Walter Benjamin, Sundry Quotations

For full text of Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator”, in Illuminations (1968), see infra.

Allegories: ‘Allegories are in the realm of thoughts what ruins are in the realm of things.’ (The Origin of German Tragedy).

The Task of the Translator”: ‘If there is such a thing as a language of truth [...] the depository of the ultimate truth which all thought strives for, then this language of truth is - the true language’ - and hence the task of the translator is therefore to integrate ‘many tongues into one true language.’ (Quoted in Loredana Salis, “So Greek with Consequence: Classical Tragedy in Contemp. Irish Drama’, PhD, UUC, 2005, 77; see also full-text version of same, infra.)

‘[Translation should be] transparent [and] not cover the original, [nor] block its light but [allow] ‘the pure language [...] to shine upon the original all the more fully.’ (Ibid., p.79.)

‘The enormous danger inherent in all translations [is that] the gates of language thus expanded [...] may slam shut and enclose the translator with silence.’ (Ibid., p.82.)

The Author as Producer”: ‘What matters ... is the exemplary character of production, which is able, first, to induce other producers to produce, and, second, to put an improved apparatus at their disposal. And this apparatus is better, the more consumers it is able to turn into producers - that is, readers and spectators into collaborators.’ (Trans. Edmund Jephcott, in Michael W. Jennings, et al., Selected Writings, Vol. 2: 1927-1934, Harvard UP 1999, p.777; quoted in Tim Conley, ‘Finnegans Wake: Some Assembly Needed’, in James Joyce, ed. Sean Latham [Visions & Revisions Ser.], Dublin: IAP 2010, p.143.)

Culture and Barbarism: [...Cultural treasures … have an origin which [one] cannot contemplate without horror. They owe their existence not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. (Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History,’ in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn ( New York: Schocken 1969), 256-67; quoted in Finn Fordham [Royal Holloway], ‘Utopia, Palestine, and Partition: Herbert Samuel’s An Unknown Land (1942)’ [draft essay, 2016]. 

 


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