With all due respect to the Harshavs', here is an accurate, poetic translation, first published in Jewish Currents quarterly: Yiddish Avrom Sutzkever (1913—2010) Shall I begin at the beginning? Shall I, like Abraham, renounce my brothers, smashing all the idols they created? Shall I, still alive, let myself be translated? Shall I plant my tongue and wait till it becomes our ancestral “Raisins and Almonds?”(1) With what sort of facetious witticism does my poetry-brother in his whiskery sideburns preach that my mameloshn(2) is going to die? We will clearly sit here a hundred years from now and continue the discussion at the Jordan. For a query haunts and hammers: does he know precisely in which direction the prayer of the Berditshever(3), Yehoyash’s(4) poem and Kulbak’s(5) wander toward their death? Then let him tell me, for instance, at which location is the language going to die? Perhaps at the Western Wall? If so, I will go there, open my mouth and, like a lion clothed in fiery tinder, swallow the language that’s going to die— swallow it, and wake all the generations with my roar. English translation and notes ©2010 Hershl Hartman 1 rozhinkes mit mandlen: lullaby by Avrom Goldfaden, father of modern Yiddish theater, that has become part of the folksong tradition. 2 Mother tongue: the traditional Yiddish term for the Yiddish language. 3 Rabbi Levi Yitskhok of Berditshev, beloved khasidic leader whose song “Case Against God” was made world-famous in the rendition by Paul Robeson. 4 Pen name of Solomon Bloomgarden (1870-1927), poet who translated the Hebrew Bible into Yiddish. His poems include lyric descriptions of the American West, as well as protests against lynching and the Triangle Fire. 5 Moyshe Kulbak (1896-1940), Soviet-Yiddish poet, playwright, novelist; teacher in Secular Jewish schools in Minsk and Vilna. A victim of the 1937 purges, he died in Siberian exile.
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from the article: 1913: A preeminent Yiddish poet is born
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