A few days ago I was shocked to discover that Professor Miriam Shlesinger, from the Translation and Interpreting Studies at Bar Ilan university, died in earlier in November. I saw Miram at a seminar in Bar Ilan last spring and had no idea that she was ill.
For me our short acquaintance that started a year earlier at a conference in Vienna was meaningful. You hardly ever meet such generous, warm and kind people like Miriam. She was petit, with a kind smile, inquisitive eye,s and an energetic stride and. When we sat down and talked she hardly ever talked about herself but wanted to know all about me.
A few words about our meeting: When I saw a call for papers on the topic of “the translator in fiction” I knew that for this exciting topic I had to write a paper. At first I couldn’t even remember one fictional translator, but then remembered A Season in the West by Pierce Paul Read. This novel tells the story of a Czeck writer -- Josef Birek who defects to London at the end of the 1980s (the last days of the Iron Curtain) and his relationship with his English translator Laura Morton (you can read the article in my site “The translator as a gate keeper).
This call for papers culminated in an interesting and small conference at the Translation Studies at University of Vienna. As I research Literature and came to the conference because of the second part of the topic- fiction, I didn’t know any of the other participants in that conference who were all in the area of Translation.
For me the highlight of the three days conference was meeting Miriam Shlesinger . Although she was a fellow Israeli it was the first time that I met her. From the admiration of her colleagues, it was clear that Miriam was revered. Everyone wanted to talk to her and she was busy all the time. Still she made time to get to know me and she came to hear my talk. After the talk when we sat together she suggested that I’d deliver the same talk at the upcoming International Translation conference in Jerusalem. As she was the chair of that panel she said that it would be a nice opportunity for us to meet again.
After the conference in Vienna I met Miriam 3 times and was sure that we would continue to meet and talk at seminars and conferences. I am so sad that I didn’t get to spend more time with her but grateful that I was fortunate to meet her.
P.S A surprising fact about Miriam that I discovered when we sat and talked was that her mother, Edyth Geiger, who is in her 90s operates from her home in Safed Israel an English library. I knew the library as several years ago when my family visited the north of Israel we visited this unusual library and brought over some sacks of English books. I was very excited to discover that this amazing lady (who has a law degree from the university of Chicago), was Miriam’s mom. I was also impressed that Miriam who was 65 when we met still had a mother.
Pasting below Miriam's acceptance speech at the Danica Seleskovitch award
From Haaretz the obituary
How do you say 'firgun' in English? Miriam Shlesinger, the Florida-born, award-winning translator who died last week, never found an answer. By Ofer Aderet | Nov.30, 2012 | 4:25 AM | Miriam Shlesinger, who died last week at the age of 65, epitomized the variety that a professional translator and interpreter's work can entail. "Over the last month, I've translated at the UN, at a major company's board meetings, at a conference on psychopathology, at a seminar on improving health among immigrants from Ethiopia, at a conference on the history of Spanish Jewry and at a seminar on the economy of peace," she related a few years ago.
Shlesinger embarked on her profession by chance. Born in Florida, she moved to Israel at the age of 6 but then returned to the United States to finish high school. In 1964, at age 17, she came back to Israel to study medicine. She ended up studying musicology instead, but then became a translator and interpreter. "It's completely clear, in retrospect, that this had to happen," she said at a conference last year where she received a prize for her life's work from the Israel Translators Association.
Shlesinger studied translation at Bar-Ilan University in the early 1970s. For the next 34 years, she taught translation there, including a stint as head of Bar-Ilan's translation department from 2003 to 2007.
She translated books, short stories and plays by well-known authors, including Etgar Keret, A.B. Yehoshua, Shai Agnon and Nava Semel. She also did simultaneous translation at state events and international summits. She accompanied prime ministers and foreign ministers on diplomatic missions, worked for the U.S. State Department, and translated at several international peace conferences, including those in Madrid in 1991 and Annapolis in 2007.
She translated at war crimes trials, including John Demjanjuk's trial in Israel as well as trials in Canada and Australia. She also interpreted at press conferences and translated performances for international festivals.
"It's a dream to turn translation and interpretation into a channel for self-realization and professional fulfillment, a dream to engage in translation research and teaching translation and attempting to upgrade the profession," she once said.
Yet at last year's conference, she acknowledged: "It sometimes happens that translators - and even interpreters - lack words ... I've been asked countless times, 'How do you say firgun in English?' ... Well, I still don't have a good translation for firgun."
Along with her varied translation career, Shlesinger sought to use her professional skills to reduce social gaps and "promote a more just, egalitarian society," as she put it. Among other things, she launched a course that trained volunteer interpreters in various minority tongues.
She met her future husband, Moshe, in 1965, when he was doing his master's in economics and sought someone to read the material to him, as he had been blinded during his military service.
Shlesinger is survived by her husband, mother, sisters, three daughters and 10 grandchildren.