Wacks on Translation in Sephardic Diaspora
Professor of Spanish David Wacks has published “Translation in Diaspora: Sephardic Spanish-Hebrew Translations in the Sixteenth Century” in A Comparative History of Literatures in the Iberian Peninsula, vol. 2. (ed. César Domínguez, Anxo Abuín González, and Ellen Sapega, Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2016, 351–363).
Spain’s Jews in 1492 were faced with the ultimatum of converting to Christianity or leaving the kingdom. Many chose to leave, but despite beginning new lives in Italy, North Africa, or the Ottoman Empire, continued to speak Spanish and consider themselves culturally Spanish Jews. Some of these ‘Sephardic’ (Sepharad is the Hebrew word for Spain) Jews translated popular Spanish novels and histories into Hebrew for diffusion among the non-Spanish Jewish communities where they lived. Their translations go further than just translating words from one language into another: they alter the values of the texts to better resonate with non-Spanish, non-Christian readers, sometimes in ways that seem heavy-handed to modern readers. What this means is that translation, for these writers, was not simply a way to gain access to new things to read; rather, it was a way to bring new materials in line with the culture of the reading community.