Wednesday, April 24, 2013

1982 Hebrew Language Moby-Dick

For many years we have had our eye on this volume or desired one like it. Finally we were able to purchase this exact edition. Excited, it arrived having been sent to us all the way from Tel Aviv.

Translating Moby-Dick into Hebrew seems a bit conflicted, in a way it is like an Italian baseball team, on the surface kind of reasonable but there is a bit of doubt.

It is a doubt of vocabulary. Hebrew is an ancient, beautiful language but indecipherable to us. The question is: does the Hebrew language have the words to flesh out the whaling flavor or the New England flavor or the flavor of the 1850's jargon? Can any foriegn translation convey the Melvilleness of the original English text? Just as we question a Chinese translation as to how well it stands up, we would question a Hebrew translation. But actually, we do not care. The proper printing of the book is admirable, back to front, right to left, and we place it right next to the prized Japanese volume on the shelf. Perhaps the translation inside is solid and well developed by the translator, but since we can not read a word of Hebrew, in fact it is a complete mystery, we do not care one wit if the translation is whacked, it is awesomely dope to finally have experienced this book and the unique aspects of a Hebrew book insure that this volume too will be a prized addition to the collection. 

Chapter IX The Sermon
Father Mapple quoting Jonah:  ""I am a Hebrew," he cries - and then - "I fear the Lord the God of Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!""

We admit that we are judging a book by its cover; we will take it on faith that what lays deep inside is as solid as the externals. Many of the English volumes in the collection are totally beat either in design or condition, but still the internals remain the same: Melville's genius. In the vast ocean of printed material the rarest are the volumes that the internals and externals are harmonious, balanced, grounded, such as the ones that are both beat outside and beat inside by loving use (ex lib or the vastly underlined ones used in American Lit classes), or the ones that are beautiful on the inside and beautiful outside, the work of master craftsmen and craftswomen in the art room and on the press (Lakeside, Arion). The pursuit of a balanced volume is our quest.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

2012 Penguin English Library Moby-Dick

We ordered this book directly from the UK, from West Sussex to be exact, because, well, to be honest, we love love love the cover.  Its become increasing apparent by comments and traffic to this blog, that, for those who don't care so much for the text, the covers are their jam. 

We have no real desire to touch this book, the cover being so crisp and the binding fresh. But to read a few facts about the publication we had to peek inside. Gingerly, we opened it to ascertain the publication date, peeking in between the pages we were not too surprised to see printed on the bottom of the reverse of the title page that Penguin is committed to a sustainable future for their business, their readers and "our" planet. Phew, that means that no polar bears were harmed in the production of the series. Good for them. And we certainly hope they mean that, but not too strongly, because if you take that position to the extreme, it may make sense, to save the planet, to stop printing books and only provide e books, and that makes us uneasy, queasy really, a bit of spit up just came to our mouths.

Chapter LXXIX  The Praire

Has the Sperm Whale ever written a book, spoken a speech? No, his great genius is declared in his doing nothing particular to prove it. 

So Melville ascertains that the genius of the Sperm Whale is that he needs to do nothing to prove it. "do nothing to prove it."  Just because something can be done, accomplished, manufactured, engineered, or coded; just because some genes can be spliced, some car made with ridiculous amounts of batteries, or books can be published on tablets, that does not in and of itself mean it is genius. Penguin is right to worry about the planet, but we should worry about each other as well.  We don't need to prove to each other how genius we are.