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‘The Hobbit’ translated by Tolkien’s foremost and only Yiddish-language translator

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throrsmap_620_fullThe Hobbit has been translated into many different languages, each language presenting the translators with unique challenges. Often times,  jokes and proverbs can get lost in the process of translating literature simply. Consequently, every translation becomes an individual version of the original. Of course, a translation of Tolkien’s classic into Yiddish by  Berry Goldstein, the foremost and only Yiddish-language translator of J.RR. Tokien’s work, created its own difficulties.

Published in late 2012,  the process of translating Der Hobit was for Berry Goldstein “surprisingly relaxing” compared to his former profession–computer programming. However, it still provided him with unforeseeable challenges. For example, “Rivendell got a phonetic spelling.”

Berry Goldstein told the Tabletmag that one particular passage was very challenging; it was the part where Bilbo encounters Smaug and begins to play around with the meaning of his name: “There’s no way to do it, there’s just no way to translate it … so, I put in a footnote and said, ‘This is a pun and I give up.'”

Around 130 copies were sold of Der Hobit, but according to Tabletmag, Mr Goldstein knew that “Der Hobit wouldn’t be a best-seller, and the sales were still double his original two-figure estimate.” Still, Yiddish language speakers can hope for a Yiddish translation of The Lord of the Rings: “I’ll likely put [the translation of Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers] aside for a while … and try The Fellowship of the Ring.” Now the question remains if Mr Goldstein dares to take up another challenge by translation The Silmarillion!

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