Translating even one sentence is hard! A case study.

A story by Chaim Grade (yes, her husband) excerpted in this week's Yiddish Forward doesn't seem all that interesting from a narrative point of view, or innovative stylistically, but it's lovely writing all the same.

Here's the first sentence.

אונטער די קאַלטע שטיינערנע געוועלבן פֿון קלויז ישן זיצן זקנים בײַ דעמבענע שטענדערס.

Unter di kalte shteynerne gevelbn fun kloyz yoshn zitsn skeynim ba dembene shtenders.

Under the cold stone vaults of the * the old men sit at oaken *s.

Kloyz yoshn is a macaronic phrase, yoshn meaning - of course - old in loshn-koydesh, and kloyz being a smallish prayer- or study-house. "Old study house" doesn't get at it, because yoshn is part of the name here, not an adjective. Maybe Old Study House, but that seems like we're talking about a Society of Friends meeting place. Venerable? Ancient? Neither of those work.

Shtender - that's a common Jewish, or at least Yeshivish word. I think that when Grade is talking about the skeynim (old men, for lack of a better translation) sitting at the shtenders, he doesn't mean the podiums that people daven at, but rather the bookstands that rest on a table. "Bookstands" doesn't sound right, though.


  1. Anonymous5:42 PM

    Go to any yeshiva you'll see lots of shtenders, that's what Grade meant!

  2. Dude, I know what a shtender is! The question is how to render it into English. A Yeshivish translation would be a copout.