Book review
Douglas Robinson. Who translates?: Translator subjectivities beyond reason
Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. viii + 208 pp. ISBN 0-7914-4864-9 US$ 19.95

Reviewed by Luise von Flotow

Table of contents

It could be a fascinating topic: an exploration of the “spirit of the text”, or the “spirit of the original”, a notion that most people who deal with translations will have heard about, and something many people believe must be rendered in translation. Over the past twenty years of Translation Studies, little attention has been paid to this notion, though reviewers and translators as well as laypeople still bandy it about. But now, Doug Robinson has taken it up in his recent book Who translates?: Translator subjectivities beyond reason.He proposes a study of the translator as a kind of channel for this spirit, and translation as a non-rational form of spirit-channelling, and sets out to explore answers to questions such as the following: “Do translators serve as ‘borrowed bodies’ for the writing of writers” (p. 3), “... inspired, possessed by the spirit or intention or meaning of the original author?” (p. 21). Robinson’s aim is to examine “the gray area between the translator as a rational, fully conscious subject and the translator as amystical void filled with other voices, a channel or a medium for the speech of others” (p. 11)—an age-old dualism, he says.

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