Tuesday 8 November 2016

Walter Benjamin quotes: "The Task of the Translator"

Benjamin, Walter. “The Task of the Translator” in Walter Benjamin Selected Writings Volume 1 1913-1926. Ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996: pp. 253-263.

“Translation is a form. To comprehend it as a form, one must go back to the original, for the laws governing the translation lie within the original, contained in the issue of its translatability. The question of whether a work is translatable has a dual meaning. Either: Will an adequate translator ever be found among the totality of its readers? Or, more pertinently: Does its nature lend itself to translation and, therefore, in view of the significance of this call for it?”[1]

“Translatability is an essential quality of certain works, which is not to say that it is essential for the works themselves that they be translated; it means, rather, that a specific significance inherent in the original manifests itself in its translatability. It is evident that no translation, however good it may be, can have any significance as regards the original. Nonetheless, it does stand in the closest relationship to the original by virtue of the original's translatability; in fact, this connection is all the closer since it is no longer of importance to the original” [2]

“the kinship of languages is brought out by a translation far more profoundly and clearly than in the superficial and indefinable similarity of two works of literature. To grasp the genuine relationship between an original and a translation requires an investigation analogous in its intention to the argument by which a critique of cognition would have to prove the impossibility of a theory of imitation”[3]

[1] Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator”, 254.

[2] Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator”, 254.

[3] Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator”, 256.

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