Whose translation is this, anyway?

On Friday, December 5th Haaretz (and possibly other papers) carried a 7x5 inch ad by Shalem Press, inviting the public to an event celebrating the launching of the first ever full Hebrew translation of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. The ad contained the names of several VIPs and luminaries, and of course all relevant details of time and place. What it did not contain was the name of the translator.

Perplexed, I re-read the ad carefully. No, I had not overlooked it. The name of eminent translator Aharon Amir was glaringly missing.

In righteous indignation, and seeing myself as defending the honor of all mistreated translators, I wrote an email to Shalem Press, a division of Shalem Center, pointing out the omission.

I left the research, or at least basic Googling, to later. Which was when I found out that Aharon Amir (who died February 2008) passed away before completing the translation. Or at least, that was what one website said. Other websites make it sound as if Amir had translated the whole thing (from English,) whereas the editor, Menachem Lorberbaum, edited while comparing with the Latin version, and added a preface, notes and a glossary. Surely that was not the reason for omitting Amir's name?...

A letter (i.e. email) of reply arrived a few days later. Naomi Arbel, on behalf of the publishing house, thanked me for calling the omission to her attention. Said it was an oversight that occurred since there was no picture of the book jacket in the ad. (Strange excuse.) She continued to say that Shalem Press are always "very attentive" about having the translator's name on book jackets and in publicity material, and will continue to do so in the future.

Though the excuse sounded lame, I know that mistakes happen, and was pleased that the error would be fixed. Imagine my disappointment when this Friday, December 11, the exact same ad appeared again. No correction.

Now, I know it's a nuisance and probably costly to re-do the ad and insert another line. Though it could be done fairly easily, there is definitely enough space in the ad to make room for another short line of text. But no one bothered. Or maybe they tried and the paper said Sorry, too late. I don't know. It just seems so unfair. Such an important, huge, and probably difficult, book. Amir must have put so much work into it. See Shlomo Avineri's review, published in Haaretz, in Hebrew.

Maariv also published a review of the book, by one Mati Shmuelof who totally ignored the translator. No mention of his name or anything. If it weren't for a short comment at the very end mentioning the notes and Hebrew/English glossary, one could be led to think that he'd read the book in English or Latin. (Fat chance.)

Aharon Amir's list of translating credits is dazzling; surely he doesn't need me to defend his interests, his name? But that's not the point.

How many of you have read, or will ever read, this tome, unless you have to, as part of your studies? That, too, is totally beside the point.

The point is, that credit should be given to the translator. Period.


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