Editor’s Note – Translation and Transformation

For an Israeli journal of creative writing in English, the subject of translation and its relation to transformation is relevant and significant.

Language in Israel has the feeling of something dynamic, in flux, in constant dialogue with the texts of the past, the urgency of the present and a vision of the future. The linguistic influences that play out in Israeli society are everywhere. Here, where much of the population is fluent in at least two languages, there is an inherent understanding that words are fluid, multivalent, and charged with overlapping meanings; a recognition that in every translation, something is lost, but something else is gained.

Not only Arabic, Yiddish and English, as one might expect, are in the air, but also Greek, Russian, Amharic, French, Spanish, and more. To exist in the midst of so many linguistic legacies is to live within the very process of transformation. And to make space for all that this entails. This, I think, is the real theme of this issue.

The pieces we’ve put together here shed light on something of the way a thought, an image, a memory, an idea, or a person becomes something new. We’ve chosen both translations of original work and also pieces that offer a perspective on the process of transformation itself.

In the poetry section, you’ll find an eclectic mix of translated works that range from the biblical Book of Job to modern Hebrew poetry by Zelda and by Yehuda Amichai; a haunting Yiddish poem by Celia Dropkin side by side with the renowned Egyptian author Ahmed Shawqi. The contemporary Israeli scene opens itself up through the works of Agi Mishol, Smadar Sharett, Orit Gidali and others. Meanwhile, the porous line between translation and transformation is examined in the original works of Sarah Marcus and Lyn Lifshin, whose families are transformed as they are translated across oceans and bloodlines.

The prose pieces include Fred Skolnik’s essay “Hebrew Slang”, which examines how Hebrew is evolving. Nicole Broder’s story, “Layers”, offers a troubling tale of religious fanaticism. In “The Gulf Between our Bodies”, Keren Tova Rubinstein unfolds her own story in snapshots. And we’ve reprinted Etgar Keret’s now classic story, “Fatso”, which, if you aren’t familiar with it, is required reading. Interviews with writer and translator Evan Fallenberg and with the poet and translator Linda Zisquit offer fresh perspectives on the process of creation and translation.

The world is getting smaller. Communication across languages and cultures is becoming easier, and with that, the recognition that all translation must involve a transformation.

Janice Weizman


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