Translations have the potential to communicate one culture to another, strengthening humanistic ties. Translators can be peacemakers, self-abnegatingly finding compromises in the perilous confrontation of languages. No one exemplified this ideal more than Sasson Somekh, an Israeli translator and literary historian of Iraqi Jewish origin who passed away on August 18, 2019 at the age of 86.
“He’s what you imagine the perfect scientist would be: Someone who weighs the evidence, a great observer, not just of people but of situations.”
Chaim Grade’s translator on Inna Hecker and losing the Pulitzer Prize to Alice Walker.
A Hebrew Bible published in 16th century Antwerp features the words ‘hate evil’ in French. What does this say about the holy book’s provenance?
The great poet Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934) also produced translations that helped re-energize Modern Hebrew. Bialik’s renditions of Friedrich Schiller’s 1804 drama “Wilhelm Tell” and Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” are examples, as detailed in “The Russian Jewish Diaspora and European Culture, 1917-1937.”