Heller in Hebrew

Readerville points to an interesting story in Haaretz about the struggle to bring out a new Hebrew translation of Joseph Heller‘s Catch-22. The timing was right—the prior translation came out in 1971, and its publisher had been in decline. Yehuda Meltzer, head of Books in the Attic—which also put out the Harry Potter books in Israel—picked up the slack. But when it comes to translating English works into Hebrew, one must pick one’s spots:

According to Meltzer, he paid a relatively low price for the rights to the translation, apparently, several thousand dollars. “We paid a fairly ridiculous price given the inflated contracts that the big publishers have been dishing out of late,” he says. “In any case, I buy very few rights to fictional books in America and England. Both because I don’t want to get involved in auctions – it’s not worth it – and because in my opinion, English is actually the hardest language to render into Hebrew. It’s a rich, flexible and deep language. Israeli publishers think there is no problem translating from English, but in the end, it’s very hard to read Hebrew versions of books by Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth or Saul Bellow.”

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So the bailout is foundering, the weather’s gonna to be awful, and Sarah Palin is scaring the bejesus out of everybody, but I’m still planning to attend the National Book Festival tomorrow on the National Mall. Likely tents to find me hunting for shelter in: Stanley Plumly, Neil Gaiman, Francine Prose, Richard Price, Louis Bayard, Paul Theroux. Tiki Barber, maybe not so much. Heading out yourself? Care to meet? Drop me a line.

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