7: Two translations of Leah Goldberg’s “Tel Aviv, 1935” by Annie Kantar, 2011, and by Robert Friend, 1976.
Goldberg’s poem has been translated several times into English. These translations overlap in some respects, but in many others, they reflect each translator’s distinct understanding of the poem as well as different approaches to translating poetry.
Suggested activities: Ask the students to read the translations by Annie Kantar and Robert Friend. Have them create two lists, the first indicating areas where the translations overlap (imagery, language, form) and the second where they differ. What kind of logic or pattern can they discern from these similarities and differences? Have them consider if the date of each translation is meaningful. Does the background of the translators shape these translations in any visible way? (Kantar was born in the U.S. Midwest and now lives in Israel; Friend [1913-1998] was born in New York and emigrated to Israel in 1950.)
Have the students reflect on the fact that both Kantar and Friend are published poets. Does being a poet appear to influence their translations, and in what ways? Why would a poet invest in translating another poet? Ask students to create their own translations of the poem, either translating from the Hebrew if they are able, translating the English translation into a third language, or experimenting with other forms of translation such as visual or performative. Encourage them to be creative and to take risks. If students are able to read the original Hebrew, ask them to compare the translations with the original, but to focus on what is gained in translation.
Source: Leah Goldberg, With This Night, trans. Annie Kantar (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), 4.
Leah Goldberg, "Tel Aviv 1935," trans. Robert Friend in Found in Translation: Modern Hebrew Poets, a Bilingual Edition, selected and with an introduction by Gabriel Levin, The Toby Press, 2006; translation copyright © Jean Shapiro Cantu.