Monday, July 08, 2013

Alter interview

ROBERT ALTER is interviewed in the Jewish Ledger about his translation of the Hebrew Bible: Conversation with… Dr. Robert Alter. Excerpt:
Every great work of literature – and there’s much great writing in the biblical Hebrew – has a mastery of means in its own language. It’s not only the kind of perfect word choice and subtle shifts from one level of the language to another, but also the rhythms, the lengths of words, etc. When you’re translating, you can’t possibly get all of those, while all the different features come together in perfect harmony in the original language. In most cases, you decide what’s less important and you sacrifice something: maybe you don’t focus on the order of the words in order to achieve some other effect of the original that’s important; maybe I can get the rhythm of the language but not quite the English equivalents that have the exact same resonance as the original.
Too true.

Background here with many links.