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Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 348 Reviews A CROWN FOR THE KING. By Solomon Ibn Gabirol. David R. Slavitt, trans. pp. xii + 88. New York, NY: Oxford, 1998. David R. Slavitt's A Crown/or the King brings Solomon Ibn Gabirol's philosophical poem into its third English translation. Israel Zangwill's bilingual edition (The Royal Crown. JPS: 1923), and the solid translation of Bernard Lewis (The Kingly Crown. London: Vallentine, Mitchell: 1961) are both out of print but still available on library shelves. Do we need a new translation? After forty years, an accessible and contemporary version of a classic text is welcome. Surely, too, a great poem cannot have too many translators, and, at least according to its translators, Ibn Gabirol's Keter Malkhut is a great poem. If you like reading philosophical poetry, particularly of the neo-Platonic type, perhaps it is. Slavitt has reproduced (literally, by photo offset) the Hebrew text of Zangwill's edition, unfortunately without any of the critical apparatus Zangwill painstakingly appended to his work. Although Slavitt never claims to be producing a scholarly study, some readers may find problematic his unacknowledged reliance on a Hebrew text Zangwill constituted carefully from some two dozen manuscripts. I. A. Zeidman's critical edition of the text in Hebrew (Jerusalem: 1950) seems not to have attracted Slavitt's attention at all. Moreover, both Zangwill's and Lewis's English texts have influenced Slavin's interpretation of the Hebrew, so that his translation often echoes and even rephrases the earlier works. The brief introduction depends heavily on Lewis; the first half (especially pp. vii-x) essentially abridges parts of Lewis' introduction (see pp. 14-19). There is no extended discussion or overview of the poem, whose tripartite thematic structure is highlighted both in Lewis' introductory remarks and in the subdivided format of his translation. Zeidman concisely captured the essence of this structure in the triad c-t.-m i1"'''~' .-.,,~, ("the Creator, Creation and Mankind" p. 6). In contrast, Slavitt's compares Ibn Gabirol's solitary religious ecstasies to Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav (p. ix) and the poet's use of biblical citation to Eliot's Waste Land (p. xii). The analogies are unfortunate. "Solitary contemplation and private prayer" (p. ix), for one, were never considered an adequate substitute for public worship in eleventh-century Spain. And shibbutz, the weaving together of biblical verses and fragments to construct a new text, was not unique to Ibn Gabirol but a hallmark of the Spanish Jewish poetic school. Slavitt's spare bibliography will not provide Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 349 Reviews additional context; only two of the twenty cited works actually treat Ibn Gabirol or his work. Slavitt is capable of a pliant English style, which sometimes achieves the tone of "intimacy and power" he ascribes to his source (p. ix). Of all three translators, Slavitt tries most to harness the vitality of common speech, and his text is generally easy to read. Ibn Gabirol's sleek elegance of expression can result in extremely spare Hebrew constructions, which Slavitt often refonnulates in an expansive, sometimes improvisatory, style. Sometimes the additions are overdone, although this is a matter of taste as well as accuracy . For instance, at the end of section VII, Ibn Gabirol states succinctly: i'Min MS, ,r,o, i'Min 'b~p ~ .nnrn 9~~n ,., s,:lOm l'lTI .c'1Il1 "M nnM [1l.6~9]. Literally, the passage reads: "You are the Light of the world. The eye of the intellect yearns for You and is astounded; it can see the [light's] edge but not its entirety." Slavitt translates, "You are light that is eternal: the intellect's eye that was made to behold you and yearns for you catches only glimmerings, but all of you we cannot see: it is at once so glorious and blinding." Or, as another example, the end of section I reads: ,,0., n.un rum rr:::n 1S, "o'm [1.14]. This becomes: "Yours is the secret of secrets: your love of creation, the yearning of all the fonns for material being, your love, that is, of your creatures, of us" [2]. (And compare Zangwill: "In Thee is the veiled...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 348-350
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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