Eran's Blog

Prismatic Translation: Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation

I had the honor and pleasure of giving a writer’s talk at The Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) Programme, as part of the 2015 Prismatic Translation conference. So many great talks and lectures have overwhelmed me, and especially the fact that a lot of them dealt with programming or contemporary (conceptual/post-conceptual poetry).

Tom Cheesman’s talk about visualizing the difference between various translations, John Cayley’s mind-blowing visual implementation of the moment of translation, and Kasia Szymanska’s talk about meta-translations including her own meta-translation of Caroline Bergvall’s meta-translations are just a few examples of talks that were amazing without touching on Oulipo…

The Prismatic Translation Conference Website


Algorithms are taking over each and every aspect of our lives, as well as taking on prominent roles in the creative practices of reading, writing and translation. Over the past years I found myself involved in two challenging encounters between translation and algorithms as part of my artistic practice as a poet engaged with code.

I spoke about translating a chatbot from English to Hebrew, translation using AI and how I used an algorithm to translate the Torah from biblical Hebrew to modern Hebrew among other projects. As with chatbots, almost any form of translation in the algorithmic era involves a threefold challenge: the language elements (data), reconstructing corresponding algorithmic rules (code), and building equivalent logic structures to allow conversation (meta­language).


A new project I presented there was “Alert Translate”, a poem in Hebrew (as well as presenting the technical capability to create one in any non-English language) that can also run as code in any user’s web browser. The poem is built in the Javascript language, and it is based on principles demonstrated by Martin Kleppe on his website.

The poem in Hebrew can be found below the English translation. It can be run by opening the Google Chrome’s console window (CTRL + SHIFT + J), pasting it and pressing ENTER.


I wish to express my thanks to the Oxford staff, and especially to Prof. Adriana X Jacobs, who is one of the most important figures in Hebrew literature outside of Israel. Adriana is doing amazing stuff, including translating Vaan Nguyen’s poetry from Hebrew to English, reviving poet Esther Raab, and highlighting younger talented poets such as Saar Yachin.

//Said the software to the language

Out of Error
Presents what has been wrapped
Around its leg
In a roar of disease

Yet pride and its hook are
The cover of your leg
The Ode to your hubris

I will change
So that you will completely translate

//אמרה התוכנה לשפה

מ=ת=ו=ך="", מ=ש=!ג+ה,
מ=צ=י=ג[ה++], א=ת="", ש=נ=כ=ר=ך="",
ב=ש=א=!ג+ת, מ=ח=++ל+ה,

א=ו[ל+מ], ג[א+=ו[ה]+ (ו.ו+ ו)[ה]+
ש[מ]+י+כ+ת +ר+ג[ל]+ך+
ו[ה + ל + ל]+ י+ו[ה]+ ר+ת+ך ]

ש[ל]+ג[מ]+ר+י+ ת+"('תרגמו')")()