Why the Book of Job Proves So Difficult to Translate

Sept. 6 2019

Having just finished rendering the book of Job into English, Edward Greenstein explains the great challenges it poses for translators, and the reasons for its obscure vocabulary and difficult syntax. Greenstein distinguishes the book’s framing prose narrative (the book’s first two chapters and its final eleven verses) from the poetic “core” in the middle, made up mostly of the conversations between Job and his friends:

[E]ven a cursory reading by a competent Hebraist will reveal that the book is composed overall in a peculiar Hebrew. The poet or poets responsible for the dialogical core of the work make frequent use of foreign language in order to lend verisimilitude to the conceit that the speakers are not Israelites but Transjordanians.

[Both] the prose writer of the frame tale [and] the poet (who may be one and the same) seek to set the story and dialogue in the period of the Hebrew patriarchs, and so they make use of terms and names associated with the biblical literature conveying that era and certain archaic or pseudo-archaic linguistic forms. The poet invents Hebrew words and features, sometimes to project an aura of Aramaic and sometimes because, like Shakespeare and other virtuosos, he likes to play with language.

Job is [also] a highly intertextual work, in which the interpretation of a word, phrase, or image may depend on the identification of a source—usually from the Hebrew scriptures we know and often from an earlier passage in the book of Job itself. The poet not only cross-references phraseology in the course of the back-and-forth among the interlocutors, but he twists the meaning of phrases through parody and deconstruction.

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Read more at Ancient Near East Today

More about: Biblical Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Job, Translation

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy