PIW is sad to announce the death of the Israeli-Dutch translator Shulamith Bamberger, who passed away in her sleep May 8 in Tel Aviv. Bamberger, who was born in Tel Aviv before the establishment of the state of Israel, had lived in Amsterdam since the early 1970s. She had that rare talent to be able to translate in two directions, in her case from Hebrew to Dutch as well as from Dutch to Hebrew, her mother tongue. At PIW, she was the go-to person for Dutch translations when an Israeli poet writing in Hebrew appeared at the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam.
Bamberger studied translation at the University of Amsterdam from 1973 to 1977. In an interview in Dutch with PIW in 2014, she noted that when she came to live in the Netherlands she could not get a scholarship for anything other than translation studies, in what turned out to be a fateful accident. During that time, she said, "I was approached by Judith Herzberg to translate Dahlia Ravikovitch's poems for Poetry International, and the rest is history".
Bamberger's translations from Dutch into Hebrew importantly include the diaries of Etty Hillesum, an extraordinary historical and spiritual document of one Jewish life in Amsterdam from 1941 to 1943, which Hillesum kept until she was deported and then murdered in Auschwitz. The significance of the text appearing in Hebrew has been noted by Israeli poet and scholar Admiel Kosman, whose work Bamberger translated for the 2011 Poetry International Festival Rotterdam.
Among the works of literature Bamberger translated from Hebrew into Dutch are David Grossman's reportage on Palestinians in the West Bank and Arab citizens of Israel; his novels Be My Knife and The Zig Zag Kid; work by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Alon Hilu and Hila Blum; and Rutu Modan's graphic novel Exit Wounds. At her death she was compiling a book of her translations of contemporary Hebrew poetry into Dutch.
I first met Bamberger at the 2003 Rotterdam Festival, when she generously invited Israeli poet Nurit Zarchi and me to visit her in Amsterdam. She gave us dinner and then was called away to interpret for the police, if I remember correctly. Most recently, we met for coffee in Jerusalem, during one of her annual visits.
Translation, no matter how much it changes the original text and uproots it, nonetheless in some way enables the reader to enter a different culture. For this gift, we thank Shulamith Bamberger. May her memory be a blessing, one says in Hebrew.