Travels in Translation
Sea Tales at the Source of Jewish Fiction
"This book is an important revision to modern Hebrew literary history, demonstrating how the beginnings of a viable prose style go back to the early nineteenth century and translation played a crucial role."—Robert Alter, University of California, Berkeley
"Frieden cogently traces the path of making Hebrew a viable living
language to a coterie of writers who preceded Mendele by half a century."—Ruth Adler, professor of Jewish Studies and Comparative Literature at Baruch College
"The stakes, the scope, and the thrust of
this book are exemplary, explaining how
travel literature exemplifies the acts of
cultural transfer that are so much at the
heart of Jewish literary modernity. . . .
Frieden lays out in admirably clear detail
the linguistic pieces of the puzzle."—Jeremy Dauber, director of the Institute of Israel
and Jewish Studies at Columbia University
Ken Frieden, the B. G. Rudolph Professor of Judaic Studies at Syracuse University, has published numerous books and essays on Yiddish and Hebrew literature. He edited Etgar Keret’s Four Stories and translated stories by Abramovitsh and Peretz in the anthology Classic Yiddish Stories, published by Syracuse Univeristy Press.
Book Description »[Close »]
For centuries before its "rebirth" as a spoken language, Hebrew writing was
like a magical ship in a bottle that gradually changed design but never voyaged
out into the world. Isolated, the ancient Hebrew ship was torpid because
the language of the Bible was inadequate to represent modern life in Europe.
Early modern speakers of Yiddish and German gave Hebrew the breath of life
when they translated dialogues, descriptions, and thought processes from their
vernaculars into Hebrew. By narrating tales of pilgrimage and adventure, Jews
pulled the ship out of the bottle and sent modern Hebrew into the world.
In Travels in Translation, Frieden analyzes this emergence of modern Hebrew
literature after 1780, a time when Jews were moving beyond their conventional
Torah- and Zion-centered worldview. Enlightened authors diverged from
pilgrimage narrative traditions and appropriated travel narratives to America,
the Pacific, and the Arctic. The effort to translate sea travel stories from European
languages—with their nautical terms, wide horizons, and exotic occurrences—made particular demands on Hebrew writers. They had to overcome their tendency to introduce biblical phrases at every turn in order to develop a
new, vivid, descriptive language.
As Frieden explains through deft linguistic analysis, by 1818, a radically new
travel literature in Hebrew had arisen. Authors such as Moses Mendelsohn-Frankfurt
and Mendel Lefin published books that charted a new literary path through
the world and in European history. Taking a fresh look at the origins of modern
Jewish literature, Frieden launches a new approach to literary studies, one that
lies at the intersection of translation studies and travel writing.
View other series books on Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art.
6 x 9, 360 pages,17 black-and-white illustrations, notes, bibliography, index