Amazon to the rescue

The other day I was translating a document about Jaffa, which included, as a sort of motto I guess, a quote from Agnon. It reads as follows:

יפו יפת ימים עיר קדומים. יפת בן נח בנה אותה וקרא שמו עליה. אבל מכל יפייפותו של יפת לא נשתייר בה אלא מה שאין בני אדם יכולים ליטול ממנה והיא משתנית והולכת לפי טיב יושביה
ש"י עגנון, תמול שלשום

Now, I don't have any Agnon in English at home. I doubt that I have any in Hebrew – whatever I had was long ago confiscated by my kids, possibly when they were studying for Bagrut.

I asked the client if she knew what page/chapter the quotation was from. After all, even if one of you guys have read the book, you're not likely to remember what page this bit appears on, and I wouldn't dare ask you to leaf through the entire book looking for it. No, she did not.

So I went to my good ol' friend Amazon. First I tried www.amazon.com. It found the book chick-chack and let me search it. I typed in a key word and found the quotation. However, it gave me only the beginning of the sentence. I did not qualify for access to the entire scanned text because I hadn't bought anything on Amazon.com in a longish time.

Luckily, I do buy things from www.amazon.co.uk from time to time. I have the books delivered, either at a reasonable rate or else I'm eligible for free super-saver delivery, to my mother-in-law's address in London, and pick them up when we visit. Neat arrangement if I'm not in a rush for the book/s.

Delighted, I watched as amazon.uk took a minute to verify that I am indeed one of their Faithful Financial Supporters, then let me search the entire text of the novel, where I quickly found the full quotation. Since I know you're dying of curiosity, here it is:

"Jaffa, belle of the seas, ancient city. Japheth, son of Noah, built it and gave her his name. But of all the Greek beauty of Japheth, all that remains is what human beings can't remove from her, and their city changes with the nature of her inhabitants."

S.I. Agnon, Only Yesterday, translated by Barbara Harshav, Published by Princeton University Press.

And a propos of Jaffa: are you familiar with the Jaffa Mishlama? No? I'm not surprised. I first noticed the sign bearing that name, in Hebrew, HaMishlama LeYafo, when I was driving along Ben Zvi Blvd., from Jaffa going east. I was totally mystified by it. The word does not appear in any of my dictionaries. (Someone is bound to say that I obviously have the wrong dictionaries…)

Okay, we know the drill: we Google it and find out what it means. Some sort of administrative offices taking care of Jaffa-related business. Great. Why give it such an abstruse name?

3 comments:

Inbal Saggiv said...

Great post, Nina.
Another option is google books - they have many online editions, some fuul, some partial.
I wrote a step-by-step manual for this type of quote search:
http://www.metargemet.com/archives/56

Nina R. Davis said...

Many thanks, Inbal. Very helpful.

Sparkle said...

"Greek beauties"? *blink blink *

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