A word in 46 languages

Translators of Amos Oz met the author for an open discussion of literature in translation.

Amos Oz (photo credit: DANNY MECHLIS/BGU)
Amos Oz
(photo credit: DANNY MECHLIS/BGU)
The De Button auditorium at Mishkenot Sha’ananim was packed even before the program started – exactly (which is unusual in this region) on time, at 7:30 p.m. for an encounter with six of the translators of the works of the world-renowned author Amos Oz.
Mishkenot Sha’ananim’s activism in promoting the field of translation and the discourse on translation in Israel has led to the establishment of a residency program that brings together different translators of a selected work of Israeli literature with the author of that work. The program seeks to enrich the translators’ perceptions of the world of the book through a weeklong conversation with its author, enabling a direct encounter not only with the author, but also with the reality surrounding him or her, helping to create a deeper knowledge of Israeli reality and history.
The program was launched in 2015. Last year it featured Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan and her book Gader Haya (All the Rivers).
The program provides an opportunity for the general public to be exposed to the work of the translators through an open evening event that caps the week’s residency. On July 25, the participants at the event took advantage of the opportunity to discuss key issues common to all translators and then delved into the unique challenges of translating to their specific languages.
The closing event of the weeklong encounter with the six translators hosted in this year’s residency program was presented by Prof. Evan Fallenberg, the director of the residency program, with Oz and his translators. A key focus of the discussion was the translation of Oz’s Judas into other languages. Featured participants were Zhiqing Zhong – Chinese; Victor Radutsky – Russian; Alina Karaulli – Albanian; Hilde Pach – Dutch; Mahir Unsal Eris – Turkish; and Elena Lowental – Italian.
Fallenberg spoke first with Oz, who explained, in rather good English – despite his opening declaration that he has not mastered this tongue – about his special relationships with his translators.
“Monogamy,” explained Oz, raising some laughter in the audience, is the key word for him, explaining that the need to establish confidence in these relationships always precedes the work of translation in itself. In other words, Oz explained, in order to accept a translator, he has to feel confident with him or her before anything else. However, he added, his attitude toward a translator is different in cases where he knows the foreign language, and in those in which he has no clue.
In discussions with the six translators participating at the week’s residency, it appeared that sometimes a good translation can create a situation in which a reader, who otherwise doesn’t have any idea about Israel, its history and its people, can identify with the writer and the story, based on totally different approach. Oz recalled what a Chinese student he met in Beijing a few years ago told him about his opus A Tale of Love and Darkness, which is an extremely local story. The student said that he could easily identify with Oz, the author, because he, too, was the only child of his parents (in line with the Chinese rule of only one child in a family).
“Unexpected but still a way to touch the storyteller,” concluded Oz