Wednesday, July 14, 2010

But I do it for myself

'When my father visited us in autumn 2004, he sat for three nights at
our kitchen table, bent over a frayed academic tome from 1974 titled
The Akkadian Influences in Aramaic. He was checking his dictionary
(published two years earlier) against the book. I soon saw him
scribbling notes in the margins.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "Isn't it too late to be editing your
dictionary?"

He said that he was turning up dictionary entries whose Akkadian roots
he had failed to note. They weren't the only omissions, he told me.
His dictionary had translated some eight thousand Neo-Aramaic words
into English, the product of more than three decades of painstaking
research. But every few weeks since the book's publication, he said,
another Aramaic word, dimly remembered from childhood, surfaced on
into consciousness.

"I don't know how I missed them," he said, shaking his head.

"You can fix it for the paperback edition," I said, fishing for a smile.

He looked up and laughed. We both knew that the shorts of books he
wrote never made paperback.

"What I do now is too late for my dictionary," he said. "But I do it
for myself."'

Ariel Sabar, My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for his Jewish Past
in Kurdish Iraq, Kindle Edition, 2008, 97% into the book.