Books: Independent Foreign Fiction Award: Symbol machine on full throttle: Natasha Walter talks to Hillel Halkin, translator of Mr Mani by A B Yehoshua (Peter Halban 15.99)
Saturday 17 July 1993
Halkin works as a literary critic and journalist as well as translator, and has translated a wide range of Hebrew books. The real problem in translating from Hebrew to English, is the 'rich tradition of intertextuality. Writers tend to refer to other books in the Hebrew tradition. If you know the sources - especially the Bible and other Jewish texts - that adds a whole dimension to the work that is pretty well untranslateable.'
Mr Mani poses particular problems because of its complex structure. The book is composed in five one-sided dialogues which feature only half of each coversation. And the novel moves back in time from the present day to end in the 19th century, retracing the history of the Mani family. 'Each one is in a different Hebrew style, for which I had to find some kind of equivalent English. I tended to get more ornate as I moved back in time, to play with the punctuation, to have more colons and dashes, as 19th-century English tends to have. But one chapter presented a particular opportunity - a dialogue between two English officers in the First World War. There, I had the odd experience of putting in the very experience for which the Hebrew was only a translation. The First World War English that I used reads better than the Hebrew.'
Halkin admits that he tends to a freestyle approach to translating. 'I like to be left pretty much to myself. Yehoshua reads English, but he doesn't take a very active role and I like that. I like free reins and a good gallop.'
For Israeli writers, the English translation of their works often reaches a wider audience than the original. Halkin's version of Mr Mani comes with recommendations from American writers Saul Bellow and Cynthia Ozick, and he is aware of the enormous significance of the Anglo-American audience for the Hebrew writers that he translates. 'Translations are very important for Israeli novelists. This is a small country, a language that very few people know. One can feel rather claustrophobic here - not physically but intellectually - and translation is the way to break through to the wider world.'
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
V&A removes depiction of Prophet Mohamed from website amid 'severe security alert'
Game of Thrones season 5: IMAX releases new trailer with first look footage of Tyrion Lannister
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks