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Which Yiddish Texts Would You Like To See Translated?

A new translation from the New Yiddish Library.

Early in December, the Forward published an article by Rachel Rubinstein entitled, “Is Yiddish Literature the Next Big Thing?” In the piece, Rubinstein, a professor at Hampshire College (and friend of the Book Center) hailed the arrival of three Yiddish texts in translation: one brand-new (The Glatstein Chronicles, published as part of the New Yiddish Library Series), and two re-publications of works by the Brothers Singer: The Magician of Lublin, by Bashevis, and I.J. Singer’s The Brothers Ashkenazi

Professor Rubinstein welcomed the Glatstein collection with particular enthusiasm.  Glatstein, she argued, is a writer who deserves a hearing in any conversation about literary modernism, modern Jewish culture, and American literature writ large.  And Glatstein is only one of scores of significant writers in the pantheon of modern Yiddish literature.  Fewer than 2% of Yiddish titles have been translated into English.  Until they can reach a larger – that is, English-speaking – audience, countless titles will be relegated to the margins of scholarly and popular discussion of modern literature.

The Book Center has been involved in translation projects in the past—we partnered with Yale University Press on the New Yiddish Library Series, and we regularly publish new translations in the Pakn Treger.  In the coming years, however, we want to think of new ways to make translation an even higher priority.  And for this, we are asking your help.  In the language of the blogosphere, we are putting out what is called a “Bleg” (blog + beg).  Here in the yidish-redndike blogosphere, we’re calling it a “Blakoshe” (blog + bakoshe, or “request”). 

Here’s the big question: what Yiddish titles and/or authors would you most like to see translated?  Chaim Grade, Sholem Asch, Esther Kreitman… un azoy vayter.  They don’t have to be prose: imagine what a fine thing it would be to have Anna Margolin’s Lider translated in its entirety!  Nor do they have to be fiction: the literary criticism of Shmuel Niger is a treasure trove that awaits a broader audience.  We welcome any and all suggestions of authors, titles, poems and texts.  

We’d also like to know: what role would you like to see the Book Center play in facilitating translations in the future?  Would you be interested in seeing the Yiddish Book Center host a seminar for training future translators and connecting existing ones?  Would you like to see us publish a periodical dedicated to the publication of new translations?  Or offer an annual prize for the best new translations of Yiddish literature?  Perhaps a crowd-sourced “wiki-translation” tool for anyone interested in dipping into our 11,000-title Spielberg Digital Library and translating a line, a paragraph, or a page?  Feel free to offer any ideas of your own. 

Finally, if you are a translator, or you are just interested in being kept in the loop with regard to the Book Center’s translation projects, email me at dschlitt[at]bikher[dot]org.


David Morrill Schlitt December 30, 2010