The Complete Jewish Literature
Noted for his rapid translation of voluminous classical Rabbinic works into English, Neusner has turned his attention to the entirety of Jewish literature, publishing the whole multi-millennial literary corpus of the entire Jewish people. Eschewing the more labor-intensive translation styles of both Adin Steinsaltz and Artscroll publishing which render the texts into comprehensible English with ample contextual information, Neusner’s translations of all these millions of works are rendered in the same terse word-for-word style as his previous translations of the Mishnah, Midrash and Talmud.
In the last century and a half, a substantial portion of the Jewish literary corpus was composed in English. With these English works, Neusner re-renders them, employing a draconian economy even stricter than his word-for-word translations from Hebrew and Aramaic. Neusner eliminates adjectives, adverbs, unnecessary clauses and speculative or conditional sentences. Observe the efficiency of his version of the first page of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint:
“I thought of her. All teachers are mother. I ran home. She was in the kitchen. She served milk and cookies. I feared her.”
This economy enabled Neusner to present all of Philip Roth’s works in a single book in his 175,000 volume set. Economically bound in standard academic lavender hardback, The Complete Jewish Literature, with a value far beyond rubies is a bargain at $1.75 million for the entire set, or even at the $20 per volume rate, for to purchase all the books in their other editions would cost well over $50 million.
Neusner exhibits no false modesty for his unparalleled prowess as a translator. He says “I have achieved more in one year than Steinsaltz could do in twenty million years.” Lucky for us.