Vol. 34:2 (2022) ► pp.175–195
Paradoxes of translation
On the exceedance of the unspoken
In this article, I consider what is assumed to be the speculative paradox of translation: that translation is theoretically impossible but actually practicable. My thesis is that this aporia is nothing but a consequence of the limited way in which translation is often conceptualised. In this article, the term ‘translation’ is to be understood as interlingual translation, unless otherwise indicated; more precisely, as literary translation. In order to present my argument, I will examine three examples of translation, namely: (1) the fictionalisation of the translation process in Nicole Brossard’s novel Le désert mauve; (2) Jean-François Billeter’s translation of a poem by the medieval Chinese poet Su Dongpo; and (3) the translation of the words ‘tragedy’ and ‘comedy’ by the fictional character Averroes in a short story written by Jorge Louis Borges. The analysis of these real or fictitious examples of translation will help to introduce the notion of the unspoken as that which cannot be transmuted or recognised as a sign. This ever-present dimension of the translation process will allow me to show that the thesis of fundamental untranslatability is a false aporia, which derives from a reductive understanding of the phenomenon of translation.
- 2.Nicole Brossard’s Le désert mauve
- 3.A translation by Jean-François Billeter
- 4.Averroes’s translation in a short story by Borges