by Hillel Halkin

Over the the summer I posted about my review of this wonderful book. I wished that the Hebrew to the poems was included in the book, but I kept that wish to myself - because the book was so great and I came to praise.

Now, you can get all the poems in their Hebrew - here.


Blogger kishke said...

Thanks for this. I think Halkin is an excellent writer. I've just checked out one of the poems, though, about a jug of wine, and I see real problems with the translation. For example, כ"ד is not "two and four," but "twenty and four." No doubt the difficulties of translation while preserving a rhyme scheme are the cause of some of what I'm complaining about, but surely not in that example.

March 22, 2011 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I'm too young to put down the cup
I've only begun to pick up. To and for
What end should I stop
When my years are not yet two and four?

Halkin explains that there is clever word play that is almost
impossible - despite his valiant effort - to replicate in English.
Halevi wrote:

And how can I give up the kad - jug
When my years have not yet reached kad - twenty four?

This is an example where he definitely made a decision to adapt the English to try to hold on to a semblence of the playfulness/clever wordplay of the Hebrew.

March 22, 2011 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

Oh, I understood the problem. But since he in any case could not replicate the pun, he should at least have gone for the correct translation! His solution is incorrect in both the "to and for" phrase, which does not exist in the original Hebrew, and in the "two and four" phrase, which is a false translation.

I have problems with his rendering of the "libi bamizrach" poem too. Halkin's versions read nicely enough on their own, but he takes far too many liberties with the translation and meaning, in my opinion.

March 22, 2011 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

His approach is to take liberties and come across with a smooth sounding English adaptation. This is controversial. About a year ago Halkin and another HaLevi translator shared a podium. As an exercise they distributed a poem they'd each translated. The audience was asked to note the differences. the most glaring difference, was that Halkinn chose to omit one stanza! He felt it just wouldn't flow well in English with that piece left in. His counterpart felt strongly - as I sense that you, "Keshke" do - that a translator can't do that. It's a rough call, but my leanings are actually with Halkin here. His translations of HaLevi are part of what made the book so strong, halkin's masterpiece.

March 22, 2011 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

I just wrote a long response which blogger ate. I have no koach to rewrite it.

March 23, 2011 at 12:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marvelous: "I'm too young to put...." Thanks for a fascinating post--I'm finally beginning to get the nuances and hidden meanings of modern Hebrew. But,then, I've just begun to pick up the cup,RN.

March 23, 2011 at 3:49 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks Kishke, for writing - it can be so frustrating when you work hard and then what you wrote disappears. Thanks anon, I forgot to link to the post about the review -


March 23, 2011 at 6:52 AM  

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