Gesammelte Prosa (German Edition)


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Marc Silberman, eds. John Willett and Ralph Manheim, Bloomsbury, Carol Martin and Henry Bial, Routledge, , pp Tome II , ed. English , German E. Etkind, Bertolt Brecht , Leningrad, English Carol Martin, Henry Bial eds. Christine Shuttleworth, Yale University Press, Categories : Epic theatre Marxist aesthetics. Hidden category: Featured articles. Navigation menu Personal tools Create account Log in.

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The content is available under fair use. Philosophical texts do not figure prominently in the discussions within the general area of translation studies. This might be due to their alleged obscurity and ambiguity, but what is interesting is that the relatively few contributions on this particular subject — the translation of philosophical texts — tend to focus on the translation of German texts into other languages, predominantly into English.

In this article these two aspects will be approached from tow angles: firstly the particular qualities of philosophical texts which have been identified by other researchers will be discussed and secondly a speciality of the German language — i. It will be argued in this article that the parenthetical structure adds considerably to translation of German philosophical texts as it cannot be transmitted and that alternative means lack the particular power of cohesion, which means that the translations in question become even more obscure than the original.

Philosophical texts are problematic. They are so because I will leave this sentence unfinished as there are too many possible explanations, why one would or could make such a statement.

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This is quite strikingly illustrated by Brand Blandshard in his introduction to On Philosopical Style where he cites examples of. And here are three readers of the highest intelligence who have to confess that to them the philosophers seem to be talking gibberish. How is this failure in communication to be explained? This school of thought, if one would like to label it as such, has indeed a reputation, particularly from an Anglo-Saxon perspective, of being hermetic, obscure and inaccessible outside the German speaking world.

F Hegel is reported to have said on his deathbed, that there was only one man who had understood him — and that he had misunderstood him. I will argue in this article that, apart from the obscurity, the vocabulary and the concepts behind it etc.

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Before embarking on the analysis of this structure a brief overview of the existing literature on translating philosophy is necessary in order to contextualise the present article. Scientific translators appear to have the smallest scope for individual choice. It is true that they may be allowed, even expected, to improve on the original by adding further information, silently correcting errors and miscalculations, or updating references. But much of the material they translate—quantitative information for example—is semantically so inert that, like personal or geographical names, it can be transferred from one language to another without having to be interpreted at all.

This opinion might be challenged by those involved in the translation of scientific texts, but it is certainly true that the latter present less problems with regard to clarity and transparency than for instance literary texts 8 and they undoubtedly have the function of transmitting knowledge, which is not necessarily true for literary texts. And philosophical texts?

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According to Ingarden, philosophical texts are often ambiguous and he differentiates between three types of ambiguity:. Ingarden insists that it is the duty of the translator to preserve those ambiguities, even in cases where they quite evidently due to sloppy argumentation.


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And he gives a good reason for this:. It may serve, for instance, as a means to foster in the reader certain associations, to suggest to him relations between objects under investigation, etc. Die Natur des Geistes laesst sich durch den vollkommenen Gegensatz desselben erkennen. Hegel, Philosphie der Geschichte : This addition was undoubtedly made by the translator to avoid ambiguity or obscurity. In other words, the translation is more transparent than the original, something that — according to Ingarden — is not supposed to happen.

It also leads the reader away from the text, because, as Derrida observed, as soon as one uses two words in the translation where there is only one in the original, one enters the realm of analytic explanation. They are not, and, as a rule, they were not meant to be, literary works of art.

There are exceptions from this rule consisting of the works which are the borderline cases between scientific and literary works, not so much because they have high artistic qualities, but because their composition affords reading them both as sources of cognitive knowledge and as literary works of art. But even the border-line works allow us to treat them as scientific works and it is only translating that becomes difficult due to their dual nature.

Ingarden It seems to be this particular quality which creates the problems, first of all for the reader, but he can decide on the reading, and secondly for the translator who is not only a reader but also a writer and in this function he has to make decisions of a kind which the translator of purely scientific texts. Already on the most basic level -that of terminology - these decisions are of vital importance and can deeply influence, even distort, the intended message.

