Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sparse translation - Moabites not welcome

-- No - no - not sparse. Please just tell me what it means so I can go away.

Sorry - kid - sparse it is till you learn to look through the text as if it were a lattice and stop painting over the empty squares with your angry tears.

-- OK. Give me a sparse lattice then - but strong enough to bear my weight.

No - that's not a lattice, that's a fence. The Beloved peers through the lattice at you - why should you not peer back and be his presence?

Why would you import a Moabite wife into the text? Haven't you been told that is certain death to import such strangeness, so many extra words? And why would you leave out the joins in the lattice as if your choice of what to leave out mattered more than the interruption of your vision by the frame? You need to move your head to peer at the Beloved.

Then you will be enabled to judge whether you like what you see. Your accusations will evaporate in the space between the two of you. Job and Ruth are both satisfied. In their satisfaction, there is no accuser.


The reading I have done this morning is Compromising Redemption, a book retelling the story of Ruth. It’s brilliant and it underscores how vital it is not to compromise the laconic brevity of the text. Basically it is a set of character studies on the theme- if you marry a Moabite you will die. So what else would we expect?

Word for word is a caution against importing meaning into the text. What we have is a lattice through which we beni elohim peer and judge with or without accusation.

I have in my ignorance written much on translation. My training is in precision. My love is not so definable. Joel is asking this morning if there is any value in a word for word translation.