Walter Benjamin's Translation

Improved Essays
The texts we will focus on are Walter Benjamin's essay, The Task of The Translator, and Paul De Man's commentary on it. Benjamin. During the period of Romanticism, translation was divided into two sorts : creative, and mechanical. It was also the industrial revolution and Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), like many translators, was really fond of mechanical translations. This German philosopher wrote The Task of The Translator in 1923, as an introduction to his translation of Baudelaire, Tableaux parisiens, which is known to be very literal and scholarly – difficult to read. In this very theoretical essay, Benjamin reflects on what he did as a translator and explains his choices, something translators began doing in this period. Indeed, they …show more content…
Indeed, during Antiquity and Renaissance, translators used to write in their own language and imitate the original in their own. Horace and Cicero thought of word-to-word translation as hackneyed, and they distanced themselves from the text to convey its meaning. This notion of imitation was used in order to expand the language, something Benjamin considers almost naïve. Translating the Bible was a controversial topic, as there was an idea of disseminating a sacred text. The move from the sacred language to modern language at stake led to dogmatic political conflicts. Thus, in his Vulgate (1380) – a translation of the Bible from Greek to Latin, followed by its commentary, St Jerome translates sentence by sentence then makes a second version in 1395 to reflect on the process and focuses on sense units, finding that there were many mistranslations. To quote De Man, “Benjamin tells us that […] from the moment that a translation is really literal, wörtlich, word by word, the meaning completely disappears” but “and to some extent, a translator has to be wörtlich”. Therefore, Benjamin's text that De Man goes as far as calling it “messianic”, is neither good nor bad in itself because it is meant to fail. While Benjamin tries to balance between the sacred and 'nihilistic rigor', the justifications he provides highlight the impossibility to

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