Rachel T. Back on the art of translation, in the Marginalia Review of Books:
In the Jewish world, the translator’s role was from the outset imbued with sacred value. The translator would ensure the survival of a text-based identity, even when the original language of that text was no longer understood. Thereafter, a tradition evolved whereby during the weekly Torah reading, the original Hebrew text would be chanted (filling the room with the musical components of the original language), each verse followed by the same verse in Aramaic translation/interpretation/paraphrase. In this fashion, the translator’s work was instrumental in identity-formation, in community-building, and in ensuring that the original texts were always accessible to more than the elite few.
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