Utopia of Understanding: Between Babel and Auschwitz (SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)
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A hermeneutics of language after Auschwitz. Speaking and understanding can both be thought of as forms of translation, and in this way every speaker is an exile in language—even in one's mother tongue. Drawing from the philosophical hermeneutics of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer, the testimonies of the German Jews and their relation with the German language, Jacques Derrida’s confrontation with Hannah Arendt, and the poetry of Paul Celan, Donatella Ester Di Cesare proclaims Auschwitz the Babel of the twentieth century. She argues that the globalized world is one in which there no longer remains any intimate place or stable dwelling. Understanding becomes a kind of shibboleth that grounds nothing, but opens messianically to a utopia yet to come. Donatella Ester Di Cesare is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" and of Jewish Philosophy at the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano. She is the author of many books, including Grammatica dei tempi messianici; Gadamer; and Ermeneutica della finitezza. Niall Keane is Assistant Lecturer in Philosophy at Mary Immaculate College and the translator of Mauro Carbones An Unprecedented Deformation: Marcel Proust and the Sensible Ideas, also published by SUNY Press.
Suhrkamp, 2000), Bd. 1, 75. Translation modified. 40. Paul Celan, “World to be stuttered after,” in Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), 337. 41. Paul Celan, “The Meridian,” 406. 42. Emmanuel Levinas, “Paul Celan: From Being to the Other” in Proper Names, trans. Michael B. Smith (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 43. 43. See Stefan Mosès, “Quand le langage se fait voix. Paul Celan: Entretien dans la montagne” in Contre-Jour. Études sur Paul Celan.
at this time, again in Humboldt, is that of the “bridge”: Language is like a bridge that, thrown across the abyss of foreignness, “joins by isolating.”51 Although the bridge allows for “understanding,” it accentuates the “difference” between one speaker and the other by bringing the individuality of each to the surface.52 And that bridge made of air, which flows away and disperses, is there only as long as one speaks and understands. The bridge of understanding is then always at the same time a
that the theoretical impossibility and practical necessity of translating between one language and another can emerge only by starting from the dia- that traverses speaking and understanding, and which sheds light on that impossibility and necessity. In short, intralinguistic translating is neither a conquest nor a final recognition. On the contrary, from the prius of intralinguistic translating, from this unavoidable theoretical knot, one can find indications for interlinguistic translating
an original way, such a relationship that he studies and examines in poetic and sacred texts—the interlinear version of the sacred text is precisely, for Benjamin, the archetype of every translation.164 What, then, is the relation between the original and the translation? First of all, translation is not a simple reception, even if it is able to contribute to it. But neither is translation communication. What precisely does a poetic text “say”? The demand of the original, and specifically of the
perhaps even possessed by the language. Hence, neither outside nor inside indicates that perspective at the margin from which one should interrogate oneself about the filiation of the language and the affiliation with the language. Monolingualism is thus the speaking of that one language—which is not one's own, never has been, and never will be. But even prior to ownership, monolingualism is already not absolute. Once again a contradiction, or better an antinomy, indicates the place where the