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Translation and Yiddish: New Approaches

Mon, December 17, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cityview 2 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel explores issues of translation and Yiddish. It responds to recent debates about the role of translation in the rewriting of texts, ideas, etc., across linguistic and cultural boundaries, but also about the way translation shapes writers’ own work and its reception. In his 2006 Adventures in Yiddishland, e.g., Jeffrey Shandler argues that Yiddish literature was “founded” in translation; he then goes on to show that translation now plays a central role in the creation of a “post-vernacular” Yiddish culture. Anita Norich shows in Writing in Tongues (2013) that, by exploring multiple translations of a Yiddish writer’s work, one comes to understand more profoundly the work.

This panel consists of three papers that explore issues of Yiddish translation from different but related angles. Naomi Seidman’s paper focuses on who Freud was among Yiddish-speaking Jews. It argues that Yiddish-speaking Jews represented both a marginal position in the world of psychoanalysis (as compared, e.g., to the “English” or “French” Freud) and a central dimension of Freud’s personal history (since, Yiddish represented, in an imaginary sense, the “original” to the “translation” that was Freud’s German prose). This double position, Seidman argues, occurs in both the Yiddish translations of Freud’s work and the reception of psychoanalysis among Yiddish speakers. Jan Schwarz’s paper, “Yitskhok Bashevis’ Translations of World Literature in Interwar Warsaw,” examines how Bashevis’ intensive period of translating mostly contemporary German and Scandinavian novels, 1928-1931 by Knut Hamsun, Stefan Zweig, Thomas Mann and Eric Maria Remarque, provided him with a model for creating world literature in post-war America via the English translations of his work. Jeffrey Grossman’s paper, “Re-Discovering the Shtetl in the German Sholem Asch and Dovid Bergelson,” shows how German translators turned to two different writers with opposed poetics and literary styles so as to present the shtetl anew to German readers. Although offering very different images of the shtetl, the translations of Asch and Bergelson’s work broke with the convention in German of conflating the “shtetl” with the (often negative) image of the East European Jewish “ghetto.” Anita Norich will serve as chair and respondent on the panel.

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