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.

2 comments:

  1. I love this blog - but just wanted to point out that the lower image here is upside down.

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  2. opps, sorry for that, hopefully that can be rectified shortly.

    ReplyDelete