Anita Norich, "Yiddish Translation Matters"

Friday, February 6, 2015 - 1:00pm
7191 Helen C. White

Although only 2-3% of Yiddish literature has been translated into English, some poems and stories have been translated many times. This talk asks why and analyzes what these variant translations tell us about changes in the status of Yiddish, about Jewish American cultural transformations, and about translation itself.

Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yentl have been translated not only from Yiddish to English but also from text to screen. Poems and stories by Y.L. Peretz, Yankev Glatshteyn, Kadya Molodovsky, Anna Margolin and others have been translated and transformed many times. We’ll look at some of these and consider what they reveal about the odd combination of a growing Jewish American cultural assertiveness and the growing conservatism of that culture. Nostalgic and anti-nostalgic views of Yiddish figure prominently in this analysis, as do late-twentieth-century translation theories and practices, and developments in Jewish ethnic identity in America. What are the challenges of rendering a Jewish language—steeped in Jewish ritual and emerging from a multilingual community—into English?