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Farafonovа D.S. Walter Benjamin: from the Theory of Translation to the Theory of Culture. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 4, pp. 10–25. (In Russ.)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-4-10-25

Author: Daria S. Farafonovа
Information about the author:

Daria S. Farafonovа, PhD in Philology, PhD in Italian language, literature and culture, Postdoctoral Assistant, University of Italian Switzerland, via G. Buffi 13, 6900 Lugano CH.

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Received: September 30, 2018
Published: December 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №4
Department: Literary Theory
Pages: 10-25

UDK: 821.0
BBK: 83+83.3(4Гем)+71.0
Keywords: translation, pure language, philosophy, resistance, signifier, signified, symbol, automatism, recognition, defamiliriazation.


The article is an attempt at the philosophical understanding of the theory of translation by Walter Benjamin formulated in his essay “The Task of the Translator,” seen in its connection with his philosophy and his approach to the analysis of culture. Benjamin considers the incompleteness of translation to the original as a source of new potential meanings that result in the new “life” the original acquires. The purpose of the translation is not communication (since the most valuable thing in the original cannot be “communicated” but can only be approximately recreated) but the awakening of the echo of the original in the native language, based on the assumption that there is some kind of superior universal language. It is precisely the idea of this “pure language” manifesting itself in different ways in national languages and implying their complementary nature, that, according to Benjamin, substantiates the fundamental relationship between translation as a form of thought-language activity, on the one hand, and philosophy that searches for the “true language” while at the same time being the “language of truth” on the other. Benjamin’s idea of “breaking the barriers of one’s own language” in contact with the “otherness” of the foreign language in translation is analyzed in relation to similar ideas about the essence of translation in Ortega y Gasset and Heidegger, to Shklovsky’s defamiliarization concept, and Kafka’s literary strategies. The article argues the legitimacy of Benjamin’s view on translation as a philosophical tool of enriching the meanings of the target language through deliberate resistance to its automatisms and clichés, a theory that eventually relates translation to philosophy.


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