From “My Fair Lady” to “Blood Brothers,” via the Zimmerman Bypass

Our friends at Ha’aretz – without whom this blog would get updated even less than it does – bring us an interview with Daniel Efrat, who is responsible for Hebrew translations of several Broadway musicals, including “Next to Normal” and “Blood Brothers.”

Efrat discusses the unique challenges of translating a musical into Hebrew (not enough one-syllable words, for one thing), and lists the major mistakes that translators of musical theater tend to make – putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable, as well as the “Zimmerman” – trying to push too many syllables into a phrase.

The article also mentions a couple of past musical translating quandaries, primarily that notorious My Fair Lady line about “the rain in Spain,” which in Hebrew, as you might or might not remember, was transformed into hail, and was confined to the south of Spain only.

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Episodes Hebrew Gravestone Debacle

The Guardian’s Shortcuts blog reports a linguistic mishap concerning the British version of the TV show “Episodes” and featuring a Hebrew-inscribed gravestone. The Episode in question has Merc Lapidus, one of the main characters (I’m taking their word for it – I’ve never watched the thing), attending the funeral of his father. Apparently, though, the producers cut some corners during the research phase of script development, and the Hebrew portion of Lapidus Senior’s gravestone displays the sort of backwards, mirror-writing Hebrew which you’re familiar with if you’ve worked even an hour of Hebrew QA in your life. If that weren’t enough, if you actually try to read the backwards text, you’ll discover that “dearly missed” has been translated to “expensively soured” (or, as the Guardian endearingly phrases it, “pickled at great expense”).

The message here is quite clear, but let’s make it explicit anyway: producers, use some of that cushy budget of yours to hire a well-qualified Hebrew translator to consult on all of your linguistic needs, and pay them well. You’ll be glad you did (or, more likely, sorry if you don’t).

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Alice Walker Nixes Hebrew “Color Purple”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Alice Walker has refused to authorize a Hebrew translation of her Pulitzer-winning novel, “The Color Purple.” In a letter to Yediot Books, Walker said she would not authorize an Israeli edition of the novel because “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.” You can read a summary of responses to Walker’s letter and some thoughts on the subject at The Literary Saloon.

Interestingly, a Hebrew edition of “The Color Purple” was already published in 1986 under the title הצבע ארגמן (which, if you want to get technical about it, actually means “The Color Scarlet”), by Leduri Press. Which might mean either that Walker was still cool with Israeli politics at the time, or that the goings-on at Leduri Press were not at the top of her priority list, what with having Steven Spielberg on line 2 and all.

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An interesting interview with Aminadav Dykman

Interesting interview with translator Aminadav Dykman on the English-language version of

“For us, translation occupies a place that it does not occupy elsewhere, because we are still awfully ignorant… Any time you make a list of canonical books, you’ll either find that some things haven’t been translated into Hebrew, or you’ll find yourself saying, ‘What took so long?'”

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Review of Etgar Keret’s latest work, by the Portland Mercury

Etgar Keret’s newest translated venture, Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, is creating a good buzz. Keret was recently interviewed in front of a Chicago audience by fellow fiction writer Nathan Englander, with whom he appears to share a happy creative synergy (Englander’s latest, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, credits Keret with supplying the inspiration for not one but two of the collection’s stories). Read a review of Keret’s latest in Portland’s own

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The dark side of being a Harry Potter translator.

The always-interesting Gili Bar Hillel discusses the dark side of being a Harry Potter translator, apropos her troubled and troubling relationship with Warner Brothers, on her blog, “Just One More Page.” The blog is primarily in Hebrew, but this entry is in English.

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Translator slam

If you still haven’t exhausted the meager supply of free articles which the online version of the New York Times is granting its readers these days, here’s an interesting article about the “Translator Slam” held as part of the PEN World Voices Literary Festival on April 26. The highlight was, without a doubt, the panel on translation of profanities and obscenities, using Adam Mansbach’s notorious “Go the F**k to Sleep” as a case study.

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Welcome to the work in progress that is my blog. My current plan is to share little tidbits relating to translation and translator issues, Hebrew lit in English translation and in general, and anything else that catches my fancy and seems pertinent. This might evolve over time – stay tuned!

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