Philosophical texts have thus a very important element in common with scientific texts: terminology. But as already mentioned above, whereas broad areas within the exact sciences are unproblematic from this point of view, this cannot be said for philosophical texts. Philosophy is obsessed by words, of course, but on the whole it shuns the fancy aristocrats of language, as well as its specialized technicians and artisans; it seeks the company, rather, of its swarming universal proletarians.

And it is not the specialized vocabularies that give problems to the philosophical translator, but the manifold precisions of these ordinary untechnical terms. We might thus conclude that philosophical texts are in general a very special genre because they oscillate between the technical and the literary and one can never be quite sure where the line has to be drawn. Mark Twain, in his abundantly cited essay on the awful German language16 expressed his dismay about the German speciality of split predicates as follows:. The parenthetical structure mentioned by Mark Twain is viewed by many as an essential structural element of the syntactic structure of German as the instances in which it occurs are quite numerous.

Whether or not the parenthetical structure creates comprehension difficulties is debated not only by authors who are not native speakers of German but also by German linguists and grammarians. There, as usual in such debates, quite interesting arguments for both positions, but the most convincing ones are probably those in favour of the Satzklammer.

This is due to the fact that the verb, the master-word as Dauzat put it, occurs at the very end and only then the message is complete and can be fully understood. What in effect happens is that the rhematic focus in general is moved towards the end of the sentence whereas the verbal rhematic elements which are preceded by the thematic contain by and large only grammatical information, such as tense or modality.

Eroms , ; Thurmaier Whatever the theoretical position might be, the parenthetical structure is a fundamental structural element of the syntax of the German language 20 and it has its advantages in as much as it creates a certain coherence. To illustrate this we might have a look at an example provided by Mark Twain. The verb is question is abreisen , to depart or partir in Portuguese. It is a so called separable verb which means that the prefix ab appears in the final position, thus creating the parenthesis, which Mark Twain tried to simulate in English, but if he had followed the required procedure properly the text below should read PARTED …DE.

The example shows quite clearly the comprehension difficulties when the Mittelfeld is filled with so many subordinate clauses, but it also shows the coherence provided by the parenthesis. The fact that this is impossible in Portuguese, English and most other languages has the effect that the information is dispersed and other means of maintaining the cohesion, such as anaphoric elements have to be used excessively, and, in the case of translations from German into Portuguese, even the repetition of an element is required because of the different number of grammatical genders, which leads to ambiguous referencing.

So, returning to the questions addressed at the beginning we might summarise what has been said as follows: Philosophical texts are a genre that has not figured prominently in translation studies and they have certain characteristics, one of the most notable one being obscurity. This seems to be particularly true for German philosophy and thus the translation of German philosophical texts apparently is especially difficult task for the translator. This article argues that, apart from the inherent ambiguities and obscurities, one particular factor might add to these observed intricacies: the Satzklammer.

Even if the German text is obscure in many aspects, the Satzklammer helps the reader in as much as it provides clearly marked points from which any further deciphering can be undertaken. This aid is not available in translation, hence the translations of German philosophical texts have a tendency to be even more obscure and ambiguous than the original.

There exists the notion that German as a language is particularly conducive to express philosophical arguments, a perception that I will not discuss in more detail as it has all the qualities of an urban myth, but it might be worthwhile quoting Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno on this matter. Adorno was not very happy with the translations of his works into English and even during his exile he had profound difficulties and even downright quarrels with editors and translators with regard to the fidelity of their attempts.

After his return to Germany, which he to some degree related to the fact the he was a native-speaker of German, he was asked to comment on what he viewed as the special qualities of the German language he asserted that in his opinion there existed a particular affinity to philosophy, a capacity to express something about the phenomena which is not exhausted by their mere existence, by their positive qualities and their actuality.


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On Philosophical Style. Manchester: Manchester University Press, , p. Reason is the substance from which all things derive their being. The version used in the present article is itself a translation from Polish into English and shows in an exemplary way the problems in question as the translator quite frequently indicates the original Polish words in square brackets. Kimball, Roger. The Difficulty with Hegel. The New Criterion , Vol. Torres de Babel. Werner Heidermann. Hartfort, Connecticut: American Publishing Company :

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