„Lost in Translation“? Making sense of the removal of Christian ideas in 19th-century Russian translations of German-Jewish historical novels

Sun10  Apr09:01am(10 mins)
Umney Lounge


Nicolas Dreyer


In the mid-nineteenth century, the historical novel became a popular gerne of Jewish literature in Europe, and in particular in Germany. Given that the Jewish Enlightenment and the process of acculturation which it advocated often entailed a certain proximity to Christianity, a number of such Jewish-themed historical narratives contain Christian ideas. Now, a significant number of such German-Jewish historical fictions was translated into Russian and published in late nineteenth-century Russian-Jewish periodicals as well as in the form of separate publications. It seems that either the translators or the editors (or both) of the Russian-Jewish translated publications considered certain Christian and syncretic Jewish-Christian ideas as unacceptable to their readers or their own publicist intention. Consequently, it seems that they removed such ideas from the fictions in question by replacing them with more traditional expressions of Jewish faith. However, the novels still must have been considered sufficiently Jewish to motivate their translation and publication for Jewish readers. The proposed conference presentation aims to explore such dynamics and relations by examining differences between the German original and the Russian translation of two (or possibly three) Jewish historical novels.

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